Babies explore the Coral exhibition at Manchester museum

Our first Baby Explorer sessions of   2014 (Tuesday 7 Jan) took place in our beautiful temporary exhibition Coral  – something rich and strange designed by Ben Kelly ( Hacienda) and featuring a diverse range of exhibits, including,  18th c sea anemones , a Rossetti painting and new works by artists Mark Dion and Karen Kasper.

The space wasn’t designed for under 5’s but our baby Explorer ‘Under the Sea’ story was perfectly themed for the space and we took advantage of the nooks and crannies around the central exhibition space to build islands of sensory play for babies and parents to explore.

We shared the gallery space with our general visitors, informing them of what was taking place  as they entered the space (16 babies and ‘strange’ looking resources on the floor!) and assuring them that the space was still open and that they were welcome to join us. We have found that on the whole our general visitors are delighted to see young children in the museum.

We have used our Nature Discovery gallery as a base to develop our Baby Explorer programme, but as we have grown in confidence as practitioners our aim is to support parents into the main spaces of the museum and to encourage them to visit at other times outside of the sessions, especially if our babies have siblings.

During the summer we held some of our sessions in our temporary exhibition, ‘Trees’ and we have developed a set of Baby Explorer sacks linked to our Ancient Worlds themed session which we use  to support parents  to explore the gallery spaces. Being out and about in different museum spaces is also a great way to raise the profile of the early years work within the museum itself.

We asked parents and carers for feedback from the session in the Coral exhibition, which was really positive and here are some of their comments;

‘Had a brilliant time at first session today. Really enjoyed being in the gallery – something for adults to see as well’.

‘The raised exhibition provided an interesting space to explore. Lots of interesting corners.’

Babies  will be exploring  the Coral exhibition again on Tuesday 21 January.


Early years Frog Explorer sessions – Free!

We are offering 4 interactive Frog Explorer sessions to nursery and reception classes ( Max 15 children )to celebrate the reopening of our Vivarium.
They will include story telling, a visit to our new vivarium and an opportunity to meet some of our live frogs!
Have a look at our Frog blog for all the latest news as we count down to the Vivarium opening.

Dates and times are:

Fri 15 Nov, Fri 22 Nov, Fri 29 Nov, Fri 6 Dec 2013

We look forward to welcoming you to the museum.

Please contact Elaine Bates (Early Years Coordinator) to book your session
E Mail: elaine.bates
Tel: 0161 306 1777

Can Babies enjoy museums?

In the development of our sessions for babies in museums and galleries in Manchester, we were (quite rightly!) challenged by colleagues about the level of participation there would really be for babies. We were asked,
Aren’t the sessions really just for the benefit of parents?’
‘Can babies really enjoy museums?

I posed the question ‘Can babies really enjoy museums?’ to parents attending a Baby Explorer session at Manchester Museum and added, ‘How do you know? ‘
The question did take our parents by surprise! They couldn’t understand why anybody would doubt that their babies were enjoying and participating in the sessions, which for them as parents, was clearly evident.

The many fabulous images we have taken and the short films we have produced, do capture the engagement levels of babies in our sessions, but like anything else, this is far more powerful (and evident) if you experience it directly.
One of our members of staff, who was initially sceptical about the opportunities for babies to truly participate in the sessions, attended one of our baby explorer session and commented afterwards,

‘I think babies can enjoy museums because it’s a totally different environment from other surroundings and they interact with different things than they would usually….they focus on what is being shown them and seem enraptured by what is going on including the storytelling and singing.’

Here is a selection of the feedback we had from parents ……

· It’s helped her to notice things more in other places too. These sessions really help to develop her concentration. I notice when she misses a session.

· Fabulous sensory learning aimed at the age group appropriately. My baby LOVES this. He is active, wide eyed, bouncy and afterwards he sleeps! Thank you.

· Development of motor skills by holding and touching objects. Babies’ eyes lit up concentrating for lengths of time. Staying quiet during singing (attention and listening).

· So many things to see and feel- nothing like home environment. I know how much he enjoys it because he cries when we leave!

Lets keep developing the practice and collecting the evidence of impact, to make the case for more babies in and museums and galleries nationally.

Elaine Bates, Early years coordinator, Manchester Museum

New KS 1 Egypt Explorer session in development…..

Our new Ancient Worlds gallery will be opening on 26th October and we will be developing a session for Y1 /2 which we hope to pilot February /March 2013. If you are interested in helping us to develop and pilot activities for the new session, we would like to hear from you!
we have a teacher preview evening for Ancient Worlds on November 14th 4.30-6.30
wine and nibbles will be provided.

Booking is essential as places are limited, so please RSVP by 24th October 2012 to our Bookings Coordinator on or 0161 275 2630

Early year’s sessions …
There is still some availability for booking our early years sessions by contacting our bookings coordinator.

Nursery and Reception
Animal Explorers – Polar Bear Polar Bear

For up to 15 children, 90 minutes
£3.50 per child (minimum charge £50)

Nursery Reception and Y1
Dinosaur Explorers
For up to 15 children, 90 minutes Y1 For up to 32 children, 90 minutes
£3.50 per child (minimum charge £50)

Find out more about Ancient Worlds and our learning                                                  programme by visiting:                                       


Baby Explorers!

baby explorer session manchester museem

We are continuing to develop our baby explorer sessions, for babies (who aren’t yet walking) and their carers. We are working with Karl Harris, an early years specialist and Carla Henry, a drama practitioner to provide opportunities for sensory play and for babies to participate in interactive storytelling activities devised around our collections in the Nature discovery gallery on the first floor, which include;

under the sea, meadow and woodland areas.

