Vicky Armstrong, PG researcher in psychology, has just been awarded an RSE Innovators’ Award for Public Engagement for her contribution to Art at the Start, a collaboration between DCA and the University of Dundee, encouraging art making for 0-3s and their grown-ups. Vicky tells us more about the project below.

Over lockdown we adapted to post out boxes of art materials and ideas, to support families at home. These ‘Art at the Start’ boxes aimed to encourage positive moments of connection between parents and their little ones through art making and improve wellbeing at a difficult time.

“She just liked painting and the chance to get your hands in and she liked the feeling of it. And I notice by the end more confident to put it onto the paper and be moving it about with her hands. I think she just really like that feeling” – parent 

Feedback was really positive with parents saying they felt better themselves and were more involved in play during art making. They also noticed their babies showing signs of interest, enjoyment and anticipation, like turning around to show them marks they had made or getting excited when the box came out. We know that these shared experiences are positive for early relationships, so this was great to hear.

“I feel more positive. 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 

Parents also told us that they hadn’t tried art before because they didn’t know if their children were old enough or where to start. So as soon as we could see families in person again, we started working with a group of parents and their little ones to co-design a new book of ideas for parents to get started being creative with babies and toddlers.

Photographed by David P Scott. All rights reserved.
Photographed by David P Scott. All rights reserved.
Photographed by David P Scott. All rights reserved.

The families tested ideas with us in DCA and a wonderful photographer David P Scott captured images. We now have a pilot version of the book which is going out to 200 families across Tayside, along with materials to get started, as part of Festival of the Future. Our message in the book is to give early art making a go and to think about it as a process of exploration where you follow your little ones lead, rather than thinking about a final art work. We hope that feedback from these books will help us to take them forward and get even more families of little ones making art together. 

Photographed by David P Scott. All rights reserved.

If you would like to learn more about our project and our research, or find art ideas to try, you can look on our website

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