family friendly

Jo Graham is probably best known for her expertise on families and Early Years in museums. All audiences are important, but Jo is especially keen to help organisations develop family friendly provision and/or provision for young children.

Our work with families has highlighted the importance of a family friendly learning environment, but removing barriers to access is not enough in itself. Families need resources that support them in building what Lyn Dierking calls “their family narrative”. Learning Unlimited can support your organisation in both improving the family friendliness of your organisation and in supporting families to learn together.

Not all families have young children and not all pre-school children visit with families, but there is crossover. Jo’s experience in family learning meshes well with her understanding of early learning and the Early Years Foundation Stage. Jo’s experience in developing exhibitions, programmes, resources, learning environments, research programmes and training on young children and museums is unparalleled. Her articles on museums as places to play can be downloaded from the resources page.

family friendly projects

Family Friendly and Early Years training

Jo has been conducting bespoke training sessions on family audiences and Early Years in museums for over a decade. To see examples of recent training go to the training section.

“It was a really fabulous day that I would recommend to everyone!
Whilst it’s relevant to anyone in learning, I can see how it would be just as useful to other non learning-focused members of staff as the background to an approach and way to understand certain audiences.”

Early Years and Museums Training Day, Sept 2013

"Very informative and inspiring. Brilliant content and excellent trainer.
Delivery style was great."

Early Years and Museums Training Day, Jan 2010

National Maritime Museum – Exhibition Advisor

Jo is supporting the National Maritime Museum, London, in creating a new Children’s Gallery for children under 8, their teachers and family adults. Jo provides advice and mentoring on how children and families learn, facilitates creative meetings and supports age-appropriate ways of consulting the audience.

"Jo’s close involvement in the children’s gallery development process from the very beginning is paying dividends as we strive for a truly age-appropriate maritime gallery for our early years audience. She has been (and continues to be) a fount of knowledge, sound advice and diplomatic reminders, and the team are very much enjoying working with her as the process continues."

Exhibitions Manager
Royal Museums Greenwich

2013 to present

Norfolk Museums - Regional Advisor: Family Learning Programme

Jo created and coordinated a regional programme to support improvements in family learning provision in partner museums, as part of the Effective Museums initiative. The first cohort was so successful (2011-12) that Norfolk Museums commissioned a second round of the programme (2012-13). The programme consisted of training, a Family Friendly audit, outcomes-based action planning and peer learning.

“Jo worked with 8 museums in the East of England on our Effective Museums: Family Learning Programme. Everyone involved benefited greatly from her expertise and her supportive and practical approach. All the museums have planned and implemented changes to improve their offer to families.”

Museum Development Projects Manager, 2012

Harrogate Museums – Family Strategy

As part of regional strategic funding in North Yorkshire, Jo mentored Harrogate Museums to create a Family Strategy. This included training and a family audit of both the Pump Room Museum and the Art Gallery. Areas of development have included marketing, orientation, programming and gallery based resources and activities.

“We used images on the marketing at the Castle over the summer and the feedback was that it made it much more appealing.”

Audience Development Officer, 2013

Gilbert White House Museum - Family Strategy

Gilbert White House and Oates Museum is a small independent historic house with museums, gardens, Study Centre and parkland. Developing their family audience is a key plank of their sustainable business planning. Jo worked with the team to carry out a Family Friendly Audit covering the facilities and learning environment and highlighting the activity potential within their themes and displays. The Family Strategy established a set of best practice principles and a strategic framework, with the recommendations from the audit providing the basis of the action plan.


Brighton Museums – Family Friendly and Early Years Audit

An audit for Brighton’s Hove Museum, already popular with families with young children. The audit identified themes, spaces and ideas for activities for young children as well as considering practical facilities and the potential of the outdoor space.


National Portrait Gallery - Family Strategy

The National Portrait Gallery wanted to take their audience development work to a new level of detail, focusing on just one priority audience: families. Jo supported the team to develop a framework for planning and assessing high quality family provision, a structure for a family strategy and a set of practical ideas to action.


