© Piros Orr

Artistic Tools




In our experience through ClowNexus, people with dementia and autistic children can both enjoy art because it engages their senses, lets them express themselves without words, gives them a sense of structure and freedom, and helps them remember and share emotions. Art is a way for us all to connect and communicate.

Intention: Stimulate the senses and promote connection through sensory engagement. 

The materials provided in this activity are designed to be touched, smelled, and listened to. Items such as a bag of leaves invite physical activity and exploration.  

They can be squeezed for a calming effect or used to create musical sounds, promoting a collaborative experience between the child and the clown.  

The various scents in jars can trigger the imagination and memories. By observing which senses a specific material excites the child’s most, the clown can sensitively support their interaction and shared play.  

The clown(s) may mirror the child’s use of materials and gradually introduce more play elements if the child is open to changes. Respect for the child’s timing is vital, as they may prefer repetitive play.  

For children with ASD, play often follows a formulaic and repetitive pattern, often focusing more on materials than on individuals.

Intention: Elicit sensory responses while incorporating learning and play. 

Clowns use seasonally appropriate natural elements (e.g., leaves, pinecones, chestnuts) to engage children’s senses and teach them about the changing seasons.  

This hands-on approach stimulates sensory exploration and offers an imaginative dimension to learning.  

Activities may involve planting seeds in spring, creating artificial snow in winter, or introducing other relevant objects to enhance the learning experience. 

This activity is closely tied to exploring the changing seasons and harnessing natural elements with a touch of imagination.

Intention: Propose familiar activities that foster unity. 

The clowns embody various animals, encouraging participants to use their bodies and join in the role-play.  

This activity trains children to recognise the animals represented, promotes physical activity, and facilitates emotional expression in a fun and appropriate manner.

Intention: Respond to the child’s invitation for physical contact, enhancing body awareness and self-awareness through various movements and games. 

Clowns accept requested hugs, lifts, or touches and transform them into playful games. 

For example, a lift may become an airplane ride, an arm or leg can serve as a road for toy cars or animals, and a hug can lead to a dance. Props, such as a Pilates ball or an elastic band, can be integrated.  

It is crucial to adapt the intensity of physical contact based on the child’s sensitivity to touch, whether they are hypersensitive or hyposensitive. Context & Pre-condition: This activity requires self-awareness and interpersonal perception. Clarity in communication and understanding the child’s needs is essential.

Intention: Connect and play using familiar props, imbuing them with new meaning and purpose. This activity allows children to be passive observers or active participants. 

Explore the sensation of wind using songs, sounds, and props that simulate wind (e.g., fans, fabric, ventilators). Engage in activities like flying in the wind (using leaves, fabric, feathers), imitating the wind (with gymnastic ribbons), and transform it into a participatory performance. 

Two potential settings: 1. Children sitting in a semicircle, awaiting the activity to commence. 2. Invading their space during an ongoing activity to capture their attention. The goal is to engage them in the activity offered.

Intention: Create a structured entrance that establishes an instant, poetic, playful connection. It serves to prepare a group of children for collective activities.

Enter the space where the children are with a suitcase, accompanied by a “hello song.” 

The suitcase contains items needed to sow the seeds of wonder that will blossom into joyful play.  

The suitcase or a similar container generates curiosity and signals that the day will be filled with more surprises and excitement.  

It motivates children to actively participate in the play. Initially, the suitcase can serve as the primary focus, as children are intrigued by its sound and texture, exploring and attempting to open it. It unifies the entire group and the space in which the children gather. 

(Note: Earth = golden fabric; Seed = a music egg; a bucket, bubbles = water; Sun = a yellow scarf)

Intention: Engage in imaginative play together. 

Description: Clowns use fairy tales as a foundation for shared clowning activities. They adopt various roles, and children are encouraged to join in.  

Fairy tales serve as a structural framework for the visit, guiding children from beginning to end. With the assistance of the clowns, children learn to follow the story and discover their preferred roles within it.  

This kind of play enables them to be active or passive participants, fostering a deeper connection between mind and body. 

Create a whimsical atmosphere and employ props. It is helpful to begin with a familiar story known to the children and, once the method is established, introduce new stories.

Intention:  Try to break the strict routines that limit the child’s play.  

The clowns commence by immersing themselves in the child’s ongoing game or pattern. Gradually, they introduce new ways of playing with toys and objects, inviting the child to partake in this fresh approach. They explore the full spectrum of sensory experiences with the toys.  

If the child remains steadfast in their routine (often a source of comfort and security), the clowns attempt to surprise them with a unique and intriguing toy, such as playdough, sand, a spray bottle, or a large piece of fabric. 

Acknowledge that patterns and routines are important for children as they provide a sense of self-regulation and security. Be open, accepting, patient, persistent, and consistent.

Intention: Connecting with the child through rhythm.  

By reacting to the sounds and rhythm of the music, the child responds either vocally or through movement, transforming the encounter into a conversation/jam session.  

This encounter acts as an example of communication and exchange without words.  

By listening to the rhythm, the child can respond by walking, playing, moving, and vocalising.  

There is also the option to incorporate instruments and invite the child to play with the instrument or join in as they prefer.

Intention: Forge connections, sing together, provide a musical impulse. 

We start with a well-known and simple song upon our arrival. The familiarity of the music immediately invites the audience to join in.  

