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Everything in the Early Years toolkit

  • A photograph of an excited child in a museum gallery with people moving in the background.

    Weaving theory and practice

    Article by Dr Abigail Hackett, Professor Rachel Holmes & Dr Christina MacRae

    In this article Manchester Metropolitan University ask: How are we imagining or anticipating the babies, toddlers and young children that enter our museums?

  • A photograph of a young child laughing and ducking under some blue fabric with a sock on his hand.

    Festive Play

    Case study by the V&A

    Find out how the story of The Twelve Days of Christmas inspired the V&A to develop a brand new sensory storytelling session in partnership with their Visitor Experience department.

  • A photograph of a toddler leaning against a museum cabinet containing ceramic plates and ornaments.

    Pineapples and Gingerbread

    Case study by the Fitzwilliam Museum and North Cambridge Child and Family Centre

    What does true partnership between two organisations look like? And how does it improve outcomes for children and families? Find out in this collaborative case study written by both museum and child and family centre staff.

  • A photograph of a young child holding a big, blue, periscope in a busy gallery space.

    Making space for under 5s

    Case study by Ferens Art Gallery

    Consultation is key. Discover the importance of listening to your audiences and the value of steering groups when designing new dedicated spaces for under fives.

  • A photograph of a baby sitting on an adults lap, looking at a soft toy.

    Creating a session for refugee and asylum seeking families

    Case study by Great North Museum: Hancock

    What came about when Newcastle’s City of Sanctuary requested a bespoke session for refugee and asylum seeking families with under 5s?

  • A photograph of children looking at a dead spider in a plastic box.

    Curioser and curioser

    Case study by the Tees Valley Making a Mark museums partnership

    What kinds of museum visits can be effective cultural learning experiences for EYFS groups of different ages? This exploratory project aimed to find out.

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    The importance of adult involvement

    Museum of London

    Valuing and involving adults as participants, underpins all of the work with early years audiences at the Museum of London. Why is it important, how do they do it, and what are the benefits?

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    “The Wheels on the Bus go to the Museum”

    Article by Jen DeWitt

    If young children spent most of their school day in a museum – over a long period – what would their learning be like? The ‘My Primary School is at the Museum’ project found out!

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    Shiver me timbers!

    Case study by the Museum of London Docklands

    When the Museum of London Docklands decided to put on a show – with pirates and fire! - in the summer holidays, they adapted it for under 5s too. How did this approach go?

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    Sensory Explorers

    Case study by the National Maritime Museum

    The National Maritime Museum put out a call for local families – through flyers, tannoy announcements, Twitter and Hoop! – and together they created the resource they all wanted.

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    Baby Mindful

    Case study by Orleans House Gallery

    Orleans House Gallery wanted to support positive mental health for new and expectant parents. Find out what happened when they trialled mindfulness sessions for local parents with younger babies.

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    A Nursery in Residence

    Case study by the Fitzwilliam Museum

    The Fitzwilliam Museum and Cambridge University Botanic Garden welcomed nine nursery school children to a residency in a multi-disciplinary research project. What did they learn?

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    Art Adventurers

    Case study by Dulwich Picture Gallery

    What happened when the first purpose-built public art gallery developed a brand new offer for 2-4 year olds? How did different colleagues, families and other visitors respond?

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    Bridlington Healthy Eating Partnership

    Case study by Sewerby Hall and Gardens

    Partnership working with Children’s Centres and a local church allowed Sewerby Hall and Gardens to reach new audiences – through cooking!

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    Early Years film

    Museum of London

    Be a fly on the wall and discover how children under three learn in museums. Go behind the scenes of the Museum of London Docklands' early years programme with Jo Graham.

  • Jo_AcademicPiece.jpg

    Museums as spaces for curiosity and conversation

    Article by Jo Graham

    Can you be too young to visit a museum? In this article Jo Graham explains how young children learn and the opportunities this presents for museums and their programmes.

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    Neuroscience and early childhood development

    Article by Ruth Churchill Dower

    Young brains need to be nurtured. Ruth Churchill Dower explains why it is important for us to understand neuroscience and the role our venues can play in early brain development.

  • Tate.jpg

    The many lives of the Swatch

    Case study by Tate

    Thinking of developing a gallery resource for under 5s? Tate created Swatch, a self-directed resource to increase engagement with underrepresented families at their sites.

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    Family-friendly gallery interventions

    Case study by the Museum of London

    How can you make your galleries more family friendly? The Museum of London Docklands created pockets of playfulness within their existing spaces.

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    Early Years Atelier

    Case study by the Whitworth

    Less is more when working with under 5s! Explore the Whitworth's hands-on Early Years Atelier, inspired by the philosophy of Reggio Emilia.

  • A child uses a tablet computer at a British Museum family session.

    Digital learning at the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre

    Case study by the British Museum

    How can technology be used meaningfully with under 5s? Find out how the British Museum’s dedicated under 5s sessions use technology, including micro robots and tablets, to deepen visitors' engagement with their collection.

  • An under-5-year-old smiling in a soft play area.

