We met Creative homes outside first and then they came to the flat. They put a den in here and all the kids were playing. The first time they came they all decorated my daughter's scooter. The kids were decorating it all together, before that they didn't really play together.

Mother of young children in Lambeth

Creative Homes is an experiential home visiting service that uses artists, trained in early years development, to identify and solve every day stresses in the home. They work with families to build positive, lasting routines, and to help caregivers feel in control of their home environment. Creative Homes aims to stop families experiencing a pile-up of stress which can lead to maladaptation and poor family functioning over time.

The need for Creative Homes

The home is one of the primary influences on a child’s development in their early years. However, for many families the home environment can be stressful. Children thrive in stable, nurturing environments and prolonged stress not only affects day to day wellbeing of families but can have a lasting impact on a child’s development. This is referred to as ‘toxic’ stress. One study found that when parents are stressed during their child’s early years of life, some of the children’s genes involved in brain development were affected even years later into adolescence.

Children thrive in stable, nurturing environments and prolonged stress not only affects day to day wellbeing of families but can have a lasting impact on a child’s development

Although various risk factors, including economic hardship, poor parental mental health, and abuse can increase the likelihood of the build-up of toxic stress, children can be buffered against such stress through protective factors such as parental attachment.

By making everyday life easier, Creative Homes aims to unlock the barriers to families seeking and accessing support they might need in the future. Creative Homes understands that some families may need additional specific and long term support beyond what can be offered by a short course of home visits, and will work closely with partners to support families with advanced levels of need. In addition, Creative Homes supports caregivers to create opportunities for their children to engage in creative play, which can support healthy development of social, emotional and motor skills as well as provide an opportunity for families to spend quality time together.

Ultimately, Creative Homes aims to work with families to improve well-being and long-term family stability.

Nationally, two thirds of families in overcrowded housing say cramped living conditions make their daily routines difficult... a third report an impact on the physical and social development opportunities for their children.

 In London 25% of children live in overcrowded conditions, rising to 43% in the social rented sector. Nationally, two thirds of families in overcrowded housing say cramped living conditions make their daily routines difficult and contributes to conflict and nearly a third report an impact on the physical and social development opportunities for their children.

In addition to stresses within a family environment, there is a need to prevent young children developing public health issues such as obesity, dental issues or personal care challenges when they start school (for example being toilet trained). The social determinants of health (conditions which people live in, which are shaped by social, economic and environmental forces) mean that those living in poverty and overcrowded conditions are more likely to experience these health issues which could be prevented, or minimised.

The tooth fairy stands by the sink with Masood. I press play and the music echoes around the tiled bathroom. "Cch Cch Ahh", I chant. Arbella and her six year old daughter join in: "Open wide, pop your brush inside". Masood opened his mouth very wide. The tooth fairy brushed Masood's teeth for the length of the two minute song.

Representative from Creative Homes

How Creative Homes creates change

Creative Homes provides simple, playful solutions designed to give families a helping hand towards building lasting, positive routines, and equip caregivers with the confidence and capability to make change to habits and behaviour.

The following interventions are aimed at creating consistent routines, establishing healthy habits and providing stimulating activities for parents and children to enjoy together in an attempt to combat stress in the home:

  • The Clutter Inspector – helping families share small spaces by creating multifunctional rooms with more space to play, and reducing accidents in the home
  • The Play Inspector – providing ideas and inspiration for creative play
  • The Creative Chef – helping families change the habits of fussy eaters and encouraging healthy eating habits
  • The Tooth Fairy – helping families to make tooth brushing fun and encouraging healthy dental habits
  • The Toilet Sailor – helping families with the difficult transition to independent toilet use
  • The Dream Catcher – helping families establish consistent and stress free bedtime routines (still in development)

Creative Homes’ neutral status also means they can engage hard to reach families that housing teams and other local support services struggle to connect with, and can provide a pathway to these services for families that need them most.

In general, Creative Homes will work with families experiencing mid-level daily stress as a result of raising children with limited resources to prevent a “pile-up” of stress, but they are also starting to work more in depth with families experiencing toxic levels of stress.

Critical Success Factors

Critical success factors unique to Creative Homes’ approach include:

Reducing family stress by supporting the primary caregiver.

Creative Homes builds adult capabilities to improve child outcomes. As caregivers become more confident and knowledgeable, and are equipped with techniques to build their parenting skills and resilience, this in turn leads to children benefitting from a more stable environment. Furthermore, there is evidence that parental involvement and the home learning environment has a significant impact on children’s cognitive development.

Working with families in their own homes

Creative Homes works with families in their own homes to implement change where it is needed most. Home experiences are adapted to each individual family and respond directly to what the adult carer has identified as the most stressful parts of daily life.

Engaging with hard-to-reach families.

They recognise that many families are not comfortable accessing specialist support. Thus they set up Hubs as a neutral community space and run weekly sessions, allowing families to build trust and confidence in the service before being invited into homes.

Using trained artists to deliver their interventions

Ensuring that activities are fun appeals to children and provides a playful way to embed positive behaviour change. Furthermore, there is significant evidence that creative play is an effective way to improve children’s cognitive, social and emotional development.

Working with families with children under the age of five

Children’s early experiences shape their developing neurological biological systems and early stressful experiences can alter children’s neurobiology to undermine their future health, social competence and ability to succeed in school – thus early intervention is an effective way of preventing future potential problems.

Solutions Paper

If you're interested in the outcomes of Creative Homes in terms of in terms of impact upon the health and well-being of children under five and their families please refer to page 10 of the Knee High Design Challenge: Solutions Paper.