Guest post by Cassandra Travares, Early Years Programme Coordinator, Museum of London
At the Museum of London, we have developed a strong Early Years programme over the past few years. Each week we run high quality sessions for babies and toddlers across both museum sites and we have a different focus activity for each of our sessions which explore the different ways of learning. To do this, we alternate between gallery visits, craft activities, messy play, musical sessions and classroom explorations to keep these sessions fresh, exciting and innovative for our youngest visitors and their carers.
Developing these sessions can be extremely challenging, especially when working with babies. Brenda, our energetic session leader, constantly thinks of new and exciting ways to engage babies and their carers. While she uses some of the same elements to encourage the babies learning through repetition, the sessions are kept fresh by incorporating different resources and focus activities. Each week, Brenda proves that this can be done both well and inexpensively as she transforms any number of ordinary items into sensory resources for babies. Sponges, tin foil, torches, scraps of fabric and even hair curlers have become exciting new objects which fully engage the babies.
As one parent said while attending our sessions ‘it makes you interested in doing something new, finding something that you can pull out in your kitchen and make a game with.’
Our Messy Moles session is one of the most anticipated activities of the month. As the name says, these are extremely messy sessions where the babies are encouraged to explore the different textures, colours, smells and even the taste of our messy resources.
As most babies like to explore new things with their mouths, it is crucial that our messy play is done using non-toxic materials so the best way to do this is to use food. Corn flour, jelly, pasta, oats and chocolate have all been transformed from foods to learning tools in this session. Often learning means that the babies fully immerse themselves in our messy materials; it is not unusual to see babies just in their nappies covered from head to toe in flour or jam at these sessions.
Besides being a fun activity, messy play is also an important element in early years learning. It helps children to develop hand-eye coordination as well as gross and fine motor skills. Crucially, they are also taking important steps in understanding the world around them as they explore the different smells, sensations and textures of the resources we use.
While the babies are learning the adults are learning new skills as well. One of our adults attending a babies’ session told us that attending the sessions is ‘teaching me how to interact with him’-and this is exactly the result we want.
It is important that all of our visitors have a memorable and high quality experience when visiting the Museum of London. By offering these sessions, our Early Years programme is helping the museum be an inclusive institution which caters for the learning needs of all of our visitors.
*These sessions are run at the Museum of London by artist Brenda Coyle. For more information on the sessions or to hear more about our programmes for under 5s, contact me, Cassandra Tavares on email@example.com