© 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: minimise the fear of strangers, improve the children’s social skills, improve their rule-following skills

The clowns seamlessly integrate into the daily classroom routines with a gentle and sensitive presence, always open and playful. 

While they actively participate in the regular activities, they still carry out their clownish behaviour, often dialled down to about 30% to avoid disrupting the class. 

Nevertheless, their genuine openness and playful spirit shine through. They engage in the same exercises and lessons as the children, even receive the same rewards.

This touch of playfulness often works wonders. It can rekindle the interest of a child who may have been struggling to focus, or inspire a child who typically isolates themselves to join in during teamwork exercises. 

The clowns act as catalysts to create an inclusive and engaging atmosphere within the classroom, fostering connection and participation among the children.

Intention: Delineate space, draw attention 

The clowns use a colourful rug to make a special area. It creates safe boundaries for play to happen. 

Using a rug to mark out a special space works like magic. It seems to naturally attract the kids, and they gather on it without any need for persuasion.

Intention: Connection, communication, finding a common game 

Set the stage for a delightful game of imagination with a child. 

You begin by miming the presence of a car in the room, complete with the revving of an imaginary engine and the gentle hum of wheels in motion. 

With playful enthusiasm, you extend an invitation to the child to join in the fun. If the child eagerly accepts, the room transforms into a bustling roadway, and together, you embark on the common game of a make-believe car ride. 

Take your time and savour the moment. There’s no need to rush; let the magic of imagination unfold at its own pace. 

Make your gestures and mimes crystal clear, ensuring the child can easily grasp the concept of the car in the room. Keep the atmosphere playful to keep the game light-hearted and amusing..