Let’s Play

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We want visitors to Windermere Jetty to have a great time when they’re with us; to explore, engage and play in their surroundings.

Playing is important, honestly it is! Play is our brain’s way of learning and making sense of the world in which we live. There are emotional, social, physical and intellectual benefits to play, which is why it’s so important that we are all encouraged to play more often.

There are misconceptions around play and it is often seen as ‘messy’. Play should be messy. There shouldn’t be any limits placed on how we play, and children shouldn’t be afraid to experiment, even if this means getting dirty and making a mess. It’s creative!

For children, play can bridge the gap between the different environments of school and home; it can connect children with their peers and help them to disconnect from everyday life. It is this disconnection that helps children to fully immerse themselves in the activities in which they are taking part. It allows children to focus and explore. Children’s  identities develop through engagement with others and the early years of a child’s life are important in developing a strong sense of self. Nurturing friendships helps children to develop this sense of self and this can happen through play.

How children play and what they learn from their play has been the subject of research for Psychologists for decades. Jean Piaget believed that a child’s cognitive development is about a child constructing a mental model of the world. Each child goes through four stages of cognitive development in the same order, and no stage can be missed out. Some people might never reach the later stages and there are individual differences in the rate at which children progress through each stage. Piaget did not claim that a particular stage was reached at a certain age, although descriptions of the stages often include an indication of the age at which the average child would reach each stage.

Lev Vygotsky researched the role of social interaction on cognitive development and argued that development first takes place socially. Children observe parental behaviour, listen to parents’ speech, and then try to imitate them.  As children practice through imitation, parents will guide children, correct them, and provide challenges.  Through child-centered play, children take on different roles and experiment with language, which helps them to become internally regulated in cognition. Children become more competent in their language use and begin to regulate their own thought processes and this can all be developed through play.

Jerome Bruner’s theoretical framework is based on the theme that learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon existing knowledge. Learning is an active process. Bruner introduced the idea of the Spiral Curriculum, which refers to the idea of revisiting basic ideas over and over, building upon them and elaborating to the level of full understanding. Bruner believed that any subject could be taught at any stage of development in a way that fitted the child’s cognitive abilities. Eventually Bruner was strongly influenced by Vygotsky’s writings and began to adopt a social and political view of learning.

Current theories of play, from Psychologists such as Pat Broadhead, suggest that children should be encouraged to play and learn from their peers, with little if any interruption from adults. Recent research suggests that if left to their own play themes and interests, children will choose to do more challenging and satisfying things than an adult would probably have led them to do. This is also known as Free Flow Play, which allows children to play freely, without interruption from adults.

By understanding how important play is for a child’s development, we can ensure that Windermere Jetty is a museum that welcomes families and provides children with  a range of opportunities to play and develop in a safe environment.

Bags of Fun at Windermere Jetty

Behind the scenes at the building site, the Windermere Jetty team have been beavering away on interpretation for the Museum. The story that we will be telling at the Museum is an exciting one, capturing tales of the peaceful tranquillity of Windermere and daring adventures on the lake. These stories will captivate the imaginations of many of our visitors. What if you’re a family group visiting? How do you engage young children with a trip to the Museum? We asked ourselves these questions, and then set about developing activities that will help families to explore Windermere Jetty.

Interactive exhibits will explore different themes in the Museum, for example, how steam is created and what it’s like to travel at speed, something that our visitors will not be able to experience on Windermere today. Apart from the interactive exhibits, which will be dotted throughout the exhibition space, we are also providing activities that our visitors will be able to pick up and use during their visit. These activities will appeal to specific visitors, such as families.

To find out what families would like to see at Windermere Jetty, we researched family resources at other museums and galleries and we asked local families what they would use on a visit to the Museum. The list contained items such as:

  • Colouring sheets and crayons
  • Books
  • Trails geared towards families
  • Activity bags/Backpacks containing different activities
  • Low tech interactive exhibits
  • Objects that can be handled

We decided to have a closer look at how to develop activity bags to help families and children explore the Museum. We have similar bags at Abbot Hall and we know that they are well used by families in the Gallery.

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We’ve found out some interesting things about activity bags

  • The optimum number of activities is five, enough to keep children engaged without it becoming too arduous to complete everything that’s in the bag. This also allows room for activities to be swapped or added when needed
  • Make sure that activities are suitable for the youngest or least able in the group
  • Aim to have as little writing involved as possible, in terms of what’s expected in each activity and also the instructions. Activities should be as self-explanatory as possible. A simple guidance sheet for adults is a great idea to set out what’s in the bags, what’s expected of visitors and to reassure visitors that they will not need any materials not already provided in the bag to complete the activities
  • Make questions and activities open ended to encourage conversations to continue within family groups, leading to further exploration of the collection
  • There are several benefits to having such bags available for families to use. They provide a focus to the visit and allow us to highlight objects within the collection; they suit different learning styles and can be used at the visitor’s own pace; they are non-messy activities that allow families to work together to discover the collection; above all they’re fun to use!


Since we completed this research, we have come up with a name, Captain’s Duffel Bags, and decided that the bags will contain up to five different activities. We’re not telling you what’s going into them yet, we don’t want to spoil the surprise!

For more information about Windermere Jetty visit windermerejetty.org

Little Skippers

Little Skippers, our group for 2-5 year olds and their families, has been meeting weekly since January. We have been exploring Windermere, its wildlife, the people that live around the lake, boat building and much more. Each week we have delved into these wonderful themes through story telling, music, craft and lots of imagination!

