Published: 06:00, 04 May 2021
Friendly monsters have been proving a very special hit for children to help them cope with the pressures of the last year.
Creative Maidstone mum Natalie Stead came up with the idea after getting her son Alfred, seven, to draw some pictures of monsters to help him cope with lockdown - and then she turned them into real crocheted monsters.
A hairdresser by day who makes her colourful creations in the evenings when her son has gone to bed, she said: "I started making my ‘Lockdown Monsters’ at the beginning of the year. My little boy Alfred did some drawings of some monsters to help him cope with all the challenges of being in lockdown.
"I crocheted them and uploaded some photos on my social media and then people started to message me asking if I could bring their own child’s drawing to life.
"I have made so many monsters and had some amazing messages from parents telling me how much the monsters have helped their children cope."
News spread of Natalie's creations, and she was enlisted by staff at Brunswick House Primary School in Leafy Lane to bring some pupils' drawings to life.
Pupils had drawn 'Mindful Monsters' for World Book Day, an off-screen challenge which was also good for their wellbeing.
Year 6 teacher Heather Zigler said: "We wanted to launch a fun project for World Book Day, that would allow the children to use their imaginations at home and school. Our theme was 'reading for wellbeing' as it was during lockdown.
"We wanted the children to design a monster who could help their wellbeing in some way. We had loads of lovely ideas like monsters with giant ears for listening to you and monsters who eat your worries. The children then wrote stories about their monsters."
The school ran a competition, where four winning designs were then turned into crocheted monsters - though the result was a surprise to the children.
The winners were Sienna Patel, with her sharing monster Zingee; Jack Whitewood with Portal Paul who takes you on adventures; Callie Thatcher with Goo, a friendship monster and Charlotte Beckett with her monster who eats your nightmares so that you can sleep peacefully.
Natalie said: "It was so much fun to see what the children designed, I absolutely loved making them, each one is so creative and so different."
Natalie is also busy working on a mascot for her son Alfred's support group, as he has haemophilia.
She said: "Alf plays a massive part in what I make, he is always drawing with me and giving me ideas for our next cuddly creation. He is the one who said we should make ‘a shop’ in lockdown and he put all of our makes in the front window for people to see."
And what of her own monster, if she were to make one?
"It would have four arms to help me make everything and three eyes to keep an eye on my son and our dog Coco, and it would have long pink hair because I love it at work when people ask for crazy colours!"
For more information about Natalie's business visit her Etsy page at etsy.com/uk/shop/AlfredsHouseHandmade