It's never too early to enjoy 'awe and wonder' of museums, says Childhood Studies expert Amanda

15 May 2023
Young children looking at museum exhibit

Whilst child friendly museums are on the rise many continue to be an under-used community resource in the early learning sector claims a senior lecturer at the University of Winchester.

Thursday (18 May) is International Museums Day and Dr Amanda Norman, from the University’s Department of Education and Childhood Studies, thinks a trip to the local museum is a benefit for both young children and early years educators.

Dr Norman believes many under-5s are missing out on an experience of “the awe and wonder of a museum” because educators may be worried that museums are considered unsuitable places to visit and perhaps less welcoming for youngsters.

“Most museums are genuinely inviting and encourage young children to visit,” she said. “If you can take children to a museum or gallery when they are very young, they also become familiar and comfortable in that type of cultural space and place.

“Museums are available to everyone. They are free spaces within the community. They are great learning resources, and we should be drawing on those resources and celebrating them.”

However, Amanda says it is not uncommon for some of her own students to less familiar with visiting museums so it’s important for them also to visit and experience a wide range of learning environments. This in turn encourages them to develop confidence in sharing the experiences with the children their care.

In a recent piece for The Early Years Educator (EYE) magazine, Amanda reflected on how organising a museum trip could not only be a shared learning experience for the children but also beneficial as a team building exercise for practitioners.

“Collaborative relationships are developed within the team when there are opportunities for moving sites of practice and learning,” said Amanda.

“By organising a museum trip, the team collaboratively benefits from creating social support beyond the workplace, sharing team anxieties about visiting unfamiliar spaces and places, and building confidence in appreciating it as a place to visit with children, supporting their learning and development,”

Amanda said when nurseries plan to visit a museum trip they do not need to organise large city museums visits that can often be costly in travel and overwhelming in size. Rather, educators could initially aim to visit small local museums, that are nearby and accessible for families to visit as well. This also bridges what the local community has to offer in terms of historical and contemporary interests.

“The trip also doesn’t have to be for the whole day and shorter visits can be helpful for younger children. The importance for educators is to ensure the young child is central in planning the experience,” said Amanda

“Being able to take smaller groups and following a slow pedagogy ensures the child feels unhurried. They have the time to wallow and immerse themselves in an enriched place that develops civic awareness and a sense of place, encourages listening and questions to be asked as well as provoking imaginary thoughts and a spark of curiosity. This goes for the educators visiting too! What more can you ask?”

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