University of Cambridge Museums

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Preschoolers in the Fitzwilliam Museum

“I was impressed with the way a two year old could be engaged and remain interested in the museum.”
Grandmother of Marley, aged 2

Over the last twelve months, here at the Fitzwilliam Museum we have continued to develop our provision for preschool audiences.  We believe that children under five have the same rights to access and enjoy the collection as anyone else and we work hard to find meaningful, welcoming and respectful ways to introduce them to the museum.

Last year we held 6 pre-bookable sessions open to the general public (known as ‘It’s Magic!’).   These were all over-subscribed, as we have limited numbers to 15 children per session.  This allows space for all participants to work in the gallery and the studio, given the high numbers of adults also present.

We visited the ‘China’s White Gold: Contemporary Porcelain from Jingdezhen’ and ‘Origins of the Afro-comb’ exhibitions, as well as galleries housing the permanent collection of paintings, applied arts and antiquities.  We also used the newly-redisplayed armoury in conjunction with objects from the Museum of Zoology handling collection to tell a story of a nature-loving knight, developed in partnership with Alicia Lloyd, Education Assistant at the Museum of Zoology.

“An invaluable opportunity for small children to engage with fine art and to develop their creativity.”
Mother of Edmund, aged 3

In the studio, children were introduced to working with clay, collage, paper craft, paint and simple printing techniques.

This year we also ran an event as part of the Festival of Ideas: ‘Line Dancing’.  This session enabled 2 groups of fifteen preschoolers (aged 2-5) to explore movement and mark-making through stories based on British portraiture.  They produced work in response to the paintings on display in gallery 3, and created a collaborative drawing in the centre of the gallery itself.

“Really good way of getting young children interested in the collection”
Mother of Sophie, aged 2

In addition to the public sessions, seven community groups made a total of 10 visits

Caldecote Playgroup “school riser” group (3-4 year olds) with practitioners and parents
Scallywags Day Nursery “school-riser” group (3-4 year olds) with practitioners – 2 visits
MillingtonRoadNursery School “school-riser” group (3-4 year olds) with practitioners – 2 visits
Romsey Mill  Children’s Centre Babies (up to 12 months) with young parents and support workers
Smiths Children Montessori Preschoolers (2, 3 and 4 year olds) with parents and practitioners
The Fields Children’s Centre Toddlers (18months – 3 years) with parents (some from young parents group), friends and family workers  – 2 visits
BrunswickNursery School 3-4 year olds, including those with special needs and at an early stage of learning English, with teachers, parents and support assistants

“Brilliant interaction with artefacts and wonderful to use quality art materials with the very young”
Mother of Oscar, aged 2

Summary of Preschool Activities 2012

Print-making using combs and hairbrushes to make marks in print foam, inspired by the Afro Combs exhibition

Parents and grandparents clearly value the opportunity to spend time interacting with their children:

Something different to do together with your child where you can learn something too.”
Mother of Freya, aged 4

“We both really enjoyed it.  Thanks very much.”
Holly, aged 4 and her mother

“Incredible opportunity for parents to be able to enjoy museums art and pass on appreciation…so lovely to have parents and children involved together.”
Mother of Lilac, aged 2

“Completely absorbing and interesting using museum objects to tell stories to make them think and join in.”
Grandmother of Millie, aged 2

A number of parents were surprised and pleased by what the museum could offer their young children.  Next year, we hope to reveal the potential of the museum to more people involved with children under five through continued promotion of our public and outreach programmes.

“I was impressed with the way a two year old could be engaged and remain interested in the museum.”
Grandmother of Marley, aged 2   

“Loved it!  Thank you for providing a really fun and interesting session and making toddlers so welcome in the museum.”
Mother of Ella, aged 2 

For more information about the preschool programme at the Fitzwilliam Museum and plans for 2014, please contact Nicola Wallis.

Nicola Wallis, Gallery Educator, The Fitzwilliam Museum

2 comments on “Preschoolers in the Fitzwilliam Museum

  1. Pingback: Preschoolers in the Fitzwilliam Museum | University of Cambridge … | fast horses

  2. Denise @ Kinder-Touch
    January 26, 2014

    Nice! This is a good way to keep the kids interested on visiting museums. Kids love doing activities and they will definitely remember activities such enjoyable as this every time they hear about museums.

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