Towner Art Gallery and Museum’s Tiny Takeover Day

At Towner in Eastbourne, Jack Shoulder is looking forward to a Takeover Day with a diffrence. He’ll be working with a group of under-5s, who will be taking on the roles of museum critics and researchers, testing out the activities they do and do not like. Shoulder then has the challenge of interpreting their feedback and turning it into improvements for future early years sessions

November 20 is Takeover Day. It’s the day that museums and galleries up and down the country are being taken over by Children and Young People. They will be answering phones, leading tours, even helping out in the shop. In short they will be doing all the things that adults usually do – and I can’t wait to see what other sites are getting up to. If I weren’t running my own Takeover Day event, I know I’d be glued to #TakeOverDay on Twitter.

At Towner, our Takeover Day will be aimed at our youngest visitors, at our under-5s and their parents and carers. Our under-5s offer at Towner has changed significantly over the past few months through our work with local nurseries and Early Years Practitioners and we are using the day to let the children tell us exactly what they think of what we’re doing in that wonderfully blunt way that children are.

Do they like messy play? Are our Explorer Jackets more popular than our tent? Will story-time go down well? These are the things we’re hoping to discover by inviting our youngest visitors to become our bosses for the day!

One of the key aims for the Takeover Day initiative is to allow for children and young people to have a meaningful role within the organisation for the day, so they will be providing us with, hopefully, valuable information about what we’re doing well and where we might improve. This will all be taken into consideration when it comes to planning for future Early Years session.

Working with babies and young children in museums and galleries is something that is very important to me, and I am sure that it is to others too, so I’m keen to make their experience within the gallery enjoyable and positive. The best way to do this is to give the children a way to express themselves and most importantly, to listen to what they’re trying to say.

Now, gathering feedback from little ones can be tricky – especially if the child hasn’t developed language skills yet. With this age group, you can learn a lot from observing how they behave so we will be paying close attention to how the children play and what they play with.

We hope that by giving the children special big stickers and simple wall charts, like the one in the picture, they will be able to let us know if they like something or not. I have asked around, and it seems that the key to this approach working successfully with little ones is to make everything as large as possible!

Of course, parents, carers and other grown-ups will also be able to interpret behaviour for us and give their feedback too.