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Playful Prompts Training

Playful Prompts Training

Kids in Museums held a ‘Playful Prompts’ training webinar in partnership with Museums Galleries Scotland in August 2022.

Kids in Museums works to make museums welcoming, accessible and fun places for all children, young people, and families. In March 2022, we published an updated version of our Kids in Museums Manifesto including ‘play’ for the first time. Families we consulted felt museums could create more welcoming spaces if they actively encouraged children to play.

The webinar was led by Play Trainer and Consultant Charlotte Derry, who has worked with organisations including Happy Museum and Play Wales. Charlotte was a mentor on our ‘Play in a Socially Distanced World’ project in 2020, which supported 11 museums to develop safe and playful ways for families to interact with their collections. Charlotte was joined by Claire Hargreaves from the National Museum of the Royal Navy, who successfully piloted playful approaches on board HMS Victory as part of the same project.

The session started with an activity to get everyone in a playful mood. This involved drawing a portrait of a fellow delegate using unusual methods. The results made everyone laugh, with some people wanting to adopt the portraits as their new profile pictures online.

Charlotte then went on to explore what play is, why it is important, where it happens and what it looks like. According to Play Scotland, play ‘is the way children interact with the world. Play is the universal language of childhood. It is through play that children understand each other and make sense of the world around them. It is a process of observing, testing, trying, imitating, and enjoying the environment they are in and people they are with. Play is what children naturally do when given freedom, time, and space.’

Charlotte shared many examples of how children naturally play in museum spaces. For example, we watched a clip of Billy Connolly talking about visiting Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum as a child. He vividly remembered sliding around the tiled floors in his socks with his sister.

Many families visiting museums feel they need to be given permission to play as they don’t always know whether it’s allowed. Charlotte recommends using play prompts as “a tool to help children and adults.” Prompts provide “a clear statement: ‘It’s ok to do this here!”’

Claire presented a case study about creating playful prompts on HMS Victory. She spoke about the importance of observing how families were already playfully interacting with the spaces onboard the ship. Early prompts that came out of these observations included asking families to create smelly selfies in response to smells.

Charlotte and Claire wanted people reading this blog to have a go at creating their own playful prompts in their organisations. As a first step, they recommend taking time to observe and reflect on where play is already happening spontaneously. Why is it happening in this space? Is it a place that you can allow and encourage play to happen?

The next step would be to create a prompt as an experiment based on your observations. Here are some ideas for your prompts:

  • Use chalk to draw a line (this could be in an outside space) and see if people follow it.
  • Invite people to hop, skip, jump or move slowly. This often works well to move between different galleries or outside spaces.
  • Find a space where families can play games, such as hide and seek, and let visitors know they are welcome to do so.

Claire shared some top tips in the training session to help you create your own playful prompts:

  • Remember access. Play activities should be inclusive and accessible to all visitors.
  • Keep it simple! Don’t forget your outside spaces. They are often neglected and can offer different and exciting play opportunities.
  • Adults like to play too! They might just need slightly different methods of encouragement and provocation to feel confident to take part.
  • Get your whole team involved where possible. This may involve training and support, but it will be worth it.

After your experiments, Charlotte recommends “reflecting and questioning and then keeping going!”

For more insights from Charlotte and the Playful Places Network, visit the Playful Places website and blog.

For more from Kids in Museums, follow us on social media @kidsinmuseums and visit the Kids in Museums website. You can find more support in the Resources section of our website under the Play category, including resources case studies from our Play in a Socially Distanced World project.

We also recommend checking out the following resources from other organisations:

Happy playing!

Playful Prompts is part of Museums Galleries Scotland’s development support for Early Years Learning provision 2022/23 priorities. MGS is working with various partners including Education Scotland, Scottish Government to enable our museums to provide engaging and quality activities that meet children and young people’s needs. For more information about the programme and how you can get involved, please contact lorettam@museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk

Published 14 November 2022