Curator's Choice: Leigh-Anne Stradeski on the new £2.9 million gallery at Eureka! The National Children's Museum in Halifax...
“There’s so much to love about the new All About Me Gallery that it’s hard to choose a favourite. But I have to say that I think the picnic tables are fantastic.
The picnic is positioned near the end point of the gallery. By the time children and families arrive here, they’ve done loads of other things that have helped them learn about themselves, inside and out.
They’ve measured and stretched, been to the dentist and doctor, checked out their bones, muscles and senses, walked a balance beam and clambered up a mini climbing wall. So settling down for a bit of a picnic feels just about right.
With two picnic tables to visit, the children get to put together three meals and a day’s worth of healthy snacks as well.
At the second table children are able to make choices from five plates which focus on fruit and veg, carbohydrates, milk and dairy, non-dairy proteins and fats and sugars.
The idea is to help children pick foods that make up a well-balanced meal with the right-sized portions to meet your energy needs and the right nutrients to help you grow up to be strong and healthy and stay that way.
When children make their choices, there’s an LED grading system which either moves towards “healthy” or “less healthy” depending on what they’ve picked, and if they’re not happy with their choice, it’s never too late to change it.
They’ll soon figure out that a lunch made up of crunchy vegetable sticks, a tuna wholemeal roll, nectarine and a drink of water is going to move them up the healthy scale, whereas crisps, a sausage roll, fruit pie and a milkshake is going to move them in the opposite direction.
By testing out various combinations – including some downright silly ones – children begin to get a sense of why the choices they make have an impact on their health and wellbeing and make connections with other things they’ve learned in the gallery.
One of the best things about the picnic area is how much family interaction is taking place. Grandparents, parents and children are all moving the dials on the table to mix and match everything from porridge and chocolate mousse to fried eggs and low fat natural yoghurt.
We hope that this dialogue about healthy food choices will extend well beyond the visit to All About Me. Hopefully it will get children more interested in everything about food: where it comes from, helping prepare it and enjoying it during family mealtimes and at school.
This exhibit has been developed with a lot of input from teachers and health expert. But most importantly it’s happened through our consultation with children, so it really reflects and builds on the way they think about food and where it fits into their lives.
In All About Me, we never set out to lecture children. Rather, our aim is to put children in the driver’s seat by letting them play and have fun, while giving them the knowledge and confidence to make choices about their own health and well-being.
For me, this exhibit exemplifies that principle perfectly and that’s why I like it so much.”