Nature Discovery at Manchester Museum

I just wanted to share with you….

Our New film featuring Nature Discovery gallery for under 5’s
and Magic Carpet our interactive story making and activity session for active toddlers (and younger siblings) parents, grandparents and carers.
It features some lovely vox pops from our visitors about what they enjoy about the sessions and visiting the museum.

For full details about our early years programmes and to check out our other early years films visit Manchester Museum website




What a great day!


Thank you to all who made it to Creating Captivating Spaces for Under 5s event at the Whitworth yesterday. It was a great day. We were totally overwhelmed by both your turn out and by your positive feedback.  Thank you!

We just wanted to share a few comments from the day…

Today has given me lots of ideas and the confidence to try new things. Great to talk to other attendees and share ideas too.

Thank you very much for an absolutely inspiring day. Will take away with me the importance of partnerships, openness and curiosity.

Informative, insightful… lots of ideas to take back to work and get cracking!

I am inspired to expand our early years offer – some fantastic work!

I thought the impact that a calming space can have on a child’s concentration and creativity is amazing. Definitely a place that our setting will be visiting more often.

And also share with you one of the challenges we were left to consider as a result of the day…

More glorious early years provision. The day celebrates the wealth of resource and provision for early years but also the refreshing child centred approach towards learning so sadly lacking in the rest of Primary education. The day has left me so frustrated at the direction KS1/2 are moving. Big challenge – how do we engage/ broker a new relationship with Early Years practice and the rest of the educational community to spread this upwards! We need cultural change…! Thank you-wonderful stuff.

It has been very inspiring to hear so much about curiosity, imagination, open space, child led. How can we carry this into primary/secondary schools?

We will be sharing more from the day over the next few days and weeks so keep following for updates.

Only 6 days to go…

…until our Captivating Spaces for Under 5s event here at the Whitworth.

We’re very excited and are just putting the finishing touches into what is set to be a brilliant day.

Here’s a sneaky peak at what we’ll be up to on the day.

Captivating spaces for under 5s Agenda FINAL[2]

There are still a few spaces so if you haven’t booked your place yet then book here now.


Creating captivating spaces for under 5s

Monday 25 January 2016, 11am-3pm, The Whitworth

Are you a EYFS teacher or nursery practitioner? Do you work with under 5s in a children’s centre, cultural venue or within the community?

If so then join us at the Whitworth for a day of show and tell exploring the role of culture and creativity in developing enabling environments for young children and their families.

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We believe museums and galleries are brilliant spaces for young children and their grown ups. They are packed full of amazing objects and artworks, have lots of space to explore and plenty to do to inspire curiosity, develop communication and build confidence.

Join artists, researchers, early years and museum professionals to explore why the learning environment is so important in the early years.

Special guests will include Wild Rumpus who will be doing what they do best; transforming our Grand Hall into a magical, immersive environment setting the scene for a day filled with ideas and inspiration.

We will also be joined by:
Iain Jackson, Research associate, Child Study Centre, University of Manchester
Rachel Holmes, Professor of cultural studies of childhood, MMU & Kerry Moakes, Principal Lecturer and Programme Leader, Early Years and Childhood Studies, MMU
Liz Hardy, Headteacher, Martenscroft Nursery School & Children’s Centre
Michiko Fujii, Atelierista, the Whitworth
Lucy Turner, Early Years Coordinator, the Whitworth
Elaine Bates, Early Years Coordinator, Manchester Museum
Sarah Marsh & Jess Wild, Family Learning Programme, Manchester Art Gallery

£25 per person includes lunch and refreshments.
Click here to book your place

BabyDay Belfast


The world’s first BabyDay was held in Belfast on 27th September. This is a great article in the Guardian from REPLAY theatre talking about why the arts are so important for babies and where the idea for BabyDay came from.

If those three years are so fundamental to shaping who we are, then shouldn’t they be filled with experiences which are beautiful, challenging, imaginative, soothing, musical, creative, exciting and calming? We reckon so.

Hmmm we think Manchester needs at Baby Day!

Babies – our future audience! By Saskia Metcalf at Z-arts


Manchester has long been at the forefront of developing creative learning programmes for babies in cultural organisations. The Whitworth have been working in this field since 2011, Manchester Art Gallery have regular sessions and Z-arts is funded for three activities and to deliver strategic lead in this area for Manchester City Council – there is even a blog Culturebabies and a Facebook page the very cultured children in the city.

All of this history and the recent article in The Guardian about Belfast’s Baby Day inspired Z-arts to talk about why we love working with babies; apart from the obvious cute factor there is a library full of scientific evidence to show that involving children, no matter how young, to a diverse and diversifying range of activities helps them to develop emotionally and cerebrally.