    Evaluating the impact: How can we tell young children are learning?

    Article by Jan Dubiel

    Dive into the theory of how young children learn and how you can spot it happening, and hear how the Museum of London Docklands apply this understanding when planning activities.

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    Stories from the Torah: Noah and the Ark schools workshop

    Case study by the Jewish Museum

    Explore how the Jewish Museum tailored an offer for Foundation Stage schools using storytelling and object handling to engage young children with their collection.

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    Say it with Makaton

    Case study by Great North Museum: Hancock

    Discover how the Great North Museum: Hancock trialled the use of Makaton to provide a welcoming and accessible environment and engage a wider range of family visitors.

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    A recipe for muddy fun with under 5s

    Case study by the Horniman Museum and Gardens

    The Horniman Museum and Gardens experimented with drop-in and open-ended play opportunities for families by creating their very own Mud Kitchen in their gardens!

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    Singing and stories at London Transport Museum

    Case study by the London Transport Museum

    The London Transport Museum encouraged families to explore their permanent galleries, working with Artburst to develop singing and story sessions for under 5s.

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    Delivering Storytime with your Visitor Experience team

    Case study by the Museum of London

    The Museum of London Docklands have proven that working with your Visitor Experience department can enhance the breadth and quality of your under 5s progamme.

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    Toddler Takeover

    Case study by Great North Museum: Hancock

    Turn toddlers into curators and conservators! Explore the Great North Museum: Hancock's Toddler Takeover, part of Kids in Museums annual Takeover Day.

  • Fitzwilliam

    Nobody puts baby in a corner!

    Case study by the Fitzwilliam Museum

    Learn the importance of listening to your youngest visitors! The Fiztwilliam developed their Baby Magic sessions in response to a need for more options for babies.

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    #My Manchester Museum

    Case study by Manchester Museum

    Manchester Museum worked with their local library to deliver a series of events to better understand their local family audiences.

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    GoPro gallery patrol

    Case study by Great North Museum: Hancock

    What does a toddler see when they totter around the galleries? Here's what happened when the Great North Museum: Hancock gave toddlers GoPros!

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    Over the hills and far away - The Jolly Postman learning programme

    Case study by the Postal Museum

    Find out how the re-opening of the Postal Museum offered the opportunity to develop a brand new literary learning programme for schools.

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    Creative explorers: Facilitating family creativity and wellbeing

    Case study by Islington Museum

    How can you facilitate family wellbeing in a museum? Islington Museum delivered a collaborative research project for families experiencing mental health challenges.

  • NationalMuseumScotland

    Mini engineers: Science for under 5s

    Case study by National Museums Scotland

    Explore how National Museums Scotland developed a STEM session suitable for school and family groups, using stories and songs to make connections with their collection.

  • Fulham

    Developing Palace Explorers at Fulham Palace

    Case study by Fulham Palace

    Find out how Fulham Palace reviewed the quality of their under 5s offer and increased community awareness through their Palace Explorers programme.

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    Developing early years exhibitions through open-ended play

    Case study by the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

    Find out how the Herbert worked with their Visitor Experience department on their most recent annual exhibition for under 5s, A Very Viking Voyage.

  • A child's paint-covered hand at a messy play session.

    Messy play

    Museum of London

    A river Thames made out of apple sauce, shaving foam and food colouring? Hear how the Museum of London Docklands encourages families to get messy, and why it’s so important.

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    Evaluating provision for under 5s

    Museum of London

    Recommendations for evaluating provision for under 5s, including how evaluation has influenced the Museum of London's programming over the last 10 years.

  • A child enjoys a soft play session.

    Marketing to the parents and carers of under 5s

    Museum of London

    Looking for guidance on how to advertise your offer? This guide explains how to better understand your audiences and how best to reach them, whether you have little to no budget or if you have money to spend.

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    Sample Resources

    Museum of London

    A collection of handy sample resources for working with under 5s, from a messy play handout for first time attendees, to risk assessment and evaluation templates.

  • An under-5-year-old uses a self-directed resource at the Museum of London Docklands.

    Self-directed resources for families with children under 5

    Museum of London

    Self-directed resources offer a way for families with children under five to feel welcome, comfortable and supported while visiting a museum or gallery. Take inspiration from the Museum of London’s family resources – including a baby sensory mat!

  • A child touches a guitar at a session for under-5s.

    The early years programme at the Museum of London

    Museum of London

    From weekly baby and toddler sessions, to special pirate-themed summer shows and a two-day Toddler Takeover festival weekend, find out how the Museum of London run their programme.

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    Top tips

    Museum of London

    Explore the Museum of London's top tips for working with under 5s. Discover what resources are must-haves, how to make the most of gallery visits and more.

  • A father and son play together at an under-5s session.

    Lessons learnt

    Museum of London

    In this piece, the Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands reflect on over nine years of running an early years programme and share the key lessons we have learnt.

  • MessyMonsters.jpg

    Useful links

    Museum of London

    A list of websites, publications and projects that have proven useful when working with under 5s at the Museum of London.