Summer of Play continues…


Museum of Childhood
October 12, 2021

The Young V&A team had a great #SummerofPlay, popping up in various locations in East London from July to September. Artist Matt Shaw was one of the fantastic creative people who worked with us on the events at local primary schools, festivals and children’s centres.

Summer of Play event in Tower Hamlets © Victoria and Albert Museum

We used the fantastic Imagination Playground blue blocks pictured above in our event this summer to build, create and play with. Can you see how we added lots more materials and playthings so we could be even more creative?

Some of these materials were picked by Matt, including wooden pegs, cardboard corners and tubes, and net fabric pieces.

Introducing Matt Shaw

Matt Shaw is a sculptor who creates objects and environments. He enjoys collaborating with children to build large-scale sculptures that they can often play with. He uses many different materials in his art. Some of them may seem quite unusual: cardboard, rope, hose and more.

Matt Shaw © Victoria and Albert Museum

We asked Matt why he thinks it’s important to explore a variety of materials as an artist. He said:

My work is about exploring possibilities of materials in a playful way. Different materials can give us many ways to play and create with and can result in a variety of creative responses. That is so exciting.

When artists use everyday objects in their creation, they are known as ‘found objects’. What can you find at your home to be creative with yourself – what about duvet covers, old wrapping paper, or cutlery?

Inspired by the V&A Collection

Educational specimen box, assembled in England, about1850 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, an educational theorist, also thought that exploring lots of materials around us was important, even back in the 18th Century! He created the ‘Education Specimen Box’ pictured above for children to handle and learn about different materials. The box includes sponge, glass, fur, porcelain, cork and textile. Why not try finding similar objects at your home to create your own box of materials?

Construction Mash-up

Now it’s your turn to look around you and get creative with materials you can find! Today, we will be using a mix of construction toys you may have and objects found in and around your home.

We asked Matt for top tips when looking for materials in unexpected places. He said:

Be open to the creative possibilities in all materials. What might just be a cardboard tube to some is a telescope, a marble run, or something to talk down. A simple piece of paper can be folded, torn, crumpled up to make a book, confetti or a ball.

Let’s begin looking around!

All you need are any construction toys, such as building blocks, and a series of ‘found objects’ from in and around your home. They could be scrap fabric pieces, a ball of yarn, acorns and conkers, or anything safe to handle that you can think of!

Now mix them up and see what new things you can create with some unexpected combinations of materials. Here are some examples from Eve (age 10) and Bea (age 5).

Top left: ‘Alien café’ using lego, scrap paper and conkers, top right: ‘Hedgehog lair’ using drinking straws, Strawbees and conkers, bottom left: ‘String palace’ using drinking straws and wool, and bottom right: ‘City’ combining two types of construction toys

Once you get used to mixing up unusual materials with your construction toys, why not trying making sculptures only with found objects this time?

Share what you create with us on Instagram (@young.vam) or Twitter (@young_vam).

And don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to follow the latest news on the development of the Young V&A.

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