The song serves to establish connections and create an inviting atmosphere in the room.  

As we move around the room, we play with the volume of the music and our distance from the audience.  

During our playful interactions, we gradually decrease the volume of the music and leave the room, only to return after a while, resuming the same melody sequence. 

Develop the game of disappearing and reappearing step by step.  

Initially, allow the melody to disappear. Music acts as a strong impulse; residents can restart it at will.  

Initiating the melody anew imparts a sense of security, while reappearing adds an element of playfulness.

Intention: Activate and awaken the inner child, reduce tension between staff and older people.

We collaboratively create a game with the audience. After our arrival and establishing a presence in the space, our initial focus is on the ball itself.  

We introduce the ball through clown actions and propose a game with straightforward rules. 

Playing with balls serves as an excellent tool for building connections. This shared play activates energy and joy.  

When the rules are clear, we have the freedom to invent new ball games. 

Develop the game incrementally and maintain simplicity in the rules. This activity requires sensitivity and self-awareness in our movements.

Intention: Activate all the senses, encourage participation, and foster play. 

We initiate the experience with a newspaper, using it as a sensory tool to facilitate engagement.  

Together, we explore the newspaper’s potential, creating sounds and connections with the material. The object serves as a foundation for building connections.  

Playing with the object entails transitioning from its conventional use to creative exploration. 

 We discover ways to transform the object, using it to narrate stories through its various forms (e.g. using simple paper to represent wind, water, boats, rain, and more). 

Allow ample time for presenting the object. When transforming it, maintain clarity and simplicity, giving each step adequate duration for acceptance and enjoyment.

Intention: Establish connection, rhythmic impulse, involvement. 

We introduce rhythm as we enter the space, using it to be fully present and establish connections. Rhythm is our tool for crafting the atmosphere.  

Clowns harness emotions and translate them into physical movements guided by the rhythm. 

 We incorporate musical instruments and encourage the audience to join us in rhythmic play. We explore rhythm through our own body parts.  

When a strong connection is established and communal play ensues, we may incorporate the resident’s body parts, providing gentle sensory stimulation. 

This approach requires attentive sensitivity to perceive reactions and utilize them as impulses. 

Start with straightforward and gradually developing rhythms, avoiding excessive noise. Playing with body parts necessitates sensitivity and self-awareness.

Intention: Connect, engage, and empower, altering the atmosphere. 

Our initial impulse is our presence; we allow time for everyone to settle into the space.  

To initiate a connection, we call out each person’s name with a rhythmic and melodic touch. 

Singing one’s own name serves as a powerful catalyst and an invitation to establish a connection, often evoking deep emotions.  

We take our time to connect and observe reactions, gradually building the melody based on the responses we receive from the person whose name we are singing. Strong emotional reactions guide our improvisation, allowing us to play with music and transform the atmosphere freely. 

It is essential to be familiar with individuals’ names. Singing their names is akin to offering a gift and creating a profound connection, sometimes eliciting powerful emotional responses. 

Intention: Forge a connection, invoke nostalgia, stimulate the senses. 

We arrive with a basket and initiate a role-playing game of going to the market.  

The first step is to establish a connection; employing the basket piques interest and links to the topic. 

We invite the older people to participate in the play, simulating a trip to the market to buy vegetables.  

The market theme and role-play activity rekindle memories, emotions, and provide a sense of familiarity and competence.  

Throughout the play, participants can assume various roles, such as selling or buying. 

For sensory stimulation, real vegetables can be used. Be mindful of their reactions to actual vegetables, as some may not immediately recognise them.

Intention: Cultivate connections through play, evoke emotional memories, spark sensory responses. 

We enter the scene with a sound and voice impulse, mimicking the noises of a young kitten or puppy while introducing a partially concealed object.  

The hidden item is a plush kitten or puppy, and we suggest that we found it on the street. We engage in playful exchanges, imitating the animal sounds and encouraging the audience to interact by touching the small animal.  

As the play unfolds, the focus shifts towards the connection between the audience and the object of our play. We invite everyone to collaboratively name the little animal.  

While the scenario is built on fantasy, the interaction rekindles physical memories and emotions. 

Initiate play with sound, allowing it to set the stage for the context. Only introduce the object when the residents actively search for it. The sound and their reactions establish the connection; be patient to nurture it.

Intention: Forge connections, play collectively, engage in rhythm and movement impulses. 

Commencing with a robust presence, we establish a connection with the space and the audience.  

The rhythm of traditional hand-clapping games provides the initial impulse, capturing attention and evoking memories from childhood and parenthood.  

We integrate these rhythms into our movements, initiating subtle physical interactions. While engaging the elderly in traditional hand-clapping children’s games, we also co-create variations, embracing the joy of breaking the rules together. 

Repetition and structured movement sequences foster connections and shared play. Patience and clarity in executing sequences are vital. Allow ample time for reactions.

Intention: Validate a narrative and rekindle memories. 

The foundation of this activity is a deep connection.  

A resident shares a story, and we engage by expressing the emotions evoked by the narrative.  

Gradually, we enhance our expression, initially through gestures and facial expressions, and as the game unfolds, we incorporate more extensive movements and vocal sounds.  

These expressions create a powerful connection, and when executed skilfully, they help the resident recognise and relive the story or memory. 

Begin with uncomplicated signals. Maintain awareness of the connection throughout to avoid imitating.