Looking, playing and creating: early exhibition experiences

The exhibition ‘Domesticity‘ features many of the interior scenes Naomi Alexander has painted of homes around the world over the past 30 years, including paintings created as part of a recent residency in Gateshead.

Here are six simple ways we have engaged babies and children in the exhibition:

1. Art Detectives – using a magnifying glass, children look closely at the paintings and try to match the ‘I Spy’ cards to them. The magnifying glasses are a great tool for encouraging children to spend longer looking at the detail in the artworks.

Art Detective 2 Art Detective I spy card Matching i spy cards

 

2. Roleplay areas – inspired by the kitchens featured in many of the paintings, we created a roleplay area where children can play along with the scenes found in the artworks. We also created a miniature Sabbath table, which gave children the opportunity to sit in a scene like the one in the painting. This was accompanied by a written explanation of the religious significance of the Challah bread, wine and candles. On several occasions, Jewish children visiting the exhibition recognised the Sabbath table and spontaneously sang religious blessings around it.

Roleplaying the scenes featured in Naomi Alexander's paintings

Roleplaying the scenes featured in Naomi Alexander’s paintings

Miniature Sabbath table

Miniature Sabbath table

 

3. Treasure baskets – a range of kitchen utensils, including sponges, bottle brushes, metal and wooden spoons etc. were gathered in a basket, providing an enticing range of textures for babies to explore. Toddlers and older children also enjoyed this activity, spending time emptying and refilling the basket and roleplaying activities such as cooking and eating.

Treasure Basket of domestic items

Treasure Basket of domestic items

 

4. Household routines – we set up play spaces with simple and familiar domestic scenes. A basket, book, scarf and cuddly toy provided all the children needed to play out the bedtime routine. Similarly, a string, some clothes pegs and a supply of baby clothes provided the opportunity to peg washing on the line, whilst also practicing fine motor skills.

Bedtime!

Bedtime!

Washing line

Washing line

 

5. Artwork and sensory play – we spent a fun-filled and messy session making artwork using kitchen utensils. This included printing using potato mashers; making saltdough ‘cakes’ in cases; and creating dynamic paintings by whizzing paint around in a salad spinner!

Potato masher printing Salad spinner artwork - laminated to make beautiful placemats Salad spinner artworks being made Saltdough cake decorating

 

6. Storytime – we borrowed storysacks from Gateshead Central Library, to create a really engaging storytime. ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, ‘Handa’s Surprise’, ‘Can’t You Sleep Little Bear’ and ‘Five Minutes’ Peace’ were a few we selected for their domestic settings. Storysacks are a brilliant resource that you can make or borrow from your local library – each one comes with a book, a guide for parents, and a selection of props, puppets and supporting resources, helping you to bring a story to life and enjoy reading with your child in a new way.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears storysack brought to life by Claudia

Goldilocks and the Three Bears storysack brought to life by Claudia

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