© Piros Orr

Artistic Tools


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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: 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: 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: 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: 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.

Intention: Foster a connection, activate engagement, and discover shared play. 

The resident is seated with their hands visible. The activity begins by mirroring the resident’s hand movements, allowing time for their responses.  

As the resident’s hand moves, the clown follows suit.  

Based on the resident’s physical reactions, the interaction gradually incorporates more movement. 

Once the game’s dynamics are established, the clowns introduce suggestions for new movements. To enrich the shared play, voices and rhythmic movement are integrated. 

Initiate the activity with clear, simple, and deliberate movements to prevent confusion. 

Mirroring is a delicate activity that necessitates time and sensitivity to establish a connection. Expand the play only when a strong connection is felt.

Intention: connection, repetition, nostalgia 

We arrive with music, with a well-known song from the past. 

This music serves as the initial invitation to join us, instantly capturing attention, tapping into emotional memories, and creating an immediate connection. 

To infuse the interaction with playfulness, we create simple and fun choreography for the audiences. 

The choreography centers around various body parts, each with its unique set of moves, involving hands, feet, the nose, and more. 

We warmly invite the audience to partake in these lively movements, creating a collective dancing activity filled with shared enjoyment.

Additionally, this approach serves as an effective tool for capturing and maintaining attention, helping to guide and focus the participants. 

Keep the choreography straightforward and easy to follow, with a focus on increasing the fun factor rather than complexity as we build up the activity. 

Give enough time for the audiences to join in and fully enjoy the movements.

Intention: calling back memories through well-known activities, sensory impulse, group connection 

The proposal is a game involving a familiar activity: washing clothes. 

This activity uses scarves for sensory benefits, allowing for hand-washing movements, the graceful motion of scarves during drying, and the fresh smell of the flying fabric. 

Our entrance involves scarves placed in a large washbasin, and we invite the audience to participate in this washing activity. 

This physical engagement quickly activates the memories of the audience and connects them to the theme. 

Rhythm and singing are incorporated into the play, fostering a sense of group connection as everyone participates in the shared experience. 

To enhance the fun, a long drying rope and clothespins are introduced, and both relatives and staff members become part of the play, helping the older people hang the scarves on the line. 

This collective effort brings forth the fresh, floral scent of clean clothes, enriching the sensory dimension of the activity.

Involving both relatives and staff in the game is a great idea. Everyone can play together, and we can even incorporate different types of clothes to make the activity more enjoyable and engaging for everyone.

Intention: empower, transfer emotions 

The game aims to create positive feelings using poetry and imagination.

We start by noticing something beautiful about an elderly person and express it poetically, comparing them to lovely things like stars or rivers. 

We continue by describing the beauty in more detail through storytelling and body language, making the ordinary seem extraordinary. 

This makes the person feel appreciated and happy, and we carry this positive energy forward as we dive deeper into the imaginative world we’ve created.

Keep the poetic images clear and simple, avoiding complexity, stay with images and avoid abstractions.  

Aways approach this with genuine intentions, never pretending. The goal is to authentically celebrate the beauty in each person.

Intention: changing the atmosphere, making residents feel beautiful, recalling memories 

Clowns introduce an activity by bringing in vintage objects to decorate and transform the space, evoking a nostalgic retro party atmosphere. 

These objects, such as a knitted tablecloths, a vintage vinyl record player, jewellery, and scarves, serve as a bridge to the past, triggering cherished memories and setting the stage for a joyous celebration. 

Residents are warmly invited to participate and have fun together. We engage them by helping them dress up in costume, and involve them in the process of selecting old songs, creating a sense of collective ownership and contribution.

The creation of the party atmosphere unfolds gradually, step by step, to prevent overwhelming residents with sensory stimuli. 

As this activity can evoke strong emotions and memories, be sure to provide enough space for residents to experience and live their feelings freely. 

Creating the party, listening to music and dancing together raises the energy and brings joy.  

Intention: creating familiarity, creating group connection.

We begin our interaction from the room’s entrance by saying hello and calling everyone by their name. 

The act of speaking your own name serves as  an invitation for connection. 

Playing with the sounds of saying hello awakens interest and creates joy. We make it fun by playing with different ways of saying hello and paying attention to how people react.

As the game progresses, we add more physical movements and play with the distance between us and the audience, getting closer or moving farther away based on their reactions. 

It’s important to know everyone’s names for this to work. 

We usually begin with waving hands, doing it slowly and clearly to communicate our message. The game evolves based on the audience’s response – if they react positively, we make it more exciting, and if there’s a negative reaction, we tone it down.

Intention: awakening interest, giving impulse, encouraging people to lift heads and make eye contact

Our initial gesture involves showcasing the shoes we’re wearing, bringing them to eye level for the audience, and initiating slow, deliberate movements. 

As we sense their attention fixating on our shoes, we generate sounds with them and begin to engage in a repetitive sequence. 

If we successfully capture their focus, we gradually expand the scope, moving our entire bodies and exploring a larger space while retaining the inspiration from the shoes. 

This approach gently punctures the isolated bubble of the audience, inviting them into a shared playful experience.

Frequently, when encountering audiences in care homes, their attention tends to be directed towards the floor. 

In response, we initiate interactions within their line of sight. Take your time and allow the shoes, as well as the sounds they make, to pique their interest. 

Using shoes that are not typically found within their living environment, such as high heels or cowboy boots, can be an engaging way to create a connection. 

Intention: connecting, play, making the audience move. 

The initial step involves being fully present and establishing a connection with the breath. Then, the clown begins by mirroring one of the resident’s movements. 

As the game progresses and the concept becomes clearer, the residents can suggest new movements to mirror or, alternatively, mirror the actions of the clown’s . 

As the connection deepens, the activity becomes a source of increasing joy through the mutual mirroring of movements.

Mirroring is a sensitive activity, initially utilised to establish connections, with playful elements introduced later on. 

It requires a substantial amount of time and a mindful approach to truly hear and see the resident’s reactions.

Intention: connecting, breaking the space.

Everyone gathers around the parachute, and the gentle movements of this object capture their attention and arouse curiosity. 

Clowns invite the audience to engage with it, either by tossing soft objects onto it or simply enjoying the spectacle. We carefully observe their reactions to gradually build up the play. 

In the next phase, we introduce a table beneath the parachute, and one clown lies on it. The movements of both the clown and the soft objects beneath the parachute create a simulation of flying. The audience contributes by imparting their own impulses to the object. 

The feeling of flying can be quite surprising. Keep focusing on how the residents react while making sure they stay physically safe.

Intention: Awaken interest, group connection 

Two clowns enter with lively music and a mysterious suitcase, making the children very curious.. 

They  open the suitcase and inside there’s an instrument. They play with it a little and then put it back in the case. 

Upon arrival, the idea is to get the children interested in the mysterious content of the suitcase. 

There is a surprise in there, that needs to be discovered together as a group. . 

The clowns initiate a delightful ritual, knocking on the suitcase, asking if it’s ready to reveal its secrets. 

The suitcase playfully resists, presenting various tasks like knocking five times, cleaning it with a scarf, blowing on it, or singing a melody. 

Finally, with a sense of magic, the suitcase opens, revealing a treasure – the instruments. Inside are many instruments that can then be explored and played with. 

Some children join the group, while others explore independently, and a few receive assistance from the staff. 

It’s a joyful, interactive experience that fosters both group cohesion and individual expression. 

It can be less stressful if every child is focused on their own activity, instead of making them wait for an activity to start.