Co-designed resources

Home Art Boxes:

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 our preliminary results from parent interviews in the Public Health journal 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.

And the full results of interviews with families can be read open access here:

Armstrong VG and Ross J (2022) The Experiences of Parents and Infants Using a Home-Based Art Intervention Aimed at Improving Wellbeing and Connectedness in Their Relationship. Front. Psychol. 13:732562. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.732562

Art at the Start Book:

We learnt from the research that lots of families hadn’t tried art making before because they thought their wee ones were too young or didn’t know where to begin. So our next step was to invite families who had tried these boxes at home into the DCA to help us co-create a new book of ideas. We wanted to encourage more families to try art making with their very young children. We tested and co-designed the ideas with the families and a great photographer, David P Scott, captured images.

In October 2021 we gave away the first 200 copies, along with the art materials to get started, to families across Dundee with our charity partners and through library book bug sessions and Dundee Botanic Garden open days. The Universities’ Festival of the Future made this launch possible by funding bags of art materials.

art materials

We really hope this book will reassure parents that art is possible with even the tiniest babies and encourage them to have a shot. We are always emphasising that art making with wee ones is about the process of exploration not the final product and there are so many benefits from giving it a go. And it is really fun for the wee ones and the big people too!

You can read an e-version of the book here.

This book has been made possible with funding from the University of Dundee Impact and Development Fund and the Scottish Graduate School for Social Sciences Impact Award.

A Film by Art at the Start:

Our latest project has been to work with families and film makers at DCA to develop a film looking at why art making is great for young children. The film is all from the wee ones’ perspectives to capture their voice. We worked with families to learn what was important to them about art making and combined that with what he have learned in our research. We then invited four families in to make art with us and star in the film. We premiered as part of the DCA Discovery Film Festival and went public on the 13th of January 2023. The film was made possible with funding from the University of Dundee’s Institute for Social Sciences Research (ISSR).