It seems strange that our collective memory has so soon forgotten the fun activities that used to entertain families before the advent of TV, play stations, social media and shopping malls. Perhaps it takes a drastic disruption to our daily lives such as this one to pull ourselves towards ourselves and rediscover the power and pleasure of our creative energy.
With this in mind, I called on super-creative art teacher and facilitator Ashleigh Temple-Camp to come up with some exciting activities that children, their parents and even grannies and grandpas could do to bring fun, laughter and creativity into their lives during this grim time when not even ‘dogs shall be walked.’
To start with, Ashleigh believes we need to create a whole new way of being and find a new rhythm in our lives. We need to move away from our critical, analytical minds and live in the moment. Calm will come when we no longer hang on to the thoughts that make us anxious.
“The important thing about being cooped up,” she says, “is that we must find a way to exercise. By engaging in some kind of energetic physical activity in the morning and again in the evening, we can contain our day. It gives us the opportunity to get rid of excess energy before settling down for the day, or the night. Put on some dance music and for half an hour or an hour, the whole family can let their hair down. You can’t believe how therapeutic free dancing can be – it will take you right out of your mind and into your body. It’s all about play, you see, and play is the door to creativity.”
The other antidote to self-isolation is to get outside into the sunshine and soak up Vitamin D, a great immune booster. (Make sure you’re not too close to anybody else, though.) In fact, one of the hardest things to cope with for social animals like humans is to be cut off from others, so perhaps we can think of creative things to do to make a connection with anybody who can see our house from theirs or may be on the way past to the pharmacy or the supermarket.
“Painting rainbows on your windows with food colouring not only sends a message of hope to your neighbours but it fills your own house with lovely splashes of colour as the sun shines in,” says Ashleigh. “Or, if you have scraps of fabric lying around you could paint brightly coloured rectangles or triangles, thread them on string and hang them up at your gate or on your front door as prayer flags (the Tibetans believe that the wind will carry your prayers straight to God’s ear). You could paint bottles, too, and hang them in the windows. Working with bright colours is incredibly therapeutic.”
Food colouring is great for making paint, if you don’t have any at home; it’s relatively cheap and can be bought with your groceries. Just mix it with 400ml of water and you’re good to go. You can add a couple of drops of bleach to get really interesting effects – just be aware that bleach can eat the bristles of brushes. If you don’t have paint brushes, you can use ear buds, a stick or an old toothbrush, all of which will create fun patterns. Ashleigh adds that if you have wax crayons or oil pastels, you could draw with them and then paint over the drawing with your food colouring mix.
“A really fun thing to do,” laughs Ashleigh, “is to finger paint to music, blindfolded. You can imagine what that might produce. In a potentially stressful situation like this, laughter is so therapeutic. We must create opportunities for laughter, but also for quiet times when both children and adults need that.”
The other great activity for either an individual or a family is to make a collage, cutting pictures out of magazines and perhaps adding drawings and words. Working in pairs is also fun. Members of the team take turns to add to the collage and this often creates an opportunity to share feelings that may be too difficult to speak about under normal circumstances.
A variation of the collage is the mandala (a circular design with strong spiritual significance). Again, this can be done either individually or as a group, preferably also sitting in a circle. For this activity you can literally use any materials you can find, from wire, to scraps of fabric, to wool, to sticks; in fact, if you have a garden or outdoor space, you can make a bigger one there with stones, sticks, shells or anything else you can find. Alternatively, you can simply draw or paint a mandala, allowing your imagination free rein. According to Ashleigh, renowned psychotherapist, Carl Jung used to make a mandala every day as a way of ensuring his own mental health.
The Education Department is organising a 21-day drawing challenge, but you can organise a creativity challenge within your own family. It will be great to see how many beautiful things you have produced during these 21 days.
Of course, there are also lots of practical crafts to try. What about knitting, which is said to connect your left and right brain, making a patchwork blanket as a family, making greeting cards, with cut-out patterns, or even mobiles or picture frames which you can save and give to your friends or family members when you see them again? A much- loved craft of yesteryear is flower pressing. Years later, you may open a book and find a pressed flower between the pages and memories of the time you created it will come flooding back.
“And then,” suggests Ashleigh, “you can grow things, like seeds or beans in a bottle with cotton wool on the window sill. It is so fulfilling to see them sprout and grow.” Of course, if they are lucky enough to have a garden, children can try their hand at creating their own vegetable patch or flower bed.
Naturally, story-telling and books can play an especially healing role during lockdown. This is where grandparents, in particular, come into their own. Even if there are no books around, there are so many stories to tell, stories to unlock our imaginations, stories that calm our fears or make us laugh, stories that add to our knowledge of the world and our country. And, of course, we can make our own family 21-day book with even the little ones contributing stories and including cell phone photographs. What a wonderful keepsake to pass on to our children’s children.
Ashleigh has so many ideas that it’s impossible to share them all. But every single person is creative on their own, so why don’t you come up with your own ideas and post them to The Village NEWS facebook page for everybody to see. Have fun and laugh a lot!