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Mindful Monsterz: Upcycled Toys to Boost Children's Mental Health

Mindful Monsterz: Upcycled Toys to Boost Children's Mental Health

 What makes upcycling rewarding is when you can turn waste materials into pure joy. Today we have a special blog by Julie Outterside, creator of Mindful Monsterz. Read on to find out where exactly these little Monsterz came from!

Mindful Monsterz: How These Amazing Upcycled Toys Came to Be

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to put you on furlough", said the nursery manager, "I'm so sorry."

It was March 2020, the start of the pandemic. Get in, I thought, time to do a bit of crafting.

A couple of months later, I was still off work, and aside from my daily walk and a bit of pottering about I was so bored I decided to have a clear out.

Like a lot of other people, I discovered a large pile of jeans in my wardrobe which I hadn't worn in ages, leggings, and joggers had become the staple daily uniform, and jeans felt so uncomfortable, restricting, [nothing to do with the spare tyre i had grown around my middle of course.]

With no charity shops open, and a keen recycler I started to think about what I could make with the old jeans. I came up with a little monster soft toy, which was very cute. I had no stuffing so I filled it with rice, [I had stocked up on plenty of it, not sure if there was going to be a shortage of food]. A friend of mine asked if she could buy it for her daughter. When she came to pick it up from me [socially distanced of course] we chatted at the door about the virus and how it was affecting our children and how anxious people were getting.

That night I woke up at 3am with a better idea, why not add the jeans pocket on the back of the monster to put worries in?

And Roary was created. He had a striped star and a cheeky face, and a pocket at the back to put your worries in.

Fast forward a few more months, and I'd made quite a few, and they really seemed to be going down well. I made another tiger-style one and a friend swapped me for a pile of her jeans, I made my punk neighbour a punky monster to throw about when he got frustrated, and another for a friend who had injured themselves and were in hospital. I called him Scar.

September came and the first wave of the pandemic was coming to an end. It was time to return to work. I had missed my job but something had changed, I got a buzz from creating the monsters and I was getting good feedback. Most evenings were spent creating monsters and I was getting piles of jeans donated.

I was shopping in Primark one day and an old friend stopped me. She asked what I had been up to and loved my monster idea.

"Have you ever considered doing workshops, showing people how to make them?" she said.

She worked for a local charity and they funded me to put monster-making packs together.

And then wave two came....lockdown again, no workshops for me.


So we adapted, I did a very amateurish video on my phone, we gave out the packs, and people got to make them. I finally got to do two workshops with Women's groups in November 2021. They loved it and so did I. I found they were chatty about their issues around mental health, and they were proud of their creations too. It was very rewarding.

Fast forward to March 2022, pandemic over but I was still making the monsters and had even managed to get funding to do a small publication on a book I had written, William's Worry Monster. Now every monster would have a little story to explain its purpose.

I was waking up in the night with monster ideas, looking out for materials I could recycle, and showing pictures of them to everyone I met. Monster eyes were looking at me from every surface of my house! And children's mental health concerns continued to dominate so many of my conversations. I couldn't stop now! I knew they were helping children with their issues.


I decided to call them Mindful Monsterz, I liked the positive sound of it, better than worry monsters. And besides, they weren't just about worries, they were confidence monsters, mascot monsters, sleep monsters and even memory monsters, made from the clothing of a loved one. I knew this obsession wasn't stopping anytime soon.

 

One day I found out The Millin Charity was doing a business course and just knew I had to do it. It was excellent and gave me the confidence to leave my job and start to explore making monsters for a living.

I started officially in August and have done three more workshops, with children and adults and the orders keep coming in. And I'm constantly looking for materials to re-purpose. I discovered the Green Heart Collective at a clothes swap in September and now my business can support a local social enterprise too, I can get my jeans from their amazing shop.

I'm hoping to get myself into schools to do Monster Making workshops in the new year, some after-school clubs, maybe youth clubs and possibly working with older people who may want to use their sewing skills to make monsters for their grandchildren. The possibilities are endless, and hopefully, I can help some people to relieve their worries with a little monster.


If you are interested in a Monster Making workshop or in ordering your own monster design, please contact Julie to discuss. 

julieoutterside051@gmail.com

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