How kids and early learning shaped Melbourne Museum’s new gallery

Kinderling News & Features

How do you make a playspace custom-built for children under five? When it came to Melbourne Museum’s wonderful new Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery, they enlisted experts like Anne Stonehouse, an early childhood education specialist who’s also advised on the national Early Years Learning Framework.

Listen to Anne’s interview on Kinderling Conversation:

 The planning has certainly paid off. The museum’s vibrant play-based area features a dinosaur dig to excavate fossils, a discovery garden, a mirror-lined ‘camouflage disco’ and a water-squirting frog statue based on Aboriginal legend. Older kids can explore at the large indoor/outdoor area, while babies can enjoy the multiple colours, textures and activities on offer.

According to Anne, learning lies at the core of the gallery’s genesis. “The younger the child is, the more they’re learning wherever they are,” she explains. “Babies were born to communicate, explore, relate. Every experience they have – in a museum, with their family at home, in an early education care service, should build on that drive to learn.”

She says it’s all about encouraging open experiences for kids of all ages and the chance to learn at every turn.  

“There’s a lot of things I really love about the new gallery,” she says. “The physical environment is set up to offer different opportunities to engage at whatever level they want… Kids can be creative and have experiences based on their interests and abilities.”

One curious thing she loves is the museum’s deliberate lack of directions or signs for its young visitors. “At the museum, there’s an absence of pressure,” explains Anne. “I love the fact that it’s more relaxing for families and hopefully more open for families to engage with children in a way that makes sense and reflects the child’s interest.”

Expert Anne Stonehouse with Kinderling Conversation's Shevonne Hunt

And while we had her, we couldn’t help but ask about Anne’s own advice for raising bright, creative kids.

“The only absolute necessity is to develop a loving, warm, respectful relationship with the child that recognises that child’s individuality.”

Sounds like good advice to us!

Museums Victoria is giving every baby born, fostered and adopted in Victoria from February 20 2017 a free six-month Museum membership at their eight-week visit. Visit their website for more info.