Workshop 2, December 9th 2015

The second LAUGH workshop comprised a series of activities designed to stimulate conversation around emotional memory and playfulness.


  • smelly pots providing insights into olfactory sensory stimulation and memory,
  • dressing up exploring visual / embodied sensory stimulation and memory
  • pass the parcel stimulating dialogue around laughter, fun and games.

Smelly pots

In this activity, workshop participants were given two screw top jars, each one containing a different smell from a range of substances. Participants were seated around a large table and asked to unscrew the jar, take a sniff and share memories evoked by contents.. Many participants noted how quickly they were transported back to past experiences and were keen to share memories of life events, stories of childhood and reminiscences of being in particular places.


A video on contagious laughter was played to relax participants prior to the second activity session of dressing up.

Dressing up

Participants were invited to rummage in two large bags of dressing up clothes, hats and accessories and select items to wear that stimulated memories of a happy point in their life. This created a great amount of laughter and conversation. Photographs were taken and a ‘Personae’ card completed which captured the chosen happy/favourite point in life. The majority of the group remembered childhood experiences or those of their children.

Key themes raised following the dressing up activity included: vulnerability in relation to playfulness, the need for feelings of safety and the use of props and music to stimulate emotional memory.

Persona cards

Pass the Parcel

This final activity involved the use of music and props to challenge participants’ willingness to be playful and an opportunity to reflect on their feelings of vulnerability. It involved playing the party game: ‘Pass the Parcel’. The activity generated lively banter, conversation and much laughter, and it was noted that in order to have fun participants had to be prepared to be vulnerable, make mistakes, appear foolish and let people laugh at them.

In this workshop participants were given permission to play and encouraged to experience positive emotions. Their reflections and issues raised in the discussion following the activities will be used to inform the design of playful objects for people with late stage dementia in the subsequent phases of the LAUGH project.

Further information about LAUGH Workshop 2 and the related research findings has been presented at the Design and Emotion conference, Amsterdam, 27-30 September 2016.  Here is a link to the paper ‘LAUGH: Designing to enhance positive emotion for people with late stage dementia.’


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