Carla has been delivering a special under the sea themed story about Phoebe’s flickering fish which includes finger puppets, bubbles and twinkling stars!

The next sessions are on: 

July10 & 24
Aug7 & 21

And then every other Tuesday
12.15-1.15pm & 1.45-2.45pm

We are able to provide a safe and comfortable environment for very young children and there is no public access during our sessions.

Our sessions are free and currently on a Drop-in basis

Clore museum Learning award 2012

The Manchester Early Years Partnership (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester City Galleries and The Manchester Museum) has won The Clore Award for Museum Learning 2012 (joint winner with Leicestershire County Council Heritage and Arts Service)

 The Manchester Early Years Partnership (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester City Galleries and The Manchester Museum) and Leicestershire County Council Heritage and Arts Service have each been presented £10,000 as joint winners of the Clore Award for Museum Learning 2012. The double award reflects the outstanding quality of the shortlisted programmes and the Clore Duffield Foundation’s desire to celebrate innovation in museum learning.

 The Clore Award 2012 has a focus on work with children and young people. The Award celebrates quality museum and gallery learning with children and young people (from early years up to the age of 25) in any setting, in or out of school/college. It recognises achievements in learning programmes which develop the skills, knowledge, values and enjoyment of the participants.

The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester City Galleries and Manchester Museum (The Manchester Early Years partnership) are working together to develop social, imaginative and playful ways to engage early years children, practitioners and parents. Project strands include:
Participatory early years learning programmes
Targeted partnership programme with providers Culturebaby
Early intervention with under 2s.

‘The early years partnership work that has taken place in Manchester has been an exciting and innovative collaboration that has had significant impact on early years practitioners, children and their families in Manchester.’

Sarah Murray
(Former Strategic Lead Early Years, Manchester City Council)

Animal Explorers visit

On Thursday 24th May, a group of children, staff and parents from Wetherby street children’s centre, Openshaw, visited the museum for our early years animal Explorers session which was led by one of our freelance staff, Karl Harris .

Children from Wetherby children’s centre taking part in an animal explorer session

The session began in the Nature Discovery gallery with the story ‘Polar bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear ?’ ( Bill Martin junior and Eric Carle) and the group were fabulous at making all the animal noises, including the more unusual animals like the peacock and hippo! Then, dressed as animal explorers, complete with hats and binoculars and armed with a bag of ‘clues’, the group looked for the animals in the story on the Living Worlds gallery, Bird gallery and Vivarium. At the end of the session , Adam from the Vivarium brought one of the lizards down to meet the group. One of the children asked if the lizard had a name and as it doesn’t, he invited them to name it. They have suggested Fillip, Tigger or Mango Ba Jango – so watch this space!

Children from Wetherby children’s centre meet a friendly lizard from our Vivarium

Comments from parents who supported the visit, said that the museum was interesting with a wonderful atmosphere. One parent said her daughter is still talking about the visit and making animal sounds. She particularly liked the use of props and being able to touch live animals helped to deal with fears/phobias .

The staff agreed that children thoroughly enjoyed the visit and the timing of the session and variety of activities were  appropriate for the age of the children and held their interest.
The impact of the visit has been evident in the play and language the children are using back at the centre. When reading another story the children were able to identify the peacock from Polar bear, Polar Bear and they also remembered the letters and the animals being on holiday.
Most importantly they had lots of fun!
For further information about our early years programme, visit our website.
To make a booking, ring Jill Anderton, our bookings coordinator on 0161 275 2630

Early Years programmes

We are in the process of updating the early years page on our website and thought it would be useful to highlight our current programmes led by museum staff …

Sessions for Nursery and Reception
For up to 15 children (90 minutes)
£3.50 per child (minimum charge £50)

Animal Explorers – Polar Bear Polar Bear (New)

Polar Bear has a problem, some of his animal and bird friends have gone missing! Can you help him to find them? Come and explore our Living Worlds, bird gallery and vivarium as you embark on this exciting mission to find his missing friends.
At the end of the session there is an opportunity to meet one of our live animals from the vivarium!
You might be interested in looking at our Frog Blog

Dinosaur Explorers
Say hello to Stan the T.rex and become dinosaur hunters whilst following the footprints around the Fossils gallery. What will you uncover on our dinosaur dig?

Unearthed! Big Dig
Join us to explore the Unearthed : Ancient Egypt exhibition to find treasures of the Egyptian world! What exciting things will you discover?

For details of how to book, have a look at our early years page and information for teachers.
We are also able to book self programmed visits and offer resources for teachers.
To make a booking please ring our booking line on 0161 275 2630

New dates – Treasure basket sessions

We are continuing our popular treasure baskets sessions for babies at 10.30am and 1.30pm on Tuesdays in our Play and Learn gallery on the third floor of Manchester Museum on the following dates:

  • 1st May
  • 15th May
  • 29th May

There’s no need to book, so just drop in and enjoy!

They will be led by Karl Harris and Elaine Bates – we look forward to seeing you there!

Fun for Babies and their adults!

The Treasure Basket sessions have now moved galleries here at The Manchester Museum,  they now take place on the 3rd floor in the Play & Learn Family area. This area is ideally located next to the picnic area which is useful as so much exploring can develop healthy appetites! High chairs are available for babies to use in the picnic area for any meals and snacks you may wish to bring along or adults can feel free to nurse younger babies on the sofa areas within the Play & Learn area.