We recently finished our first project aimed exclusively at babies and crawlers and were thrilled with the feedback. ‘Creative Encounters of the First Kind’ was designed to encourage parents and caregivers to engage babies’ with art and learn ways to facilitate their early development and visual literacy skills. Our first course, which ran in September/October 2013, was extremely popular, with 33 parents attending, and was delivered over 6 weeks at Beacon Heath Children’s Centre, Exeter.
Led by Carousel artists Lizzie Swinford (Dance Practitioner) and Tamsin Pender (Visual Artist) it provided a unique opportunity for parents and their babies to delve into a world of open-ended creative discovery together. Parents explored how their babies responded to art and sensation – touch, massage and its links to movement and learnt how exposure to art fuels their learning process. The course also incorporated a ‘baby led’ excursion to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum with lots of time for exploring the museum and seeing what interested the babies by watching their expressions, and listening to and seeing their reactions.
“It was both great fun and a privilege to witness the babies discovery of themselves and the world around them, to see the strength of their interests and preferences even at this stage and to feel their excitement and fascination with what they can see, touch and hear. Highlights for me were the amazing reaction and engagement that babies showed when playing in surrounding mirrors and also the giggling from parents and babies alike as they rocked and danced together around the room to Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from Sleeping Beauty.” Lizzie Swinford, Carousel Dance Practitioner
We are delighted that feedback demonstrates that parents have taken away from the course new ways to interact with their baby at home: using flour, paints and clay-like textures for fun activities, using different fabrics for feel, colour and for playing with. It was also rewarding for us to learn that as a result of coming to the course, parents felt more confident to stimulate or engage with their baby using the arts (e.g looking at images, using kitchen ingredients with food colorants to make patterns, moving and dancing to music). Parents took away from the course that it’s okay not to expect perfect results if doing activities such as printmaking, it’s more about the process of playing rather than the end result.
Creative Encounters has been an enormously successful project with a proven impact to make a difference. The Carousel Project is now wanting to explore more opportunities to deliver the course and build upon this strong start. For more on the aims of the project and feedback from participants read here.
“I would never have dreamed of coming to an art gallery yet! I would have thought he is too young …. I am seeing his interest, following his gaze, and going and exploring what he’s looking at, rather than showing him around methodically.“
We would like to thank our funders: Arts Council England, Emma Morse (County Councillor for Pinhoe and Mincinglake), Devon County Council and Exeter City Council Community Grants. We would also like to thank all of the families who participated and our artists Tamsin Pender and Lizzie Swinford.