We have made new friends and have met some of the wonderful animals that live around the lake.

Brown Bird
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Flash and Flint

We have been having lots of fun on Thursday mornings, but the team behind Little Skippers have also been keeping track of what has worked well, and not so well, as part of these sessions. We have found that the mix of different activities available during each session has appealed to the learning styles of different children. Even the adults have been joining in which has made this a wonderful opportunity for families to learn together, whilst spending time together.


Although we are coming towards the end of our time with Little Skippers at Brockhole, this is not the end of the story. We will be taking what we have learnt and will be putting it to good use, working with early years groups in other settings from September onwards. The activities that you have been enjoying will also be used to inspire exciting events and activities for families to enjoy on a daily basis at Windermere Jetty.

The last two gatherings of Little Skippers will take place on the 9 and 16 July, at 10.30am at Brockhole. Thank you to everybody who has joined us over the last six months, it has been lovely getting to know you all. Keep your eyes peeled on our website to find out about upcoming events and activities.

Low Wood No Wood Cardboard Boat Race

Yes that’s right, you haven’t misread the title, a CARDBOARD boat race.

Two weeks ago Lakeland Arts decided to enter a team into this race to represent Windermere Jetty. The intrepid two members of staff that volunteered set about gathering a team of highly skilled staff and volunteers to help them to create a masterpiece of engineering that would carry them around a marked course on Windermere.

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The inspiration for the boat came from a wonderful story based on Windermere. At the turn of the twentieth century, the boatmen of Windermere wanted to attract more tourists to use their boats. To do this, they created a mysterious creature, called a Tizzie Whizie, which could only be found on Windermere if you looked hard enough. The Tizzie Whizie had the body of a hedgehog, wings and antenna and also a tail. Last photographed in 1906, we thought it was high time that Tizzie Whizie made a return to Windermere.

You can clearly see the likeness between the original, as seen on the boat’s flag below, and our boat!

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SS Tizzie Whizie turned out not to be the fastest boat on Windermere on the day of the race. However, it definitely had staying power as the boat and her crew won the Armada Award for last boat afloat at the end of the day.


We would like to say a massive thank you to all those who spent time after work to help us construct the boat and also to those who came to Low Wood Marina on the day to support us. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Captain Parr & First Mate Reid

Family Arts

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Making time to spend with your family is a hard thing to do in today’s busy world. There are so many pressures on families and how they spend their leisure time, making time spent together precious.

With this in mind, it is important that we understand what we can do, as cultural organisations, to make every family visit a fantastic experience; to be family friendly. We have put together a list of ideas to help make your venue family friendly. This includes a list of top tips from the Audience Agency, an arts focused organisation which provides research and consultation for museums and galleries.

What can you do to be family friendly?

  • Families come in different shapes and sizes and museums and galleries should reflect this by providing stimulating experiences for each individual within a family group. From grandparents, to teenagers, to young parents and toddlers, all should feel welcome and enjoy their visit as a group.
  • Provide clear information about what’s on offer. Tell families about the whole family offer as each family has different needs.
  • Provide activities which appeal to a range of different people, so that all members of the family can enjoy their visit.
  • Offer flexible tickets as family groups are all different.
  • Small changes such as providing baby changing facilities in all toilets, including the men’s toilets, can make a huge difference.
  • Make your family offer clear on the website. Families are busy and need reminding of what activities and events are coming up. This can be done through newsletters, your website and through social media.
  • Don’t stereotype older people within the family group. There are barriers to older people getting involved too, for example, those living with Dementia.

Top Tips from the Audience Agency

  • Provide intergenerational events and activities
  • Provide for extended family groups. Not all families visit with Mum, Dad and two or three children.
  • Provide families with a long term and meaningful conversation. This can be done through social media.
  • Be dynamic about how you engage with families, as family groups alter over time.
  • Families look for a consistent and regular offer. There is less risk for a family if they have been somewhere before and enjoyed their visit. They know what to expect.
  • Empower your staff to put families at the heart of your business.

Family Arts Campaign issue the Family Arts Standards, which Lakeland Arts have signed up to. These standards provide guidelines for cultural venues, to ensure that museum and gallery services are great for families. Look out for the blue plaques which will be on display at Blackwell, Abbot Hall and the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry.

Tell us about your family visit



Saturdays with a Splash!

Boy with Boat


On Saturday 14th and Saturday 21st March, the team from Windermere Jetty were at Brockhole exploring forces, engineering, the environment and habitats to celebrate British Science Week 

This week long festival celebrates STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. The British Science Association encourages a range of different organisations across Britain to get involved and provide activities for families and schools. We decided to give it a go!

Through different activities over the two days, we explored the environment around Brockhole and delved into the science behind our wonderful collection of boats. We made boats, played with cargo (one pence coins) to see if tin foil boats would float, went pond dipping, recorded our adventures and played with wild words.

A lot of fun was had, and although they might not have realised it because they were having such a great time, our visitors learnt more about science. We’re quite crafty like that! These events also gave us the chance to try out ideas for activities that we will be able to run at Windermere Jetty when the new museum opens. So you see, we learnt something too.

Thank you to everybody who dropped in to see us over the two days, it was lovely to meet you all. Also a big thank you to the team at Brockhole, Seb from Cumbria Wildlife Trust for his pond dipping skills and Ian Douglas for his Wild Words.

Look out for more activities and events at Brockhole with the Windermere Jetty team.