Kiasma's Kid Weeks is a two-week event aimed at the youngest of the family and their parents, where they get to do things together while learning. Kid Weeks provide a multi-sensory and cross-disciplinary programme, workshops, lectures and guided tours with a special focus on children's experiences.
The important thing is being together
As a museum of contemporary art, Kiasma specialises in arts education for people of various ages but activities for babies are just beginning. Experiences have been garnered from the "Babies play with colour" workshops, which were held by the art teacher Liisa Kemppainen in spring 2007.
In the "Babies play with colour" workshops, babies aged from 3 to 12 months and their parents got together to play and learn using their different senses. There was time in the hour-long workshops to also awaken the experience of looking through visiting the exhibitions and to feel various materials. The babies also got to paint with safe food colours.
"The most important thing is not the traditional art education, painting or making a picture but awakening the different senses. A child's natural curiosity leads to experiments, as a part of play. Furthermore, the fact that the baby and the parent are together in the situation is important," says Liisa Kemppainen who ran the workshops. Playing with colour in an art museum also attunes the child to looking. "Sight is an important sense and there are more visual stimuli in a museum than at home."
At least, Meimi Nieminen who took part in playing with colour at the age of ten months, got interested in looking. Her mother, Mimmu Pekkanen, says that her daughter started pointing at paintings in the shop windows in the city centre with new enthusiasm after the workshop. "Doing things with her hands and feeling different materials was important, and you got new ideas for home as well, because I didn't have that much experience of making things. While playing you could for once properly mess around and experiment, the awakening of the senses was fantastic!" says Mimmu Pekkanen. "Meimi was clearly influenced by the experience, you can see it in everything she does and how she explores at home. And working in a group was also a great experience. Babies watched how others were doing things and learned to be with others."
Playing with colour provided fun moments for children and parents alike but there is a scientific background to the activities. During the Kid Weeks, brain researcher Minna Huotilainen and temperament researcher Niina Komsi will give lectures in which a child's world and its development are discussed.
"Doing and being together are extremely important to a child. An adult can participate in a child's experience through a shared interaction. When an adult participates in a child's observation and reacts when the baby reacts, the child understands his/her experience better," says Niina Komsi. "Just the mere looking and following the child's attention can teach a great deal about the child and bring joy to both. What the child likes, what he/she is not interested in or what he/she is frightened of is important, as is reacting to observations. A child always needs an adult to help when dealing with great emotions."
Let the child guide you
Komsi advices people to slow down the pace of the adult world and let the child guide the parent: "It's worthwhile to embark on an expedition into a child's way of seeing and experiencing the world. A child is honest and will allow him or herself to be found if the parent is interested. You just have to be patient and not assume there are right or wrong ways of doing things. The way in which a child reacts to things is individual. There may be completely different personalities in the same family to which you have to respond in completely different ways," says Komsi.
An adult's view of what is important may not always be the same as a child's: "A child is interested in things an adult may not necessarily even notice. Even then it is important to affirm the observation. All experiences are good just as long as they come from the child. If a child is more interested in a wall socket than art, even that has to be encouraged," concludes Niina Komsi.