Manchester Art Gallery

Baby Stay and Play at home

Prior to the Covid19 lockdown, we held weekly Healthy Child Drop In and Baby Stay and Play sessions for babies at the gallery. Delivered in partnership with Martenscroft Sure Start Centre and the Manchester Health Visiting Team, each week artist Naomi Kendrick builds an immersive environment for parents and babies to inhabit and enjoy together.

Build your own immersive environment at home

Naomi has put together some immersive environment ideas for you and your baby which we hope you may be able to adapt to do at home.

 Taste, Smell, Touch

  • Gather things to feel, taste and smell
  • Feel, stroke, snuggle, soft
  • Get stuck in to dry (or wet!) oats, feel, pour, smell
  • Explore food colouring and water, ice cubes and pieces of fruit and veg
  • Get to know cold and wet
  • Make some marks
  • Mmmm smells!
  • Dangle
  • Roll
  • Make a mess!

*Always stay with your baby for this activity*

A tray of natural materials and fruit for baby to explore


  • Have a look at the sculpture Lavan by Peter Quinn
  • Gather shiny things
  • don’t forget the spoons
  • light and movement
  • slowly drop rice for a lovely sound
  • enjoy the textures, rough, smooth, cold, warm
  • make a noise
  • make sounds together
  • time for disco!
  • and relax…

*Always stay with your baby for this activity*

Textile materials for baby to explore

Other resources for you and baby

For other activities for 0-5 year olds check out Martenscroft Nursery school and Children’s Centre blogs:

Blossom Room Blog

Palm Room Blog

Willow Room Blog

And BBC Tiny Happy People has lots of activities for our youngest citizens:

BBC Tiny Happy People

Experimenting with Materials

Over time, Naomi has observed and attuned herself to what kinds of materials babies respond well to and uses these observations when building the environments for the Healthy Child Drop-In and Baby Stay & Play.

“Lights, sound and bold, graphic, black and white patterns seem to be good for tiny babies whose vision is still developing, but appeals to the older babies too. In the clinic setting many of the babies can’t sit up yet and actually spend a great deal of time just looking at the ceiling rather than an installation around them, I began to hang more objects and lights and incorporated them on cube frames so that babies could be placed within them and the top of the frame was made stimulating, with a criss-cross of black lines, a bold print and lights.”     (Naomi Kendrick)

When building installations Naomi considers practical aspects like safety and durability, but mainly her focus is on using a range of  different textures and materials. Food also features in many of Naomi’s installations, using fruit, vegetables and spices to encompass smells, textures and taste. Health professionals have welcomed the inclusion of food to handle and play as the babies head towards weaning and as a team, we are now looking at how we can offer extra support to families around nutrition and feeding.

Together we are beginning to understand more about the richness of ways that babies engage with the material world.

Natural materials are used in the installations; earth, sand, chalk, flowers, branches and leaves. Parents can be hesitant about their babies handling some of these substances but we are creating a space for families to build their confidence and curiosity about the material world.  Naomi also likes to use household objects, brushes, wooden bobbins, hats, sponges, metallic bowls, spoons, plates and mirrors as many of these harness light, reflection, sound and texture. She hopes this helps parents to encourage babies to explore and handle things at home, beyond toys and baby equipment.

An extract from Working with young children in Museums.

Book details available here