What was your play pilot?

Our play pilot was split into two parts:

  • in and around the museum
  • online.

In and around the museum

We hosted a Tiny Fun Palace on Saturday 3 October. We planned the event for 10am-12pm, but we kept it running for a further hour until families that pre-booked had arrived.

The event was open to all, advertised online and through local contacts aimed at families of all ages.

Our socially distanced playful offer for the event in addition to our existing museum experience included:

  • a bubble machine at the entrance to our bunkers
  • a mirrored reflective installed inside our emptied-out costume wardrobes in our main exhibition displays
  • a hopscotch chalked outside the floor of the exit of our bunkers, which is under cover
  • a new flag semaphore game hung between trees in our gardens
  • mission coding activity packs for families to take home for extended play and learning.


The event had very low attendance, but we still gained valuable learning and feedback. The pilot also provided opportunity for our Young Curator to volunteer with us again, taking playful photos of the play interventions which were shared on our social media platforms and providing feedback on our ideas from her perspective.

We also integrated a playful idea during a staff meeting to help to make our team smile more during this difficult time. We had a giant game of pick up sticks laid out ready on the floor at the start of the meeting and staff were invited to pick up a stick on arrival if they needed prompting.


We trialled 5 Occuplay inspired play prompts shared on our social media and website over five days of October half term that were aimed at all families:

  • Time travel
  • Hopscotch
  • Build a den
  • Stick-a note
  • Spooky whispers


We trialled a couple of play challenges during two Zoom meetings with engagement peers from museums in our local area. The challenges included a one-minute challenge to draw a face without looking at the paper or taking the pencil off the paper, and tearing a COVID-19 shape out of a piece of paper in two minutes.

What would you consider your level of experience in creating playful interventions in museums prior to the project (1 being the least experienced and 5 being the most)?


Why did your organisation choose to do take part?

We chose to do this project as we were concerned that our family experience would be far less ‘fun’ for our visitors with many of our interactives and resources removed due to COVID-19.

We were reopening after the first lockdown at the start of the project timeframe and seeking new ideas to inspire and help make our museum more playful again for children and families.

We wanted to host a Fun Palace and needed ideas for safe and socially distanced ways of providing fun things to do.

We were looking for new ways to reach out in playful ways online and remotely with our audiences and our museum peers.

What did you achieve?

We hosted our play pilot on Saturday 3 October and two families attended. The event included playful ideas inspired by a ‘scrapbook’ of images provided by the project mentors, including bubbles, semaphore gaming, takeaway coding packs, mirror reflective fun and hopscotch.

We were inspired to reinvent with existing resources and be more playful with different spaces in and around our museum. For example, we introduced mirror reflective shapes inside our two empty costume wardrobes. One visitor said: “Look at this, you can see yourself in here!”

We shared five playful prompts on our social media and website over October half term. This opportunity allowed us to work in a new way, providing prompts for play at home for the first time. The prompts were liked and shared by a small number of people.

We didn’t have any feedback from families or see any play at home experiences as images shared online, however one person added the ‘rules’ of how to play hopscotch as a comment under our Facebook post.

At the start of the project, one staff member commented: “We don’t do team building.” We overcame this barrier by taking a pick up sticks game to a team meeting to see what happened. They all had a go, even if some of the team needed a bit of prompting!

Lessons learnt

It was easy, cheap and quick for us to reinvent with existing resources and spaces. This allowed for us to hit the ground running with the project and planning our Tiny Fun Palace. Using quick and snappy ideas helps to reduce dwell time of family bubbles in spaces and keep a flow.

As the Fun Palace is an open event and had low attendance at this time, inviting a specific group to a pilot would have been a better alternative.

Takeaway packs are self-sufficient and easy for families to pick up and use in their own time. We had a greater number of families pick up an activity to take home during the October half term than we would normally have take part in our half term drop-in activities.

Chalked hopscotch will wash away if it rains! It was more successful to find an outdoor but undercover space for this to last longer.

Bubbles make us smile and children go ‘oooooh bubbles!’ However, our bubble machines needed topping up very regularly!

Having a waterproof and windproof colourful flag semaphore game hung between trees along the main footpath to our museum attracts passersby. Families and other visitors have been observed talking about what the flags are and having a go at the game. The museum is now closed but there is still something for people that walk by to engage with.

Playful prompts are an easy way to share ways to play remotely, especially online, but we cannot rely on getting any feedback from either existing or new audiences in this way.

We feel more confident in providing playful things to do in a socially distanced way for both visitors and staff at the museum as well as online.

We felt for the first time it was okay to abandon the learning outcome if we wanted to and to simply allow for play and laughter!

Top tips

  • Reinvent – it is okay to use existing materials and resources.
  • Use playful prompts and takeaway packs for independent play.
  • Bright, bold and colourful flag games outdoors attract passersby.
  • Be experimental. Reflective play intrigues all ages and fills awkward empty spaces.
  • Be realistic and consider weather elements.
  • Invite an existing community group, partners, volunteers or staff to trial ideas with.
  • Play is for all. Zoom and team meetings are more fun when you have a laugh!
  • Abandon the learning outcome and allow for more playfulness.
  • Work with artists and Kids in Museums!