V&A: Early Years Digital Makerspaces

As part of the V&A's Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition in 2021 Maker{Futures} worked closely with the museum's education team to develop and deliver a series of online digital makerspaces for children under five and their families.

The collaboration enabled the V&A Families team to develop their planning for future work of this nature with children aged 0 - 5. A small-scale research project was also carried out by the University of Sheffield team to find out how the provision of museum makerspaces can engage children in digital and creative activities and help to develop the skills of parents to support this type of learning in the home.


We developed three different digital themed makerspace workshops that could be facilitated by museum staff over Zoom for families to participate in either from home or through the local Children’s Centre in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea .

Prior to the workshops taking place the registered families received a branded cotton project bag containing the relevant, age-appropriate, and high-quality resources needed to participate in the makerspace. In total 120 kits were packed and sent out to families ready for the online sessions and 109 participants attended the workshops which took place in June 2021.

All workshops began with a welcome, story or song excerpt or link to an exhibition piece, an explanation of the rules of the workshop (using chat, putting up hands, how to get attention) and an explanation of the University of Sheffield research project. Children were given time to ‘unbox’ their project bag and discover what was in there – families had been asked to keep the delivery box sealed until the workshop to maintain the element of surprise.

Curious Talking Gift

Help Alice create an unusual talking gift for the Cheshire Cat in a playful and creative activity for 6mths + and their grown-ups

This activity was aimed at babies and children from six months old and was inspired by the sensory treasure basket concept used widely in early years education and play. Families received a large canvas box and a range of resources to create a treasure basket. Treasure items included natural objects such as a large feather, loofa and wooden shapes and pegs. Families were encouraged to add things from their home including kitchen utensils like wooden spoons and a whisk. Included in their kit was a medium sized gift box with a lid and a sound record function. Parents and children learned how to record sounds and messages that would play as the lid was opened. Young children explored the treasure items and tinkered with putting different objects into the gift box. Older children also decorated their boxes as a curious talking gift for the Cheshire Cat.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Adventures in Light

A playful and creative activity for 2+ year olds and their grown-ups exploring shadows and light

Children jumped down the rabbit hole with the workshop facilitator and explored the curious land of wonder. They excitedly unpacked their kit bag that was full of interesting items including a wind-up torch, coloured paddles, feathers, paint sticks and funny eyes. Children had fun winding up the torch and learning a new hero word “Super-capacitor” before experimenting with light and creating shadows on the wall, floor, and paper. Families looked for household items that might create interesting shadows. Children used craft materials to create pictures and collages as they interpreted the patterns created in shadow.

White Rabbit’s Stick Theatre

A playful and creative activity for 3+ year olds and their grown-ups exploring characters and theatre

This activity centred around the theme of the theatre and explored the use of cardboard for construction. Children reused the postal box their kit arrived in to construct their own theatre. Creating the theatre taught families some basic cardboard cutting and attachment techniques and encouraged children to lead on their own theatre design. Children made characters and props and learned how to integrate digital elements such as lights, sound effects and moving pictures into their theatre design.

Project Feedback & Evaluation

Feedback from the families highlighted how the resource bag was key to their children’s engagement in the activities especially with the workshop being online. Parents commented that the resources were “quality”, and their children enjoyed the unboxing and “discovering” what was inside, and then being given time to “explore” and “play” with the resources which “sparked their imagination”.

The bag of materials was provided but the content of the workshop I thought was the best part, I thought it was all very creative. A really interesting way to introduce Alice in Wonderland to children.

When asked where parents would prefer the events to be held in future, most respondents answered that they would like to see a mix of both online and museum events. Parents stated that their reason for attending was that they hoped that it would be “enjoyable” and that their children would have “fun” at the workshop.

Far exceeded my expectations in terms of the scope and level of open-ended creativity of the activity, I loved that it was much more ambitious than most crafts offered for pre-schoolers and that it provides lots of scope for play beyond the workshop. I am sure we will revisit it many times and, in many ways, now we have the ideas and suggestions to extend the creativity!

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