Happiness & Bergamot (and a beach play sand recipe)

Whenever the scent of Bergamot permeates the air I always think of warm sunshine on a spring day. It has a citrus note yes, but it’s got a lot more depth to it than just an sweet lemony almost floral scent. It has warmth and spice.

I imagine if you could smell happiness, that would be Bergamot.

Bergamot oil comes from the citrus fruit of a bergamot tree found mainly in Italy. It produces fruits that ripen from green to yellow but the fruit is inedible because it is intensely sour. The oil is extracted from the peel of the nearly ripe fruit.

Bergamot has amazing healing properties especially for children with anxiety issues and other sensory disorders. Its natures antidepressant so its fantastic for times of intense sadness, anger and frustration. It’s a mood uplifter, helps with tiredness and generally improves physical and mental strength.

As Neiva is flexischooled, I collect her just after lunch and we have some quiet time at home for an hour. After that, we generally start working on fun activities that will help her social skills. To get her motivated for an afternoon of one to one, I wanted to find an activity that would incorporate the healing and calming power of essential oils. We had so much success with the lavender play dough I wanted to keep the ball rolling with sensory play, so we made a bergamot beach.

I scoured Pinterest for some homemade sand play ideas and found a recipe here. The recipe couldn’t be simpler.

To Make:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups wholewheat flour (we used brown rice flour)
  • 1/2 cup of baby oil
  • A few drops of bergamot oil

If you only have plain flour that’s fine but the wholewheat gives the mix a ‘sand-like’ texture and colour.

Mix together with a fork until the mixture takes on the consistency of slightly wet sand. It should still be crumbly (not sticky) but hold together when squeezed in your hand.

My mum brings Neiva shells back every year from her holidays so we have quite a collection now (Neiva loves shells) and we added these to the sand. 

Neiva absolutely loved this activity and a sand based theme has lots of playing potential. The shells make a great counting activity too.

For variation in play, instead of shells you could maybe add toy trucks and diggers and have a construction site theme. 

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

Sleep & Lavender (and a lavender play dough recipe)

Lavender is one of the best known and widely used essential oils. It’s not hard to see why. From a calm, soothing sleep inducing lullaby to a powerhouse punch of an anti inflammatory, it is a potent, versatile, hardworking little oil. Why is Lavender, this wonderful nostalgic heady scent that transports you back to a childhood spent in your granny’s garden, so popular?

As mentioned in a previous post, aromatherapy is one of the therapies we are pursuing with Neiva. Lavender has been particularly helpful when it comes to sleep issues.

One of our main concerns has been finding a way to help Neiva to have a full, quality, good nights sleep. Sleep issues are not uncommon in children, particularly under the age of 7 and especially in children on the spectrum.

Why is Lavender known best for its sleep inducing properties? Lavender oil is made up of compounds that are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. Scientific studies have shown that these have a sedative and pain relieving effect. Studies have also shown that Lavender also lowers the heart rate and reduces anxiety.

Lavender is also non-irritant and non-toxic which makes it perfectly safe to use with children. Here are some easy ways you can introduce lavender into a bedtime routine:

  • A few drops of oil into a warm bath
  • Diffusing into an oil burner and letting the scent infuse the air (the scent will also be a reminder that it’s winding down time, great for a child like Neiva who thrives on routine)
  • One or two drops directly on to a pillow (take care with this as too much will have the reverse effect).

Another fun idea (and great way to get children away from electronics near to bedtime) is to make Lavender Play Dough. The recipe we used was from The Imagination Tree which is a great resource generally for play ideas and a website Ive used regularly since Neiva was a toddler. I also love the no cook method for making this play dough. It makes the whole process easier. The only change I made was to not use purple food colouring as certain E numbers do affect Neiva, but feel free to add it to your version if you would like more pop of colour.

You will need:

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-1.5 cups of boiling water
  • A few drops of glycerine (for smoothness and shine)
  • Dried lavender/fresh lavender heads (or a mix of both for texture)


  • Add the flour, salt and cream of tartar into a mixing bowl and stir well
  • Stir in the oil and glycerine
  • Add the boiling water stirring vigorously until a dough forms
  • Knead until it stops being sticky
  • Add 2 drops of lavender essential oil (optional) or purple colouring at this kneading stage
  • Leave to cool completely
  • Finally, add dried/fresh lavender

We have quite a few varieties of Lavender growing in our garden. It’s a real hardy beautiful little plant and makes a wonderful addition to any garden. It’s a great sensory aid too, Neiva loves rubbing the flowers in her fingers and smelling the beautiful scent. I hope, when she is older, that smell will transport her right back to her childhood, full of memories of where she spent many wonderful hours in the garden with Enid – her happy place.

Children & Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant and using aroma to enhance psychological and physical well-being.

Yorkshire Lavender, May 2016

Aromatherapy is extremely beneficial to children of all ages and personality types. I qualified as an aromatherapist in 2009 and am using that knowledge and training to help Neiva in her journey.

Please bear in mind that although they are natural extracts, essential oils are extremely potent and should always be kept sealed tight and away from little hands at all times.

Another point to consider is that children, compared to us, have a heightened sense of smell (and children with sensory processing issues even more so) and can have sensitive skin. In this situation less is more. So the rule of thumb is to halve the stated standard dose.

If you are new to aromatherapy and want to have a taster of what the benefits of using essential oils are for you and your family, just remember “TLC”:

  • Tea Tree
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile (Roman)

These three essential oils are safe to use and the benefits are extremely effective on children. There are other oils that work and treat many things but I would recommend these are the three to start with.

Nature is the one place where miracles not only happen, they happen all the time – Thomas Wolfe

Yorkshire Lavender, May 2016

How to Apply Essential Oils to Children
There are a number of different ways all with important roles you can incorporate into daily life.

  • baths; Neiva absolutely loves water. Whenever she is ill or out of sorts, the first thing we do to assess how poorly she may be is by putting her in the tub. All you need to do is add a few drops of essential oil straight into the bath water.
  • massage; this is a truly lovely way to connect with your child. I attended a baby massage course with Neiva when she was 3 months old and it was such a lovely experience for both of us. Dilute drops of essential oil into a carrier oil.
  • diffusion; probably the method I use daily. Using a tea light oil burner, add a few drops of chosen essential oil to a little water and let the scent infuse the room.If you would rather not play around with tea lights an ultrasonic diffuser has the same effect but is safe enough to leave in a child’s room
  • inhalations; particularly good for coughs and cold’s however in children (young children in particular), the safest method is to add the essential oil to a wet muslin cloth and place over a warm radiator in your child’s room.

Yorkshire Lavender, May 2016

Before you begin to use essential oils its important to remember;

  • Always buy essential oils from a reputable source. If the oil is not pure, it will not have the effect you need. I buy my oils from Neals Yard
  • Aromatherapy oils should never be taken orally;
  • If the oils come into direct contact with the eyes, wash thoroughly with cold water or milk and seek medical advice if needed;
  • If you are concerned about skin sensitivity, try a patch test first. Apply the diluted oil (which means the oils have been added to a carrier oil) to a small patch of skin on the inner wrist. Wait an hour and if there is no redness or irritation, the continue to apply the oil as normal.

Following this, there will be a series of posts highlighting essential oils and oil blends that have been most beneficial to Neiva from calming temper tantrums to improving concentration. You can read the next post on lavender here.

Finally, aromatherapy will open you up to a whole new experience of the healing power of nature. Unlike man made methods, everything that has been grown on this earth is here to benefit our bodies in one way or another.

The photos in this post were taken during a trip to Yorkshire Lavender last year. We look forward to visiting this beautiful place again soon.