University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

Over the Hills and Far Away

Babies & Young Children responding to Henry Moore’s Hill Arches

We recently invited participants on our ‘It’s Magic’ (2-5 year olds) and ‘Baby Magic’ (0-2 year olds) to enjoy the wonderful sculpture on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum from the Henry Moore Foundation.

As always when planning these types of encounters, we consider what is special and meaningful about the work, and how we can connect this with the natural interests, curiosities and needs of very young children.

The sculpture is suggestive of the rolling hills of Yorkshire – a created object inspired by the shapes of natural world – and the four interlocking pieces seem to curve in towards each other in a manner reminiscent of some of Moore’s works depicting parents and children together.

This gave us a huge amount of scope for making exciting sessions for young children.  For the babies, we focused the session around shape, space and position.  Uniquely for our museum, the babies had the opportunity to feel the curved surfaces and smooth edges of the sculpture, and to move all around it – experiencing what it is to be behind, above, underneath and even in (!) the piece.

These concepts of positioning in space are fundamental to how sculpture works, and we know that by providing opportunities to experience these ideas physically we are laying the foundations for babies’ understanding of language, mathematics & science as they grow.

To deepen the connections between language and position even further we incorporated rhymes and games that included ‘up and down’ actions and movements.

‘Today I liked the opportunity to engage with the Moore sculpture – using familiar toys to explore key themes.’
Parent of 2 year old

For the slightly older children, we used a story to link together the ideas of caring, nurturing parents and artists taking their inspiration from the natural world.  Again, the session began with plenty of opportunities for the children to discover the sculpture physically.

We then heard the story of how “Mummy Hill” and “Daddy Hill” had discovered this unusual looking “egg” shape, and were wondering what it might hatch into.  This led us into the museum on a quest for egg-laying animals, and of course we discovered that eggs hatch into baby versions of their parents.

However, an egg sculpted by a human is something rather different.  Humans can create all kinds of things – real and imaginary: this is art!

To understand something of breadth of possibility that this allows, we looked at Barbara Hepworth’s Minoan Head which has a number of features that are interesting to compare with the Henry Moore.

We found that we could see all kinds of things – a beak, an eye, claw marks, a pointy nose, as we moved around the work.  Human art can contain a number of different things at once!

Following an exploration of the rest of the gallery, including modernist  artworks on loan from Kettle’s Yard, we moved to the education studio to make art of our own.  We looked at some photographs of Henry Moore at work in his studio, and decided to surround ourselves with natural objects for inspiration, as he had done.  The children and adults made some beautiful creations based on the features we had observed in the museum objects and noticed in the natural resources.

‘Fun, engaging event to get the children engrossed in some culture…adults learn something too.’
Mum of 8 month old

If you would like to know more about work with very young children at the Fitzwilliam Museum, please contact Nicola Wallis: nlw30[at]cam[dot]ac[dot]uk

Nicola Wallis, Gallery Educator, Fitzwilliam Museum

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