How we created Museum Minis

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Our new ‘Museum Minis’ sessions for children aged 5 and under have been developed after an exciting period of consultation and information gathering.

Not only did we consult with local families through focus groups but we also spent time observing how other museums run sessions for this age group and chatted with other museum educators about how their early years sessions were developed.

Their advice has proved invaluable as we have begun to develop our own offer for young families.

It was a privilege to observe and hear about some fantastic experiences for young children and their grown ups at six museums across the country.

What really stood out in all these visits was the value of providing genuinely bespoke and unique experiences that families couldn’t have elsewhere. This is the great opportunity we have in museums as we have the resource of wonderful objects and collections.  It was obvious that the best sessions were those that really linked to the museum collection, particularly when part of the session took place on the museum galleries, as these truly provide a unique experience.

This can be a challenge for smaller museums, like North Lincs Museum, where large gallery spaces are not readily available. However is it still possible.  We have already begun to try this out in ‘Museum Minis’ by spending a short section of the session exploring our geology gallery for fossils and searching for an old bath tub to have a sit in.

Gallery exploration did not need to involve hands-on experiences. We noticed at The Fitzwilliam Museum, where nothing at all could be touched by visitors, the toddlers at the session delighted in searching for cups and plates and then musical instruments in the glass cases and in using fabric to dress up like characters from paintings.

The best sessions were also those that encouraged grown ups to be fully involved in the activities moving beyond providing entertainment for children to providing engaging shared experiences for families. A great example of this during a session at The Museum of London was dancing to 70s music. Grown ups really enjoyed dancing with their children, laughing and singing along.  It was lovely to observe the positive responses of the children to their grown ups dancing with them.  We also joined in!

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On a more practical level we gathered lots of advice about how to run and structure sessions. The museums visited all did things differently but there were common strands such as providing a mixture of structured or facilitator led activities and free flow activities where families could choose what to do and how long to spend from a variety of activities.  This model was used in developing ‘Museum Minis’.  Many also used a welcome song or activity that families become familiar with.  We have written our own ‘Museum Minis Welcome Song’ that is proving popular!

The individual activities that made up the sessions ranged from art and craft activities, exploring galleries, music and movement activities to interactive storytelling and messy play. In our new sessions we aim to provide families with opportunities to play in different ways.

We are thoroughly enjoying putting all this research and consultation into action and look forward to developing this work even further in the future.

With thanks to The Manchester Museum, The Castle Museum, York, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, The Museum of London, The V&A Museum of Childhood and The Geffrye Museum.

Rosalind Brian, Learning Officer Under 5s

Dudley’s Den: our new under 5’s space!

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Lots has been happening for our family and under 5 audience at North Lincs Museum!

Dudley’s Den is a new space at North Lincs Museum designed for children aged 5 and under.

Inspired by the wide ranging collection at the museum, the room features a range of resources and activities for children to explore, play and discover.

Babies and their grown ups will enjoy our cosy ‘under the sea’ corner with sensory resources to explore.

Toddlers and preschool children can dress up as explorers and uncover hidden objects in our mini archaeological dig. They can also explore our ‘mini museum wall’ which offers children a chance to look, touch, move and play with real museum objects from our handling collection.

Dudley’s Den provides a space for families to spend time together in our unique museum setting.

It is also the venue for our new ‘Museum Minis’ weekly sessions for children aged 5 and under. ‘Museum Minis’ are free sessions led by our learning team.  They include fun, stimulating activities designed for children and parents to play and learn together.

Each week we explore a theme from the museum through creative play, stories, singing and sensory exploring. These sessions have been running for a month and so far we have hunted for fossils, enjoyed popping bubbles at bathtime, made a lot of noise with pots and pans and created our own boats from junk materials.  All of this with lots and lots of singing!

We are thoroughly enjoying getting to know the families that visit us and look forward to lots more fun for under 5s at the museum in the future.

Roz Macaulay, Learning Officer Under 5s

Eureka: Power to the playful!

PTTP-webcoverOn May 16th the under 5s team from the Humber Museums Partnership attended a conference at Eureka, the National Children’s Museum. The conference focused on the importance of play in museums. There were a range of interesting speakers who discussed many different aspects of play.

Alexandra Long & Mike Wragg from Leeds Beckett University highlighted the politicisation of children and play. They warned against the problem of thinking ‘children are our future’ is that we tend to forget the present, ignoring their everyday lived experience.

Rebecca Caswell, Strategic Lead, Play and Early Years at Eureka lead us in a story-telling activity, encouraging conference delegates to engage in play themselves.

Juliette Yardley from Laughology introduced us to the psychology of play in her engaging and entertaining presentation. She presented evidence that suggests that play helps us develop develop neotenous traits, which helps us with creativity and problem solving.

Ruth Churchill Dower from Early Arts discussed the power of play in developing the whole child. She introduced us to key concepts in childhood development and educational psychology. She says “Play is not an option, it’s a right”.

Dr Elizabeth Wood and Dr Liz Chesworth from the University of Sheffield showcased some of their fascinating research on children’s imaginative play. Liz Chesworth’s research has involved making video recordings of children at play, and interviewing them about their experiences while watching back the footage. She shared a number of observations, including one about a little girl who went to the dressing up area to put on shiny shoes to ‘go out and walk the dog’. When watching back this footage with her mother, her mother commented that the little girl often wants to go out and do mucky tasks in inappropriate foot ware. Just the other day the little girl had been caught half-way out the door to feed the pigs wearing her party shoes. She had been told to go back and change into wellies. In her imaginative play, she could wear whatever shoes she liked. In play, the impossible becomes possible.

At North Lincs, we already know how important play is and work hard to ensure it is encorporated into all our programming. The conference gave us the tools to continue advocating for the importance of play, as well as many new ideas for how to make our museum even more playful. #powertotheplayful !

Dr Rebecca Kummerfeld, Learning Manager