Lead Artist Helen Maier tells the story of how the Play Inspector helped bring a family together through play.
“How shall we play today?” asks the Play Inspector “We could dance, build, create, read or role.” Amaya(5) looks at the five brightly coloured mats laid across the lino floor of her living room.”Create!” she says, pointing to the green mat, on top of which is an empty cereal box and some plastic bottles and empty toilet rolls we found together in their recycling bin
“I want to make butterfly wings! says Amaya.
“I want to make a rocket”, says Muhamed (9).
“I want to make a race car”, says Shakir (11).
The children pick up the recycled materials and we get started – cutting, sticking, painting – making together on the big wooden living room table.
A few weeks earlier we had visited Amaya, her mum Sadique and two older brother for the first time. They invite us into their living room, there’s a big brown sofa along one wall and a large wooden table and chairs along the other. In between is a large flat screen tv and a shelving unit with a few family photos in frames. There are no toys or children’s artwork, no signs of play.
Half and hour later the family has built a huge cardboard den in one corner of the room. The children all decorate it together, making a flag for the outside then squeezing in side with blankets and pillows to make it cosy.
“This is our house!” they say to each other.
Sadique smiles in at them through they window “They are like a team”, she says. “They usually just argue at home. The boys play computer games and Amaya wants to join but they won’t let her. Its really hard to stop them fighting when they all get back from school”.
A month later, after two play inspector visits we return with a custom made piece of cardboard furniture we like to call “The Play Creator” – A multi-functional piece of furniture dedicated to play: a storage unit/ den/ puppet theatre/ tunnel/ anything else you want to imagine. Now the family have a dedicated space for play that all the children can use.
We re-visit the family 6 months later. Amaya proudly shows us the play creator still standing in the corner of the living room. “This is where I keep my things”, she says pulling out a drawer of crayons and another with modelling clay. “Its my place for playing”.
“The kids used to just watch tv but now they play more together. They know how to get along, it’s made things so much easier for me”.
–Sadique, mum of three.