While the Whitworth Art Gallery has been closed for redevelopment the Learning and Engagement Team, as well as continuing our engagement work in weird and wonderful settings around Manchester, have each taken on a different work placement. The period of closure presented us with a great opportunity to get out there and really embed ourselves within our local communities to build strong, meaningful and lasting relationships with different organisations and individuals.
As Early Years Coordinator I chose to do my placement at Rusholme Sure Start Children’s Centre. This centre is right in the heart of Rusholme and right on Whitworth’s doorstep so it made perfect sense to want to work with them.
I’ve been working with Faheema (Centre Manager) Grace and Caroline (Outreach Workers) over the last year or so to help them set up their own Stay and Play sessions specifically for non walking babies. Back in the summer Grace and Caroline visited Art Baby to start to gather ideas about how their sessions might work. I shared everything I’d learnt along the way when setting up our own baby sessions and gave them as much advice as possible about what types of sensory resources and objects work well with babies and where to source them from.
In September 2013 Rusholme’s Baby Play was born! Grace and Caroline have done a great job. Each Wednesday the space is transformed into an immersive sensory environment. The lights are dimmed and the room is illuminated with an array of fairy lights and projected lights on the ceiling. There’s a soft cosy black and white area for parents and babies to relax in, treasure baskets full of natural objects encouraging heuristic play, coloured ribbons, sand, water, den spaces and lots lots more for babies and their parents/ carers to explore. And each week there’s a health visitor on hand to answer any questions or worries that parents might have.
I love going along to these Wednesday sessions and meeting new parents and their babies from the Rusholme community. Last week we had our youngest visitor yet at just 4 weeks old! Having this unique opportunity has really enabled a strong relationship to build up with the team at Rusholme which I know will continue and thrive once the Whitworth reopens it doors and way into the future.
Baby Play is for babies who have not yet found their feet and runs every Wednesday from 1-3pm at Rusholme Sure Start Children’s Centre. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0161 227 3171.