Sticks, crosses, shapes and sculptures: Exploring young children’s creativity and curiosity in art museum spaces

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This study explored young children’s creativity and curiosity in an art museum in North West England. Three workshops utilised loose parts resources and museum exhibits to encourage exploration within an environment not typically accessed by young children (Herman 2012). Art museums can be seen as incompatible with child-centred exploration due to overwhelming architecture, stillness and artwork displayed too high (Andre et al. 2017) that are at odds with young children’s exploratory behaviours (Hackett 2014). However, such settings offer immense exploratory potential in terms of abstraction, concept and scale. The study is informed by process-based learning through design and redesign of resources, enabling children to create transient art and objects to take away. The workshops encouraged the entanglement and evolution of process and product to inspire creative thinking (Pacini-Ketchabaw et al. 2017). A qualitative interpretivist paradigm (Silverman 2021) was employed. Engagement was recorded through snapshot observations and photographs, accompanied by annotations from informal discussions. Data was analysed thematically (Braun and Clarke 2006). Parental informed consent was obtained, children’s verbal assent was negotiated, and behaviour was observed to confirm ongoing assent. Photographs were taken with parental permission. Participants could withdraw at any time. The findings demonstrate children’s active engagement with loose parts resources and curiosity in exploring their function, durability and limits. Transient and more permanent artworks emerged as evidence of children’s creativity in addition to the unexpected ways in which they incorporated exhibits into their play. These findings highlight the role of art museums in supporting young children’s creativity and curiosity.
Period1 Sep 2023
Event title31st European Early Childhood Education Research Association Annual Conference: Children's Curiosity, Agency and Participation: Challenges for professional action and development
Event typeConference
Conference number31
LocationLisbon, PortugalShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational