Hub Manager and Lead Artist, Charlotte Tupper, talks about how Creative Homes artists empower families and children to grow independence around everyday tasks at home.
We’re at Ira Court, an L&Q estate in Lambeth, and we can hear children’s voices behind the door, we knock and Nicole, the mum, opens it. “Come in” she says smiling. We see dad in the bedroom lying on the bed with the lights off. “Hi” he says smiling and then turns back to looking at his phone. We enter the main living space, a wooden table and chairs in the centre of the kitchen and the living room wall is papered with a stone brick effect. We build a den with Frank (3), Louise (7) and Ana (12). Frank points at an object on the floor “ball!” he says.
“He loves balls” says Nicole. She leaves the room and comes back with a big bag of multicoloured balls for us to play with. I ask Nicole some questions about her daily routine.
“Frank hates having his teeth cleaned”, Nicole says. “He screams when we put the toothbrush in his mouth. We can’t understand why. He watches his sisters brush their teeth but he just won’t let us brush his”.
“Do you know what sound it makes when we brush our teeth?” The Tooth Fairy says. We’re sitting on the floor of Nicole’s bathroom having a picnic. The Tooth Fairy Looks at Frank who is staring up at her, “it’s Ch, ch, ah”, she says.
Frank smiles and says “Ch, ch, ah”. His sisters, mum and the tooth fairy all start saying “Ch, ch, ah” repeatedly in a rhythm. Frank jumps up and down and smiles.
Two weeks later the Tooth Fairy visits again. Frank takes the Tooth Fairy’s hand and takes her straight into the bathroom. His two sisters follow and together we sit and have a bathroom picnic. ‘Ch, ch ah’ Frank says. We start singing the song again. The older sister stands up and looks at the song lyrics that are blu-tacked onto the wall. “We’ve been singing this lots” she says.
On a dark December evening we visit Nicole and her family for the fourth and final time.
“His sisters help brush his teeth for him now and I supervise”, says Nicole. “They have helped him be a big boy”.
Frank sits at the kitchen table finishing his dinner. He takes his plate and pushes it up on the counter next to the sink.
“Frank can carry and clear his own plate now too”, says Louise smiling.
We’re with Maawa and her two year old son Haarun. We are sat at the kitchen table in the open plan living space. The floor, walls and sofa are beige in colour. There is nothing out on the kitchen units or in the living room area. A large TV is on the corner. Two large leather sofas face each other. Haarun looks into our bag and starts pulling out a chopping board and a picnic blanket.
“Why don’t we have a picnic and make fruit kebabs”, I say. We show Haarun how to peel the tangerine and he pulls a bit off. He pulls the tangerine apart and starts licking a segment.
“He licks everything” Maawa says, she’s sat on a chair watching us and smiling, “but he doesn’t really eat solids, just milk and some fruits. I like to cook and we eat well together as a family but Haarun is very fussy and I’m worried”.
We pop in the next week to deliver some craft packs. ‘The Rainbow Song’ sheet we left is the only thing stuck on the fridge. Haarun looks up and starts to sway from side to side and sing the rainbow song in his own way.
“Since you did the picnic last week Haarun eats much more already”, says Maawa. “I made lasagne yesterday and he ate it. He now tries everything, I don’t know if you need to do any complicated cooking next week, maybe just something simple for lunch”.
“Now he eats whatever I give him”, says Maawa. “We cook together and he loves it! Before I used to try and feed him but now I give him a spoon, he feeds himself and tries new things”.
Tackling daily life and healthy routines with your kids can often be really stressful especially when they won’t open their mouth for a toothbrush or won’t eat any fresh fruit and vegetables. Playful solutions like The Rainbow Song and Tooth Fairy paste can give children new ways to approach daily tasks, giving them choice and autonomy and ultimately growing their independence.
Read more: “Small Steps to Big Change” – a story of toilet training towards independence.
School readiness starts at birth with the support of parents and caregivers, when young children acquire the social and emotional skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary for success in school and life. Read more: “Improving school readiness, Creating a better start for London”
*All names have been changed to protect the families’ privacy