Thursday, 28 April 2011

Tips on how to encourage your child to be creative from Neil Buchanan

We absolutely love arts and crafts, or messy play as the kids call it, here at The Madhouse so we were over the moon when Robinsons told us all about their fun Squash Monsters competition and sent us an art set to take part. I'll show you our creations in a separate post but here are some helpful hints from the great Neil Buchanan, who's up there with Mister Maker in our arts & crafts greatest heroes list ! Don't forget to share your creations with us if you join in ! ...


Research from Robinson Double Concentrate found that 78% of UK’s parents are worried about the tradition of arts and crafts disappearing for their children in today’s indoor culture of modern technology. So Robinsons has teamed up with kids TV presenter, Laura Hamilton, and Art Attack presenter, Neil Buchanan, to launch ‘Squash Monsters’ – a national competition that helps parents encourage kids to get creative at home and learn how to make an imaginative squash monster out of the Robinsons Double Concentrate bottle.


Encouraging kids to be creative will always be a cause close to Neil’s heart, which is why he has provided a series of hints & tips for both parents & kids who want to enter the Robinsons Double Concentrate ‘Squash Monsters’ competition. In putting together the hints & tips that follow, Neil has drawn ideas from his long career of creating, to help kids bring their imagination to life and make their squash monster creation really stand out.

1. Use technology in the right way – show them how to search online for different art tips and for inspiration from around the world, or suggest they use their favourite TV show or computer game as inspiration.

2. Create the space for them - not everyone can dedicate a whole room to arts and crafts in the house, but they can be more accepting of the space needed to get creative. If you don’t want the kids to make things on the dining room table is there a space in the kitchen, garage or spare room they can utilise?

3. Art starts in the kitchen – once you’ve finished with a household item, can it be used for the kids? Robinsons Double Concentrate’s ‘Squash Monsters’ competition is all about using the empty bottle but what other things can they use - empty yoghurt pots, egg cartons, cans and bottle tops can all be good. Keeping these items is not only recycling, but you’ll see their art kits soon fill up!

4. Fashion can be creative – as parents we know how quickly clothes can go ‘out of fashion’, get ruined, or simply become too small for the growing kids! Make sure you keep these items for your child’s art kits, as they can customise items or use the fabric in their other arty creations.

5. Old news? – Newspaper is one of my absolute favourite tools for creating things, kids can make so much from it, so ensure sure you’re keeping those commuter papers or telling grandparents not to throw away their weekend papers, as the kids can get hours of fun from just one paper or magazine.

For Kids – What every kid should have in their art kit from Neil Buchanan

· A Pencil
 Planning your Squash Monster is one of the most important steps! Take the time to map out on paper what you like, what you want to achieve and how you might go about making the real thing.

· Acrylic paint
It’s a staple in my art kit – it sticks to everything, is really cheap and versatile and comes in a variety of cool colours.

· Paper, newspaper and card
My favourite art material ! Paper can be sculpted, taped, ripped, and scrunched ! It’s an essential and you can make so much with it when it comes to thinking about additions and features for your squash monster.

· Sticky tape
The glue that binds everything together ! Whether you’re using it to hold things in place or see what might look good where, sticky tape is another must-have in your art kit.

· Papier Mache
o One of the most traditional ways of creating something – you can add a little and build up gradually to get the effect you want.

· Empty household packaging items – (cardboard boxes, empty tubs, squash bottles)
Make sure your mum saves everything she can ! You can make so much out of empty household items, if you can make the most amazing squash monster from your Robinsons Double Concentrate bottle, the possibilities are endless from what you can make from your kitchen cupboards !

For Kids – Five top arty tips from Neil Buchanan

Top Tip: Everything can be recycled. For example yoghurt pots – they can be twisted to create all sorts of shapes – you can put things in it, or can it be a hat, then it’s a dalek, or event plant-pot. You can make something out of all used household junk; clothes, loo rolls, kitchen rolls, cans, bottle tops. Don’t throw anything away!

Top tip: Paper is one of my absolute favourite art materials because we can sculpt and mould it so easily! A little bit of tape and the shapes you can make are limitless.

Top tip: If you can’t get hold of acrylic paint, PVA glue mixed with some water and a little powder paint will do exactly the same thing – you can even make your own colour shades up!

Top tip: Use PVA glue to cover your creations – it protects them from damage and adds a cool shiny, varnish effect.

Top Tip: Find it difficult to draw hands? Draw around your own as an outline and if you need a smaller one, use that as an outline and draw a smaller one inside.

For Kids – Five Squash Monster ideas from Neil Buchanan

Top Tip: A Reverse Squash Monster! Design one on the front and one on the back. Hold the bottle and turn it around, so it smiles and frowns. Simply paint on it and if you don’t have paint – do the face on paper, roll it up and pop it inside the bottle and when it opens out you’ll see it! That way you can make lots of different faces and put them inside!

Top Tip: To make your monster really hair-raising pop wool or cut up material under the cap and screw it back on! Take wool from Granny’s knitting basket and that will create a hairy effect that provides a scary base for your Squash Monster creation.

Top Tip: You can stick on facial features from magazines – why not take an eye from David Beckham and one from Lady Gaga to make something truly unique, freaky-deaky and hilarious. You can even dress bottle with clothes from magazines.

Top Tip: You can make whatever you want and however you want – arms don’t have to be at the side, they can grow out of your monsters head. Similarly your monster doesn’t have to have eyes, a nose and a mouth and if they do, it doesn’t have to be where they normally would be on a face.

Top Tip: What about a monster ghost - that would be really cool. You could cover the Robinsons Double Concentrate bottle with material or even with paper to give it a floaty, ghostly effect. Then you can make some mechanics inside so that the material moves and floats like a ghost!

For Kids - Three quick steps to getting creative from Neil Buchanan

1. Take an idea that’s based on something you like (animals, dancing, music, and sport) – what’s your hobby and what appeals to you? Use this as your inspiration and this will guide you and help you create something that’s exciting and all your own.

2. Plan it out. Anything I do, I plan it out first and that doesn’t mean detailed sketches or plans. Even a rough sketch on some scrap paper will help you have a firm idea of what you want to make and where you want to go on your creative journey.

3. Enjoy yourself! It’s your idea, it’s your creativity - make sure your art says ‘this is me!’ Don’t listen if people criticise or think it’s strange or not what they would do; originality is where it’s at!

*To find out how you can win some fantastic imaginative prizes, or even a monster holiday to Florida for the whole family, visit

Other blogposts you may be interested in :


  1. Some great tips on here - I'm always looking for messy play ideas to do with my toddler, and have recently started a craft box full of household items to use for making things with her.

  2. With Grace now getting to that age of being able to draw only on paper and not the walls lol, this is an interesting post. Some good ideas as now we got to think of things to do with the lil angel to keep her active. Thanks for the post xx