Sarah tells her Creative Homes story. A journey from her first playgroup session to becoming a community leader..
When I first came across Creative Homes I was so happy to have found this opportunity locally. I liked the way Creative Homes designed their play space and Elsie (2) and Nicole (4) were so attracted to the craft table. I love craft, especially making with my kids and I got just as much out of it as the kids did!
I also loved the way the artists presented the food. Before my kids weren’t interested in earing fruit and veg in raw form but when they saw the creative shapes they began to try new foods. I’d never tried anything like this at home and when I did the kids enjoyed it so much I became more confident trying new things. I’d been to other playgroups but this one was different. Here the parents don’t just sit and chat whilst their kids play. This group is for parents too and I loved being involved with my children playing.
When I was first approached and asked if I would like to volunteer as a parent for the group and access some training it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t worked for a long time and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. With the girls so young I couldn’t really consider doing anything else so this was perfect. I didn’t want to feel just like a housewife, I wanted to do something for me.
I was excited to work with the families. I realised that this is something I had wanted to do for a long time but I had no idea how to plan for a session and was nervous I wouldn’t be able to tell a story in front of all the kids. Singing songs scared me and in the beginning my voice was really quiet but, after a while I was able to know how and when to change my tone according to the story.
I wasn’t very confident with communicating with other parents, now I’m much more confident talking to people. I was worried about how they would react when I asked them to stand up and come and join in the singing and dancing. I was worried they might get bored of me and not come back next week.
When I told my first story and Sally asked me to do it without using the book to help me, just props, I was so worried I would forget everything. The first session I really couldn’t start my warm up song and I was sweating I was so scared! Fatima, the Creative Homes artist, helped me through and after all of that… I felt brilliant and so confident. The following session I started the song myself!
The training was delivered at exactly the right level for me. I learnt how to plan, resource and organise a play session including craft, food, storytelling and action songs. I learnt how to take a book and lift ideas from the pictures and words that created whole play sessions around the themes of stars, bear hunts and gruffalos. I also achieved certified courses in first aid and food hygiene which will help me with future employment.
But most importantly I grew as a person. I feel independent and I’m confident in social situations. In Creative Homes sessions you work out quickly how to work well as a team and how to support each other and most importantly how to change the plan according to the situation! This happens a lot with under 5’s especially when their ideas are really good – you just go with them!
I learnt how important designing a space for play is. Not just the health and safety aspects of eliminating risk but also creating a relaxed yet colourful space that caters for all children – the ones that like to run, the ones that like to hide, the ones that like to get messy and the ones that just want to do what they want to do.
I learnt the importance of quality resources. Just because the children are really little doesn’t mean they don’t deserve quality resources from paint to wooden building blocks. Also it’s amazing what you can make with cardboard boxes. You don’t need loads of stuff, less is more. It’s more about what will inspire a kid to use their imagination. Kids are naturally creative. I think this group is as much about the parents learning from their kids as the other way around. Nowadays I think more like them.
I think one of the special qualities of Creative Homes playgroups is that they really give parents the confidence to talk to one another. So many times we helped new parents when they didn’t know where to go locally for support. We were able to talk about personal experiences with our own kids and offer peer support.
Alina came nearly every week with her son Adrian. I remember she used to be so stressed about coming to the group because she was worried about her son not being able to integrate and play with other children. She cried several times. As I got to know her I found out that she really wanted to get back into work and had so many handy skills. We chatted about setting up your own business and I suggested why didn’t she look into doing something from home. A few weeks later she handed me her business card. She had started an ironing business. I felt so happy that from our conversation she had got the confidence to do this. I suggested she expanded to sewing and repairs and talked to her about marketing, as that is my background. I really saw the difference in her towards the end of the year.
English is my second language and I’ve always been a little bit shy thinking people wouldn’t understand me. Creative Homes has given me the confidence to move forward with life and think about applying for jobs in early years. I would like to work in a nursery setting as this is easy for me around the children. I think I now have some very special skills to offer with early years and I’m thinking of offering to do some storytelling at my local nursery to keep practising.
I’m really grateful to Creative Homes for this opportunity. The style of the training on the job alongside practicing, being nurtured and supported through sessions. The team were brilliant and, in the end, we didn’t even have to say anything if something went wrong or changed direction we just got through it together.
I miss Fridays!
Creative Homes has definitely made my home more creative!
Creative Homes has worked in Wandle Valley for over two years funded by the L&Q Foundation. It was because of the contributions and energy from parents like Yasmeen that we were able to launch the Parent Volunteer Programme. In total, we trained five volunteers, provided playgroups for over 50 local families, supported the Wandle Valley Community Centre and made links with six local organisations including Sutton College, where our volunteers supported their courses for families.