Inspiration Days in Dundee & Edinburgh

We’re pleased to announce that we have set two dates for Arts from the Start Inspiration Days aimed at current and past Creative Skills participants.  These events are now on sale and we would love to see you there!

By the time they are five, Scotland’s least advantaged children will be 18 months behind in vocabulary and 13 months behind in problem solving skills compared to their most advantaged peers.  A playful, open-ended approach to the arts can be instrumental in transforming the lives of those children.

Join the Starcatchers team for a day of practical training and discussion as we explore the role practitioners can play in helping to close the equity gap using a creative, playful approach to the arts.  Andy Cannon will share some of the learning from Talking Tales, Starcatchers’ pilot project looking at playful ways to explore language and support language development with children aged 0-3 using stories and storytelling, and will be joined by Hazel Darwin-Edwards (Edinburgh) who will share some ideas about enjoying puppetry and object-led play with younger children or Dr. Rachel Drury (Dundee) who will explore the role music and the arts have in child development.

This training is aimed at Early Years practitioners from across sectors who have previously taken part in the Creative Skills Programme and assumes a working knowledge of creative, open-ended approaches to the arts in early years.  We hope it will be an excellent opportunity for practitioners from across the country to meet and share practice, be inspired and gain new practical skills.

Event details:

  1. Arts from the Start Inspiration Day: Closing the gap (Dundee)                           Saturday 12th March 10:00 – 16:00                                                                                     BOOK EVENT IN DUNDEE NOW
  2. Arts from the Start Inspiration Day: Closing the gap (Edinburgh)                             Saturday 23rd April 10:00 – 16:00                                                                                             BOOK EVENT IN EDINBURGH NOW

PLEASE NOTE: both days will cover the same content so we would recommend only booking a space on either one or the other.

We will shortly be announcing a further date for an event to be held in Glasgow which will be aimed at Early Years practitioners, Managers and anyone else interested in learning more about the programme and the benefits of putting creativity into practice when working with small children.  


Creative Contributions #shareideas

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut with the same old activities but feel determined to engage the children you work with in a variety of creative approaches then don’t panic!

We want to share some inspiration from our Creative Skills programme which has been running since 2013 working across 10 local authorities in 2015/16 and two colleges.  The Creative Skills artists and staff have been blogging about the programme as well as thinking about some creative tips to inspire others to put Arts and Creativity at the heart of their settings.

You can access all of the blogs through the links below:

  • Brian Hartley (Visual Artist):”Exploring photography, using cameras as expressive and creative tools, children are more and more confident in technology, how we can learn from childrens’ ways of seeing the world, different ages learning and sharing opportunities together, giving children more choice in how their images are represented.”
  • Maria Giergel (Trainee Associate Artist): “Rachel suggested giving a child a moment to be heard within a song. All of these things help to give children the message that they are listened to, that things have the potential to change because of their input.”
  • Bethany Whiteside (Creative Skills Coordinator) recalls some ideas for your nursery from her Creative Skills experiences:”One nursery in South Lanarkshire now has, and is using, a vast selection of photos taken by their children from child’s height…An Aberdeen practitioner used Rachel’s ‘Little Princess’ song as the setting’s new ‘toothbrushing’ song. Now all the children want to make sure that their teeth are clean and sparkly for the Little Princess…A college lecturer taking part in the Fife programme recreated one of Brian’s exercises for her HNC Early Education & Childcare students using scrunched up paper and mobile phones to explore new angles of photography – the students were absolutely immersed in the activity proving that creativity really is for all.”
  • Charlotte Allan (Drama Artist): Playing her story game, Charlotte reiterates there are no ways to get it wrong. Each person adds more detail to the story “and that becomes a gift for the next person, who gets to add more”. Have a read of some more of Charlottes experiences and creative ideas to get the imagination going!

Maybe you’ve just had a go at something creative in your nursery that was really successful with your children and staff and would be worth sharing with others?  As part of Arts from the Start 2016 we would love to use this blog as a place to share those experiences, successes, failures and creative tips – so please do let us know!

