‘It’s a place children can go when things get too much’ – Play centre opens space-themed sensory room for children with additional needs


Children who can become overwhelmed by loud noise and crowds will now be able to enjoy some ‘chill out time’ after a play centre opened a dedicated sensory room.

Castaway Play, in Congleton Garden Centre, has opened Anais’ Space Sensory room following a six-week renovation.

The attraction features tactile surfaces, a ball pit, fidget toys and a fish tank, and is available for children aged three and under or children with additional needs of any age.

Husband and wife Simon and Jo Cottrell opened the centre last year and were inspired to create the sensory room as their son Ben has autism and their niece Anais has cerebral palsy.

Jo, aged 36, from Congleton, said: “Since Castaway opened in March 2019 we made our inclusive play promise that our play centre would be a destination for all children to enjoy.

“Our niece Anais was born two years ago with cerebral palsy our son Ben has autism, so our focus was to create inclusive play, making everything accessible for all children.

Jo Cottrell in the new sensory room at Castaway Play, in Congleton

“Whether that is for children with a physical disability or children with autism. We wanted the sensory room to be a feast for the senses and a place where children can go at busy times to get a break when things become too much.

“It’s space themed and we’ve named it after Anais. Children are able to see the artwork in there and feel the different objects. It looks really good, it also has a fish tank, a sensory peanut ball and fidget toys which are really good for children with autism.

“It just helps the children to chill by feeling different textures and it’s very quiet in there. I can relate to parents who have children who don’t cope well in crowds as my own son Ben will just take himself off when things get too much and he loves the sensory room.

“So when a parent thinks it’s getting too much for their child they can go to the sensory room. It is perfect for children under three and for children with additional needs of any age.

“We’ve had great feedback from parents so far.”

Jo says the sensory room will also be available for hire by adults with additional needs.

The mum-of-two added: “Adults with additional needs are more than welcome to hire out the sensory room.

“We also have tailored additional needs sessions which run on Mondays throughout the school holidays and bank holidays and unlike other play centres we offer these at peak times from 10am to 1pm when the centre is only open for children with additional needs.”

Jo Cottrell in the new sensory room at Castaway play complete with ball pit
Jo Cottrell in the new sensory room at Castaway play complete with ball pit

The sensory room is available for £2 per person for 30 minutes use and is limited to up to six adults and six children at a time.

Group booking is also available for £10.

Parents say the sensory room is a ‘brilliant idea’.

Clare Birdsall, aged 36, from Congleton, said: “I think it’s a brilliant idea because sometimes when soft play centres are too loud or there are too many kids it can be over stimulating, so having somewhere for them to go and chill is a good idea.

“Castaway is a lot different to other soft plays as it offers the sensory room and it is really accesible. My son is nearly three and we’ve been coming here for a year.

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“Everyone I speak to says what a brilliant place this is.”

And Ian Dodd, aged 61, from Silverdale, said: “It’s definitely a good idea, anything like that is good. This place can get busy and it can be overwhelming for children.

“It would be something we would use for our grandchild as he’s only two.”

As well as the sensory room, Jo and Simon have also opened their Superhero Party Room which has space for up to 35 children and is priced at £15 per person for up to 10 children and £10 per person for a group of 11 or more for two hours use.

Castaway play is open from 9.30am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday and 10am to 4pm on Sunday.





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