Taverham mum makes creative family time into an art

It's time to get the paints out and get arty – according to one young mum from Taverham creativity is the key to a happy family. Emma Harrowing finds out more.

Anyone with children aged under five will know that trying to get kids to be creative can be a thankless task.

How many times have you covered the table with newspaper, laid out paints, crayons and paper only for your dearly beloved children to down tools and demand to play a game or watch television – and that is after they have turned the room into a paint-splattered bomb site within five minutes.

Despite some studies into children revealing that arts and crafts can promote social skills and lead to a higher level of intelligence, having your home turned into a sticky mess makes the whole process of trying to inject a little creativity into your child's day easy to ignore, especially when most of the paint is hand-printed on your walls rather than on the paper.

It's times like these when you just want to be able to put your child in a room where they can stick, paint, colour and make as much mess as they like in the bid to learn creativity without having to deal with the fallout.

Mum-of-two Holly James, 25, from Taverham, says: 'Having to clear up after your child and buying the equipment you need to encourage your child to be creative can put many parents off. However, creative play is an important part of growing up and it can be good for both the parent and child.'

Holly has recently set up arts and crafts haven Doodles at the Costessey Centre in Longwater Lane for kids and their parents to get messy, have fun and learn how to be creative – and the best part is that there is no clearing up afterwards.

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'Everyone should have the opportunity to be creative,' says Holly. 'Doodles is a place where parent and child can play together and take part in many different art projects from creating murals and painting, to playing with water, glitter and sand. It's a chance for families to really get creative together and make as much mess as they want in a safe place.'

Doodles also offers children's parties where Holly will come to your home, village hall or hired place and spend a couple of hours entertaining the children with art.

'We can offer anything from general art and craft sessions to themed play. So if you have organised a pirate or princess party we can tailor the session to suit from making glittery tiaras to making cardboard swords so that the children can walk the plank!'

Holly grew up in a creative environment herself. Both her parents are illustrators for children's and educational books and Holly trained to become a graphic designer and set up her own fine art business illustrating books before she had a career break to look after her two children.

'Art and crafts was a normal part of my childhood and I really believe that this freedom to express myself made me into the well-rounded person that I am today,' says Holly.

'The aim of Doodles is to not only provide children with a place where they can be creative and have the freedom to play, it is also a place where mum and dad can join in the fun too.'

Doodles has become a part-time career for Holly who enjoys the flexibility the classes have around looking after her two young children. Her son, two-year-old Harry comes to the classes in order to have fun, make friends and get messy.

Holly says: 'My daughter is only 18 months old so she is a little young for some of the activities, but she is learning!

'When I took a childminding course in order to get the qualifications and training I needed to work with children the emphasis was always on creativity and play and this is what Doodles can offer families.'

Holly is everything that you would expect from someone who aims to encourage families to get creative and have fun. Her positive attitude and wealth of ideas makes you want to pick up a paintbrush or create a work of art out of clay. She has even spent the time trying and testing different pens, paints and materials so that the equipment she can offer at Doodles is the best art equipment you can get.

'I have lots of ideas for creative projects. Most of my ideas I get from books, blogs and the internet, I'm forever printing out worksheets that the children and their parents can follow in order to create something.

'Recently we made the bunting for the Costessey summer fete and we got creative with red, white and blue for the jubilee – I think that these colours will come out again for the London Olympics! The theme this term is summer fun so we are busy being creative from decorating beastly bugs to making sparkly pinwheels.'

Never one to stay still, Holly is thinking about expanding Doodles to include dad-only sessions on Saturday mornings where dads can get creative with their kids and play with Lego, do scuplture and even build a den.

Holly says: 'It would be great to offer older children the chance to enjoy being creative too, perhaps with an after-school club. All too often when children start school arts and crafts are tailored towards what looks right and wrong, whereas everyone – no matter how old they are – should learn to be creative in a way that has no boundaries.'

Doodles creative workshops' current term ends on Thursday, June 21. The new five-week term runs every Thursday from June 28 to July 26 at the Costessey Centre in Longwater Lane. The hour-long classes run from 9.30am to 10.30am or 11am to noon. The first session is free and sessions cost �4.50 per child and �2.50 for siblings. For more information or to book Doodles to come to your party call Holly on 07876 798983 or you can email her at hello@doodles4kids.co.uk