You never know quite what to expect from a creative movement session with artist Liz Clark. One week you could be surrounded by thousands of feathers, the next have be elbows-deep in messy clay and then immersed in shiny, glittering materials.
That’s the joy of Liz’s job. As a specialist community dance practitioner, and one of the few who specialise in working with under 4s, it’s her role to create environments and activities where babies, their parents or carers experience imaginative, creative play.
While it might look like – and is – a lot of fun, there’s also some serious thought that goes into planning each session. As Liz explains: “On the face of it, you might think ‘oh it’s just playing with feathers’ but actually there’s a lot of thought that goes into it.
“Play is a very complicated endeavour and much research has gone into understanding children’s creative play. Exploring and being imaginative are children’s primary means of learning. Babies communicate through sound and movement, so a lot of the activities we plan are to bring as many different sensory experiences as possible.
“We are creating a lot of artistic invitations that the babies respond to. I use my skills as an artist to see what they respond to and build on that.”
Liz is the artist in residence for Talent 25, a unique research programme which aims to explore the effect that regular exposure to arts and creativity has on children’s development. The joint project, between De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and Arts Council England, will follow children for 25 years.
At the moment, the children are at the very beginning of their journey. All of them in sessions are aged one or under.
They attend the sessions every week for eight weeks, before going on to the next sessions, co-creating their own art work with different artists who range from painters to musicians.
Liz believes movement is the way most children first begin to communicate with the world around them.
“The most important thing to a baby is their parent or carer and their relationship with that person. Some of our biggest lightbulb moments come when the adults tune in to their babies and really discover what their babies are telling them.
“I’m trying to take the families on a journey to feeling confident about the arts as a positive, life-enhancing experience for their children. The best way I can do that is to give them a meaningful experience themselves, to feel that intrinsic joy and connection.
“One of the things that is brilliant about working with this age group is that they are already incredibly creative. Children are born exploring and discovering – this programme tap into this innate abilities to explore and discover.”
Liz said she cannot wait until the Talent 25 creative sessions resume later this year, following the extended Leicester lockdown. Parents and carers have told researchers that taking part in Talent 25 has helped them cope while at home by thinking more creatively.
“Parents have told me that they look forward to the sessions. They have unhurried time with their children, and they have told me that it helps their mental wellbeing too.”
• Will you have a baby aged one or under in September? You could be part of the next tiny cohort to take part in Talent 25. Log on to the website here
and check if we’re working in your area.
Posted on Wednesday 9th September 2020