I’m in the midst of planning the third session of ‘Creative Baby!’ and thought it’d be interesting to do a forward-looking, rather than retrospective blog post on this.
The next session will focus on the exhibition ‘Eat, Drink and Make Merry!’ which features paintings from the Shipley Art Gallery collection that depict food, drink and celebration. There’s lots of material there for ‘Creative Baby!’ as it’s a really accessible and feel-good exhibition to engage people of all ages.
I’ve decided to focus on food as inspiration for this session, so have been having lots of fun preparing surprises for the sensory play space. I can’t wait to see the babies’ and parents’ faces when they begin exploring! I don’t want to give too much away, but I am extremely excited to share these giant cupcakes I’ve made… I really enjoyed creating these with just a beanbag, fabric, cellophane, pompoms, a bucket, and a bit of imagination, although they did make me feel rather hungry!
I’ve also been doing some reading about how other galleries and museums are engaging babies and young children. There’s a really exciting project going on between Starcatchers and National Galleries of Scotland – the brilliantly inspiring (and entertaining) Wee Wanders blog is worth a read. I’ve been planning some dressing up in the gallery inspired by the costume in the portraits, so Wee Wanders’ photos of how nursery children responded to Bailey’s ‘Stardust’ exhibition have been particularly timely. As well as making me smile, they’ve confirmed that this ‘playing’ is actually really valuable in developing new audiences and gallery practice.
I’ve also met with Undergraduate students of Childhood Studies and Early Years at Northumbria University. They’re really keen to dedicate some of their dissertation research to ‘Creative Baby!’ At the moment they’re interested in sensory development and early interaction between babies and children, although their focus may change after they attend the next ‘Creative Baby!’ session. I’m sure their research will make a valuable contribution to this project and help me to think about new ways of structuring and planning it, to support early childhood development.
Until the next session I’ll be doing lots of research, planning and playing in preparation for ‘Creative Baby! session 3’. I’ve found some fascinating reading – for example, Sussex Baby Lab at Sussex University, which is investigating how babies see, think and learn. Its findings will certainly impact on the opportunities I choose to present at ‘Creative Baby!’ And this Museums Association blog post ‘Can babies enjoy museums?’ by Esme Ward, Head of Learning at The Whitworth, which outlines how babies sense and perceive, respond to beauty, recognise things, reason about objects, and learn and remember – making them the ideal gallery audiences!
I’m finding ‘Creative Baby!’ learning comes from all sorts of other places too: my job brings opportunities to work with a huge range of people in creative ways, and often what I learn from one project will impact on another. This week, I’ve been facilitating a project with families from the local Orthodox Jewish community, incorporating music, movement and gallery-based activities. Having set up an enticing selection of crayons, glue, tissue paper and toys, I observed two surprising responses: one was a boy studiously taking all of the scissors out of the container and slotting them back in repeatedly in different configurations; the other was a girl who – observing the craft on display in the gallery – carefully curated her own display of toy crockery on a plinth, rather than engaging in the teddy bears’ picnic roleplay her peers favoured. Both these observations show me that children often respond to creative play activities in surprising ways, demonstrating a level of creative thinking that I find fascinating and delightful.