Programme Manager Florence Hawkins visited National Museums Wales for their first ever Family Day with Tŷ Hafan Children Hospice.
Find out more about Start Hospices here

After completing the three year Start Programme, National Museum Wales is embarking on the Start Hospices journey. On Sunday, 18 families from Tŷ Hafan children’s hospice visited the museum for a day of exploration and discovery.

Families were divided into four teams, the Artists, Explorers, Adventurers and Scientists with each team being led by a member of the hospice staff in explorer fancy dress. I joined the Explorers and began a fun filled day of activities.

Our first stop was a tour of ‘The Evolution of Wales’ which featured fossils to touch, dinosaur skeletons and life size mammoth models. The tour was given by a member of the Museum staff who talked us through the exhibition and encouraged questions from the children. The space was completely wheelchair friendly.

In the Natural History Centre, through fun parachute games we discovered how rock pools are formed and the creatures we would find inside them. We passed round a dried up starfish, a lobster claw and a crab, feeling the textures. Other sensory stations were set up including a water station to dip your fingers in and shells to hear the sea.

After a group lunch we split for our two afternoon sessions. We were led up to the art studio where a variety of painting stations were set up. What caused the most joy was the long strips of paper laid out across the floor, covered in paint and topped with bubble wrap. Those in wheelchairs rolled over the bubble wrap causing loud pops to fill the room. This encouraged everyone else to stamp, skip and roll across the sheets later revealing a masterpiece created by the whole group.

Following this, the Explorers finished the day in the beautiful Monet gallery. This was a musical and dance workshop with everyone playing an instrument and singing along. On large white parachute we placed flowers, coloured scarves and lily pads to mimic the Monet paintings on display. At the end of the session we threw the parachute in the air and watched as the scarves and petals flew up the ceiling and floated down around us. This was a particularly important session as the museum wanted to show families they don’t need to whisper in galleries but rather museums are welcoming places.

As the day wrapped up each family was given a goody bag filled with books and toys, most importantly it contained contact information for the Museum staff so families can be supported when they next visit. Many groups decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon looking around other exhibition spaces.

“I didn’t think I could bring my family here and I didn’t think we would be welcome. Now I know I can and I will definitely come again soon." Parent

This is just the start of a wonderful project and I can’t wait to see what else is going to be achieved. Thank you to National Museum Wales and the Tŷ Hafan staff for a really wonderful and inspiring day.