Please leave a comment/contribution at the end of this blog. Or if you prefer, you can also interact with the campaign on social media using the hashtag #AFTS16 

You can find out more ideas on the Creative Skills blog

photos blog pic

Family Engagement Month – Why Engaging Parents and Carers in creativity needs to be our top priority

Each month this blog is going to be looking at a different theme that highlights how creativity can improve the lives of young children across Scotland. Never ones to shy away from a challenge, February is Starcatchers’ Family Engagement Month.

The importance of engaging young children AND their adults in Arts and Creativity is at the heart of Starcatchers’ work – from performances and creative experiences designed for children and adults to enjoy together, to engagement projects like Starcatchers’ Expecting Something project which has seen some amazing results using creative approaches with young mums and their babies to improve confidence and strengthen relationships. This month Starcatchers’s artists are working with 24 settings across the country to run Creative Play sessions with the aim of inspiring parents and carers to use more arts and creative play with their wee ones.

Engaging parents is also a priority for Education Scotland – the Scottish Schools (parental involvement) Act 2006 recognises the vital role parents have in supporting their children’s learning – you can read more about the benefits here

Creativity and Attachment

 If we want to look at how working with parents and carers can improve the lives of young children, we need to look at attachment.

The Sutton Trust estimates that up to 40% of children lack secure bonds with their primary caregiver, which can have profoundly negative effects on the behaviour and ultimately the life chances of those children.  The “Baby Bonds” report found parenting style and home environment contributed to half the gap in cognitive development that can be found between the least and most advantaged children.

The Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) research project shows this gap to equate to 18 month gap in vocabulary between the least and most advantaged children by age 5, with a 13 month gap in problem solving.

Amongst children whose parents had lower levels of education, those who had strong early attachment with their mother, had better early language development and more regularly experienced parent-child activities like reading, singing and playing games were more likely to show a greater improvement in their cognitive ability in the pre-school period than those children who did not have these experiences. Growing Up in Scotland

It’s clear that shared creative activity is an excellent way to support healthy attachment – touch, eye contact, laughter and fun all help cement those important bonds. If we want a nation of happier, healthier children, we need to have early learning and childcare AND home environments rich in arts and creativity.

Who Values Arts and Creativity?

During Starcatchers’ Creative Skills Programme, early years practitioners from a variety of backgrounds and settings are asked to identify their barriers to being more creative in their practice. In almost every session, parents are mentioned as one of the biggest obstacles. Some parents complain about clothes getting messy. Some parents only care about numeracy and literacy. Some parents just don’t “get it”. Some parents throw artwork in the bin before they even leave the building.

It’s frustrating and heartbreaking.

Blame isn’t going to improve the situation though. No parent chooses to fail to form secure attachments with their child, nor do they deliberately stop their child taking part in rich, rewarding experiences. In those same conversations with practitioners attending training, colleagues are also mentioned as barriers to being more creative. If trained professionals struggle to value (or prioritise) creativity amongst the long list of daily tasks, numeracy and literacy targets, and endless paperwork, can we reasonably expect parents to “get it”?

According to the Ribena Plus Play Report (2011) while only 6% of parents most often turn to imaginative and role-play to engage their child, 90% of parents think it’s important for their children to play imaginative, make-believe or role-play games. In that same report nearly half of parents say they want help and ideas on how to play with their child. This shows that maybe more parents get it than we realise – but it’s still not happening.

So how do we get parents (and everyone else) onboard?

 We need to start from a place of empathy.

 From day one parents (and practitioners) are bombarded with messages about feeding, sleeping, exercise, healthy eating, teeth cleaning, speech, literacy, and so on. The feeling of constantly failing to meet expectations, or even failing to take in all that information, can be overwhelming. We don’t just need people to value arts and creativity, they need to feel good about it instead of feeling guilty.

Here are some things that could help:

  1. Share Information Simply

As part of the Arts from the Start campaign, we’ve created posters to get some key messages across quickly and simply – download them, print them off and display them somewhere they can be seen during those super-busy hellos and goodbyes.

Arts support science

Download the posters below:

Art supports confidence

Art supports science

Music supports maths

Movement supports writing

Imagination supports attainment

Attachment supports attainment

  1. Take Our Creative Challenge: Talk About Creativity

Think about how you talk to parents about arts and creativity. You may share information about bottles, naps and snacks, but do you ever let parents know “Maisie has a great time pretending to be a dog today” at pick ups? If you already do this, how well does it work? Do you have any great tips to share?

