In response to the Covid crisis in March 2020 we began delivering art boxes to the babies and parents who we were no longer able to work with face to face. These contained boxes of art materials, information on why art making is beneficial and instruction worksheets to guide them through a series of creative ideas with variation for age and stage, aimed at enhancing opportunities for playful parent-infant interactions. We were happy to receive funding from the University of Dundee Seed Fund to expand to reach further families with young children, referred by family nurses, health visitors and community groups. Over 2020 we delivered boxes to over 180 families. The Art Boxes gave parents practical help by providing resources alongside the encouragement to give it a try. This increased their opportunities for positive playful interactions and could help them feel connected to each other and supported by the project.
“I feel that I’m doing a good thing for my children. Where I felt, while we were at home with no things to do, that maybe I’m not doing a good job for them and that they are not getting all the things that they need to do, to try. So by doing this, I feel that I have done something for them and that makes me feel good.” – parent
We looked at how families had experienced these boxes by collecting feedback postcards and images, and following up a selection of parents for interviews. Parents reported seeing their infant’s increasing eye contact and looking to show them things (a sign of joint attention) as well as showing excitement when the art materials came out (a sign of anticipation). Parents said they were joining in the activity more than they normally would in play with toys as they felt it was something for them to do together. These kinds of connected, shared experiences are positive for infant wellbeing and can help to build strong attachment relationships so we can see that the Art Boxes helped to facilitate these experiences at an otherwise hugely challenging time for parents. We also saw an increase in parental wellbeing through doing these activities together with their child.
“I think it helped having just ideas ’cause it’s hard sometimes to just think of ‘What would the baby do?’ like ‘How would your baby do this?’ I think if I picture making art with kids and I’m thinking of like drawing wee stick people or something and actually, that’s not what the babies are doing. So it was good to see those ideas of things which were more more about the messy like fun side of it rather than drawing. I liked things I wouldn’t have thought to do like the one where you were on like the cupcake cases underneath and printing on and then like doing it onto the bubbles, so I guess it’s all kind of just paint but using something just to make it a bit different each time. It was nice having those ideas.” – Parent
You can read the preliminary results from parent interviews here
Armstrong, V.G & Ross, J. (2021) Art boxes supporting parents and infants to share creative interactions at home: an art-based response to improve wellbeing during Covid-19 restrictions, Public Health. 193. 109-112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2021.01.031
Have a look at what goes into every art box heading out this week to wee ones and their families, funded by @dundeeuni public engagement seed fund.
Hoping to inspire lots of creative playing together.@DCAdundee @HomeStartDundee @UoDPsychology @engageUoD pic.twitter.com/NnTUPVwoXy
— Art at the Start (@ArtattheStart1) July 6, 2020