I don’t know why I have never mentioned Create on this blog before. It is a strong inspiration for this research.
Create is a project for families with children under the age of five and has an emphasis on creative play. All play might be creative but what we mean is that we encourage people to make their own toys and worlds rather than buy some attached to a ready-made idea or established character(s).
Recently, it was one of my turns to lead a Create session and the theme was zoo. I spent quite a lot of time preparing; I planned to make cardboard animals like this:
I also bought some hay with me because it smells nice and it’s what many animals eat and live in so it is common to see it at the zoo. For these reasons I thought it would be a good material for sensory and imaginative play. When Sandra – an art therapist who volunteers at Create – came in, I mentioned that we could perhaps make animal figures from the hay but I didn’t know how.
At once, Sandra got some brown yarn, sticks and sat down to make some animals.
It was amazing. Sandra often leads activities such as this that the adults in the group tend to be interested in and engage with. One boy spent a long time just picking up and dropping uncooked beans into a box while his Mum made horse with the hay. This is what this project is all about: allowing time and space for adults and children to play in a friendly atmosphere with no worries about cleaning after! It is about parents playing alongside their children and people often talk about the experience being therapeutic. The parents often also comment on how they did some of the activities at home, or were inspired by something they had seen or tried at Create. One Mother said recently that she decorated her son’s bedroom with autumn leaves as we had done in the gallery we hold the Create sessions in.
It is also really inspiring for me to see how I can use some of the ideas for making characters from different materials that can be found in the house, or that are ubiquitous and very cheap; such as cardboard, flour and glue.
After this session, I decided to try to make some characters from the hay. I am really excited about this – maybe I’m a maker more than a drawer…
My experience at Create has led me to think about the child-adult relationship and how parents and carers get such a lot out of providing for their children in creative ways such as making the animal figures for their children to use as toys. It has made me consider the potential of the picturebook being designed to enhance its function as a tool to communicate with children by giving adults a space to be the storyteller. For instance, in a book I am working on based on the story of Icarus (which was adapted for a storytelling session by Moira Harvey) I try to experiment with a format which proffers a specific lighting set-up. Here is a picture:
I will write another post about this book!