Could it be as simple as popping some Arts from the Start flyers in bags to send home (get in touch if you would like some flyers, or a wee note saying “Shaun is loving singing Twinkle Twinkle this week”?

  1. Find examples of imagination making parenting easier, and more fun – and share them with us!

In June we’re going to be running our “A Little Imagination: Tales of Parenting” competition, where we’ll be asking parents and carers to share their stories about ways to engage children’s imaginations in ways that makes caring for young children easier and more fun – you can get in touch with yours now!

You can read more about attachment on the website of the wonderful Suzanne Zeedyk, long time supporter of Starcatchers.

We’ll be posting about the Creative Play days throughout the month and will be announcing dates for the Arts from the Start Inspiration Days very soon.  If you haven’t registered your interest yet, you can do so below:

Let us know how you’re getting on.  You can comment directly here on the blog, or get in touch via email or engage with us online on Facebook or Twitter.


Arts from the Start 2016

Welcome to the Arts from the Start blog.  This blog is primarily for people working with young children on a daily basis, but also might be of interest to parents and carers.

It’s a big year for us at Starcatchers as 2016 marks our 10th birthday.  We wanted to celebrate all that we have achieved over the past decade to inspire our youngest citizens working with artists, Early Years professionals and parents and carers across Scotland and internationally.  We are doing this with a year of Arts from the Start.

Arts from the Start is a campaign to highlight the importance of Arts and Creativity in early childhood.  We know the benefits creativity has on very young children’s emotional and physical development and wellbeing through years of research and development.  We want Arts and Creativity to be at the heart of the every child’s early childhood experience.

Since 2013 Starcatchers has been funded by the Scottish Government to work with Early Years practitioners across the country to help them feel, and be, more creative. Our Creative Skills Programme is transforming practice and changing lives, empowering practitioners and reminding them what their jobs are really about.

In 2016 we want to share what we’ve learned so far, and inspire EVERY SETTING in Scotland to put creativity at the heart of Early Years Practice by joining the Arts from the Start campaign.

Why is Creativity so Important?

The importance of creativity is at the centre of Scottish Government policies and guidelines: from Curriculum for Excellence and HGIOS, the UNCRC, GIRFEC and RAFA, there is a strong emphasis on the voice of the child, the importance of child-centred approaches and involving children in decision making and shaping their own learning. The arts provide unique opportunities for very young children to express themselves and develop the skills and confidence they need to be positive agents in their own lives.

There’s a wealth of evidence proving arts and creative approaches boost attainment in literacy and numeracy, support healthy development and wellbeing, and are particularly effective when working with our most vulnerable children. There is agreement across the board that creativity is a good thing, but in practical terms, it’s not always easy to know how to put that knowledge into practice.

How Arts from the Start supports GIRFEC – Click to enlarge

What’s Involved in ARTS FROM THE START?

We are getting in touch with every single nursery in Scotland to build a community of creative, inspiring Early Years practitioners, and we’ll provide free opportunities for networking and training for managers and practitioners.

Throughout 2016 we’ll be focusing on different aspects of creativity monthly, sharing links to research and resources, creative challenges to boost creative practice in your own setting, and printable resources to share with parents and families.

Taking part in ARTS FROM THE START 2016 is totally free – all you need to do is follow this blog!  The first post will be published in February where we’ll be looking at family learning.

You can also add our Twibbon onto your Facebook and Twitter account pictures to show your support: AFTS Twibbon


Nourish your creativity at an ARTS FROM THE START Inspiration Day

We believe passionately that a creative approach to learning has the power to change the Early Years experience in Scotland for the better, and we think it’s time to shout about it.

Last year we held two Arts from the Start Inspiration Days in Glasgow and Dundee designed to inspire Early Years professionals.  The events were so successful we are doing it again in 2016!

Creative Skills Participants from 2013 – 2015 at an Inspiration Day in Dundee Feb 2015

Inspiration days are open to anyone working in Early Years who are looking to deepen their creative understanding and get inspired.  The day will include practice sharing, key note speakers, practical creative masterclasses run by Starcatchers artists and plans for the future of creativity in early learning.


If you are interested in coming along to an Inspiration Day please register your interest below.

Creative Skills Programme

Find out more about our ground breaking Creative Skills Programme by watching our short film.