Post 16: Balancing Working From Home with Creativity

‘Hello, and welcome to ReCreate’s Creative Shed with me – Jo May’. I feel like I should start my first ever blog post with that little opener, as it is how I have introduced the majority of the online videos. Consistency is key!

I was approached to put together a blog post from the perspective of ReCreate’s Creative Facilitator and realised there are many different aspects I could cover. I decided that on this occasion to focus on what goes on behind the camera between filming our ReCreate video series, while entertaining a (nearly two-year-old) munchkin with early childhood creative activities. Phew, what a sentence!

At the beginning of working from home I found it challenging to balance work, motherhood, family life and my sanity. I’m sure this is a situation many of us now find ourselves in. While I’m not sure that I am completely balanced yet, I have found it essential to impose structure and schedule my working week into hourly blocks. I find it helpful to divide my time into chunks, split between work and child. Prioritising the most time sensitive tasks and concentrating on each task until completed. I found this made me more productive. If this seems really obvious to you, I am clearly a late comer to the party – But if you were finding yourself in the same situation and needed some solid advice, you’re welcome!

When it comes to parenting and keeping creative while working from home, time is not always on our side. I find myself asking the same question ”Where did the time go today?”. I see people commenting that in the current Covid19 situation we have more time on our hands. Personally I’ve been feeling like the day is not 24 hours but absolute max 4 hours, so if you have any additional time please pickle it and send it over.

When thinking about this piece, I wanted to express my thoughts on spending creative time with our families while working from home. I wrote down a list of all the things I am currently doing with my 2 year old. I will call her My Little Shadow for the purpose of this blog. I jotted down what we have been working on in super speedy succession and even though they were designed with fun in mind, I noticed that they are all pretty relevant to early childhood development. From mark-making with paint, to collage, and from clay sculptures, to construction and mud play. It’s well documented that creative play engages and develops communication skills, fine motor skills, emotional skills, self expression and encourages problem-solving.

Being a maker and creator myself, we are in a fortunate position here at Creative Shed HQ to have a moderate-to-high supply of creative materials. My collection probably dates back to my obsession with stationery as a child and hoarding tendencies which are prevalent in my DNA. However, having shop-bought materials at hand has not curtailed me rummaging through the recycling and creating what I like to call ‘Really useful piles’ of stuff. Especially when working with young people, it’s important to show how we can give new life to materials instead of just discarding them. In my experience repurposing household materials into other creations always results in more entertainment than just using shop-bought materials.

To complement the rescued household materials I have always made a point of having a selection of paper, pens and paint sticks available at arms reach for whenever the child (or myself) might get creative inspiration. My Little Shadow has called all types of drawing materials “purple”, for the last few months, only now are the words “painting” and “picture” creeping in.

During the first week of working from home I dug out the children’s paint, pencils, markers and various materials rescued from the recycling bin and sat down with My Little Shadow to get creative. Somebody from creche had recently told me that My Little Shadow doesn’t like messy play (Can you imagine my shock and disbelief?!) but thankfully our creative play recently seems to be making an impact. At least now when a bit of paint gets on her hands her discomfort is relatively mild (Luckily she can’t see what’s on her face…).

After the first week of churning out stuff with My Little Shadow I noticed that I have been guiding her through stages of a very loose design methodology. By this I mean starting with basic materials like pencils, then moving onto markers, paint, introducing collage with discarded fabric, reworking images and adding extra layers with texture. We have now moved into 3-D using clay and plastics, then painting the sculpture afterwards. My Little Shadow has also been learning about colour and shape, making decisions, using various tools and being encouraged to get messy (Although this is still a challenge). I have even given a tutorial on the use of scissors and the humble glue stick. I am not afraid of mess during our making sessions but insist that we clean up together afterwards. One experiment was adding ‘sparkle’ to some of the pieces. I am still finding these twinkly little specks throughout the house in the most random places!

I will leave you with that sparkly thought and hope that everyone is staying safe, looking after each other and being creative.

Jo May 🙂

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