Renaissance South West – Parents as First Educators research

A ground-breaking research programme involving six museums across the South West. The study explored how museums might best support parents to engage their children with collections and buildings, rather than relying on staff-led provision. Jo coordinated the programme, developing a planning and assessment framework, providing professional development for participants and writing the report, which can be downloaded from the resources page.


National Maritime Museum – EYFS and KS 1 Teacher’s Pack

This Teachers’ Pack provides activities for children from 3 to 7 before, during and after a museum visit. All the activities are skills based, making them easy for teachers and practitioners to differentiate. This pack promotes children as active learners in museums and their settings, giving creative and playful ideas for ways young children can explore maritime history and the museum environment.


London Museum Hub – Assessing under 5s provision

The London Museum Hub commissioned an evaluation report on provision for children under 5 across the five partner museums. Jo developed an observational framework derived from definitions of effective practice in the EYFS guidance. The Hub felt the resulting report was so useful that they commissioned Jo to develop it into a “How to” guide (First Steps: early years in museums), which you can download from the resources page.


Museum of London – Early Years audit

A comprehensive audit covering both the Museum of London and the Museum in Docklands as well as the Museum of London’s plans for the new Modern London galleries. The assessment of galleries, programmes and learning spaces led to practical recommendations for a more inclusive service.


National Trust - Family Friendly Audit

An audit for Chirk Castle, already popular with families but seeking to offer more active learning experiences. The audit covered the castle building, the formal rooms, the farm and the parkland offering cost effective activity ideas to suit families with children of all ages.


Renaissance South West – Close Encounters with Culture

A collaborative research programme across the five Hub partners to explore whether children in EYFS can engage with museum objects, collections and stories and to what extent museums could help deliver the EYFS. Jo coordinated the project, delivered relevant training, wrote the research report and presented the findings to Local Authority Early Years teams across the region. She also coordinated and wrote a joint publication with Renaissance North West, which can be downloaded form the resources page.


NESTA – Creating communication friendly museums

Jo was the mentor for this project lead by The Potteries Museum in Stoke. Three partner museums worked with a multi-agency body called Stoke Speaks Out to explore how changes to the learning environment in their museums could support families with very young children to talk to each other.


Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood – under 8s consultant

The re-display of the V&A Museum of Childhood sought to redress the balance between providing for adults interested in childhood and children experiencing it. In Stage 1 Jo worked with Graham Black to provide the family and early years perspective on interpretation. In Stage 2, Jo worked independently, developing age appropriate content and playful activities for the exhibitions.


V&A Museum - Families online website

Jo worked with the Families team at the V&A to develop a creative brief for this website. Working with Nicky Boyd, she then evaluated the pilot site through user observation.


Discover – Exhibition and outreach development

Jo was the Learning Advisor for Discover: the UK’s first Centre for Curiosity and Imagination. Working with and for its East End community, Discover developed as a hands on centre for children under 7 whether in education or family groups. Jo was involved in creating and evaluating Discover’s outreach through which it engaged with communities prior to opening. She also wrote design briefs, policies, exhibit briefs and gallery text, set up a Learning Advisory Group and ran staff training.


Thinktank, Birmingham – under 8s consultant

Working with both the Museum and Design teams, Jo developed the well-reviewed Kids' City: an interactive space where young children and their families can explore science ideas through role play. When Kids' City was expanded in 2004 to include a doctor’s surgery, Jo was commissioned to audit the plans.


Science Museum, London – exhibition development

As head of Interactives running the Museum’s most popular galleries, Jo developed a sound knowledge of family learning in museums. In 1993, Jo was seconded to be Head of Content and Communication for the garden: the UK’s first permanent gallery for children under 6. Following the opening of the garden, Jo was seconded again to join the core team working on the Wellcome Wing for contemporary science and technology. This included developing the initial ideas for early years provision.