Celebrating National Play Day in Tower Hamlets

Young V&A
August 12, 2022
A child explains their spaceship design - pointing to the relevant parts of the block model.

As Young V&A’s Reinvent Festival continues, we celebrated the National Play Day (3 August) with children attending the Tower Hamlets Holiday Childcare Scheme. Children are experts in play – it’s a way to have fun, build relationships, experiment with ideas and materials, and to learn new skills and knowledge. That’s why play has a central role at our new museum, and why National Play Day is an important moment in the year for us.

Our partners at the Childcare Scheme team, run by London Borough of Tower Hamlets, share our passion for the value of play in children’s development and learning. We launched our collaboration through the Summer of Play programme in 2021, as part of the council’s strategy to ‘bounce back’ from the pandemic. And we have since brought our creative workshops to them every school holiday.

Three children working on their model

National Play Day: Space design challenge

This year, we have made our collaborative event on the National Play Day extra special by inviting guests from both the V&A and the borough. Alongside a variety of play-based activities and sport games, the V&A team set a design challenge responding to the Childcare Scheme’s weekly theme of ‘space’. The challenge was to come up with the best design for a spaceship inspired by the V&A collection objects using the Imagination Playground blocks. William Newton (Curator, Young V&A) and Laura Mitchel (Senior Communications Manager) made a guest appearance as the design judges for the day, examining how well their spaceship will protect the passengers, how comfortable it is, or whether their design can help other people or life on another planet!

The results were phenomenal. All five teams of children aged 5 – 13 worked collaboratively to put their ideas into 3D structures using the blue blocks. They all came up with fascinating and imaginative features for their spaceships. One had a ramp as its entrance for better accessibility, while another had a self-regenerative oxygen system! We were excited to see how every team’s design was different, and how each team accommodated everyone’s ideas into one structure. The event was a true example of how play allows us to develop skills such as teamwork, problem-solving and creativity, and how children are just experts at it.

A group of children being applauded by their work by 9 adults

Partnership with Tower Hamlets Childcare Scheme

Jill McGinley (Head of Family and Parent Support, London Borough of Tower Hamlets) described the partnership with the Young V&A as ‘wonderful for all involved far exceeding expectations’. We asked her for her thoughts on the impact it has brought to both children and the scheme staff:

Children have ventured into an inclusive world of fantasy and creativity during the V&A sessions, explored their dreams and ideas, resulting in greater independence and cooperation. The collaboration has also provided a unique professional development opportunity for the scheme playworkers, further developing their skills and confidence to take forward new ideas for free play for all children within the scheme.

Local partnerships such as this are crucial to the development of the Young V&A. They help us ensure opportunities for children in our neighbourhood to access cultural experiences are maximised, while we are learning what children and young people’s passion and needs are now from the direct engagements in the borough. As Jill points out:

There is a key role for cultural venues such as Young V&A in reaching out to those families who may be less familiar with such settings. All Tower Hamlets families should feel confident in establishing a physical relationship within new spaces and environments so they can encourage their children and young people to develop confidence in a broader view of the world.

Reinvent Festival continues throughout until the museum’s reopening in 2023, and so does our journey to generate contents that truly welcome our local families. The list of events can be found in our previous post.

0 comments so far, view or add yours

Add a comment

Please read our privacy policy to understand what we do with your data.


Join today and enjoy unlimited free entry to all V&A exhibitions, Members-only previews and more

Find out more


Explore our range of exclusive jewellery, books, gifts and more. Every purchase supports the V&A.

Find out more