RMIT opens sensory show aimed at lifting kids’ mental health

Seven-year-old Elsie has been crawling through pink tunnels and adding coloured ribbons to a cave made from textiles.

The installations are part of the Children’s Sensorium, an exhibition at RMIT that explores light, colour, touch, sound, smell and taste.

The Sensorium at RMIT is intended to improve children’s mental health.

“You get to explore, it’s very calming and relaxing,” Elsie said.

The exhibition, aimed at children aged four to 11, features soundscapes, “smell pods” of scents from nature, and plants with edible leaves. Visitors can even draw on the walls.

The Sensorum features soundscapes, ‘smell pods’ and plants with edible leaves.

The aim is to support children’s mental health through mindfulness and play, shifting the focus away from a pathological approach after the sustained stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Artistic engagement is ingrained in the way children explore the world and build resilience, according to RMIT mental health researcher Dr Tamara Borovica.

“Creativity and play, especially when they’re done in a mindful context, have positive effects on kids’ self-esteem, sense of achievement, reduction of anxiety levels and stress,” she said.

Visual arts are linked to respite from difficult emotions, while dance and creative movement are connected with reducing stress and feeling good, she said.

The exhibition was conceived as a direct response to the lack of services to help children with pandemic stresses, according to curator Dr Grace McQuilten.

Mental health resources will be available for families to take home, and researchers will compile children’s reactions to measure the Sensorium’s impact, she said.

Children are even allowed to draw on the walls.

Kids will certainly have fun exploring the environment.

Five-year-old Skye said her favourite part of the show was a circle of gum trees, with green cushions in the centre.

“They are fun to look at, and the trees make me feel like I’m in a forest,” she said.

The exhibition was developed with advice from mental health experts and includes workshops and activities.

The Children’s Sensorium is part of the Archives of Feeling exhibition for the Big Anxiety mental health and arts festival.

It is open from August 19 to October 8 at the RMIT Design Hub Gallery.


If you or anyone you know needs support call Kidshelpline 1800 55 1800, Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.

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