Use of self-directed art materials (e.g. family learning trails and backpacks)

Many arts, cultural and heritage organisations have materials to help guide families or groups around their spaces. These may take the form of backpacks, trails or guides, and usually involve art materials or sustainable, reusable resources.

Consider the following:

  • Can you make the collection/return of a backpack Covid Secure? Can you clean each bag and its contents between each use? This will involve working with venue teams.
  • If contents cannot be cleaned, given the Covid Secure timeframes for surface transmission of Covid-19 on materials above, how many ‘sets’ of backpacks do you need for rotation? Extra sets may have cost implications.
  • Can you give away art materials to families to take home with them? This will have a cost implication, so can you charge or ask for donations? Think also about the environmental impact of a takeaway resource pack.
  • Can you encourage families to bring their own materials to the venue? This may have conservation implications, so consult collections colleagues.
  • Are there ways of capturing information/answers or making art using digital means with a person’s own technology?  What’s the alternative if a family has no access to digital capture?
  • Can you work with local schemes who are providing art materials to families who need more support as outreach?

If an activity cannot be made Covid Secure, there needs to be a clear strategic direction around its temporary removal, including procedures, risk level and timelines when these activities (or similar) will be returned. Developmentally, this may be a good point to work with audiences to refresh trails.

Case studies

There are currently many schemes across the country to provide families with art material packs to help them learn and play at home. These are being distributed through food banks, schools, social care teams, holiday hunger programmes and through small, grassroots charities. As this is so current, very little is online about them to signpost to. It is very local area based in England, with schemes across Yorkshire, London, Nottingham, and Cambridge; and being managed centrally in Wales. To see how you can help in your area, contact your local authority, Art Council bridge organisation (England), Arts Council of Wales or Arts Council Northern Ireland.  

England’s scheme from the government, operational in Newcastle-Gateshead.  

Let’s Create packs and Bags of Creativity is being managed in England through Arts Council England bridge organisations and Local Cultural Education Partnerships across the country.  

National Galleries of Scotland have distributed art packs and printed copies of family activities for family groups throughout Edinburgh:

Children’s Art Week

The Royal Shakespeare Company have produced theatre play boxes for families in Bradford, containing everything needed to make their own puppet theatre.  

Slung Low (@slunglow), a theatre company based in Leeds, use their spaces, expertise and humanity for social good. Art doesn’t have to be in a building: look up the LS11 art gallery.  

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art is distributing ‘Art Lab’ creative materials and activity prompts alongside food deliveries to family partners.

The Museum of London has created individual family packs for use on gallery and at home. They include a Family Challenger game that can be played in any gallery, stickers and sensory and drawing materials.  

Culture Mile has put together monthly Play Packs for families, available online and with hard copies distributed via local food banks.  

The Museum of London have designed simple creative activities for people affected by dementia, their carers and loved ones. Available online with hard copies distributed through care home partners.