Z-arts is Manchester dedicated arts venue for children and families and we want to encourage creativity from the start. We know from experience that babies respond fantastically to stimuli and are transfixed by light, sound and touch. Z-arts run a regular monthly Baby Play session on the second Tuesday of the month. Currently the session is run by Nancy Elizabeth and focuses on a range of sensory experiences and is accompanied by music.

“Today is Emily’s 1st Birthday! She has loved coming to baby play- listening to the beautiful harp music, shaking the bells and generally exploring the space. It’s so relaxing for parents too! Just sitting back and watching your little one play, listen, explore and interact. Thanks for making Emily’s birthday so special” Parent, Z-arts

However, we must not forget that babies can’t yet book online and a grown-up has to be present at the Baby Play session, and that it is equally important to engage the parents. Activities that parents can enjoy with their children helps to strengthen the bond and builds memories and shared experiences that can be the building blocks for their future relationship. Sessions that have structure and the opportunity for self-directed play can give parents confidence in recreating similar experiences at home and also provide the opportunity to meet other like-minded parents that value art and culture from many different backgrounds.

“Brilliant interactive session. Oscar really enjoyed having the chance to make lots of noise and explore all the different sounds that he could make on a variety of instruments. Thank you.” Parent, Z-arts

So not only is important to provide a high quality activity, but also that the venue is welcoming to families. Z-arts are signed up to the Family Standards and we pride ourselves on being an Arts Centre that parents can feel relaxed in with their children and don’t have to worry about crying babies, breast-feeding or needing to bring your own food. We have the usual café, baby change and buggy park but on top of all this we have an attitude and approach that says we see babies not just as today’s audiences but the next generation of audiences too and we want them to keep coming to Z-arts.

“A lovely interactive session in a relaxed setting. Nancy made us feel very welcome. Really lovely class, thank you.” Parent, Z-arts

Creative learning is a huge part of the Z-arts programme but we are now leading the way in Manchester in programming theatre for babies. As part of the Big Imaginations, (Arts Council Strategic Touring funded project) we have hosted several productions that have put have babies centre stage!

This October as part of the Get Creative Family Arts Festival we will be presenting 16 Singers. 16 Singers is a captivating, new work presented by a company of 16 vocalists and actors, who move amongst the young audience members during the performance. Devised for babies aged from 0-18 months and their grown-ups, this atmospheric show blends crisp choral singing, beautifully choreographed movement and a stunning, magical sculpture. With a very young audience at its heart, 16 Singers offers parents, grandparents and carers a rare opportunity to share a beautifully crafted performance with their baby.

“After Felix and I saw 16 Singers on Monday morning, I’ve been thinking about it all week. It was quite a special thing to see, and it has really stayed with me. As we’ve been to the rest of our usual baby groups this week, I’ve realised how much time we spend dangling stuff in our poor babies’ faces and grabbing their attention with an assault on their senses. The performance was so much more beautiful and subtle. I feel like it really fascinated him, rather than just grabbing his attention superficially. Afterwards we felt relaxed and calm, rather than the usual frazzled feeling.” Audience Member, The Egg

Z-arts have gone one step further and have for the first time commissioned a new piece of theatre for babies. The Adventures of Pom is based on an enchanting age old myth for the brightest eyed of audiences. The intimate adventure is adapted from the Greek myth Persephone and incorporates puppetry, projections, soundscapes, storytelling and live music to engage the very youngest audiences and their families in a new theatre experience. After premiering at the Just So Festival in Cheshire on the 21-23 August it has now begun its tour to unusual non-theatre settings across the north west including Sure Start centres, nurseries and libraries in conjunction with seven venue partners: Z-arts Manchester, The Citadel in St Helens, Live at LICA in Lancaster, Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, Burnley Arts Centre, Spot On Rural Touring in Blackburn and The Boo, in Rossendale.

‘I have found babies to be the most responsive, instant, honest, individual and creative audience. I cannot count the times a parent has told me that their child has done something new during a session or stayed focused on a performance for much longer than they would expect. For me, the most treasured feature of sensory play and baby theatre is the relationship between baby and parent. It brings them together to share an experience as equals. A baby’s brain development is so dependent on their relationships with those around them and as I work I can see babies communicating with their grown-ups and wanting to share the experience from weeks old.’ Ruthie Boycott Garnett, Artist

The importance of ‘Invitations to Play’


A lovely blog post from our friends at Tyne and Wear Museums about creating open ended play opportunities for young children. Something that we are very passionate about and practice in our Early Years Programmes here in Manchester, particularly in our Early Years Atelier at the Whitworth.
Thanks to Hannah McKay-Jackson for sharing with us.