Talking About Art: Call for Participants


We are looking for volunteer families* to explore, draw, and discuss art.

At a loss for words when you look at art?
Or do you always know what to say?
How can galleries help us find our voice?

As part of the long term project Art at the Start, University of Dundee is partnering with Dundee Contemporary Arts Learning Programme to explore what happens when families view and make art together. The Talking About Art project will research how families use the self-led activities at DCA. The researcher, Holly Rumble, aims to determine how these activities impact on family engagement with the visual art exhibitions.

Holly will lead the sessions, which last for 45 minutes, and take place in early 2019.
Sessions in January and February will look at the work of Lorna Macintyre
Sessions in late March and April will look at the work of David Austen

We will provide refreshments and a small gift to thank you for your time.

For an information sheet please click here: Adult information sheet

If you have any questions please email:

*(with at least one child under 16)

Thanks for reading!

ESRC Festival of Social Sciences event at DCA

We were at the DCA doing an outreach event this weekend as part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science. We ran some art events for families linking in with the flag theme of ther current exhibition and we tried to show a bit more about what is happening when little ones and grown ups make art together. We were thinking about making connections through art, increasing cognitive development, enjoying sensory experiences, gaining self-agency and learning to imitate. Here are some of our posters from the event with some more information.
Thank you to all the families who came and joined in with us.



We are at DCA’s Discovery Film Festival

The Art at the Start team are taking part in some of the events at DCA’s Discovery Film Festival over the next two weeks.

Vicky will be running a sensory workshop after the Shorts for Wee ones screening on Sunday the 27th. We will be creating some beautiful scenery from the films- going underwater with sensory play, making a sky complete with clouds, planes and birds, and building a city full of cardboard box sky scrapers. The films themselves are lovely and will be enjoyed by families with small children. For more information and to book have a look on their website


Printing at Baxter Park Picnic

This week Vicky and Holly joined the team from DCA at “Picnic in the Park” trying out some mono printing with all the families who came along to enjoy the lovely sunshine in Baxter park and take part in the activities. We were so impressed by how creative all the children who joined in were, using jelly plates to mono print with leaves and wooden stamps.

Welcoming Holly to the Team

We are really pleased to welcome Holly Rumble to the Art at the Start team this month. Holly won our Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences Studentship to join us as for 4 years as a graduate student in Psychology. She will be working closely with the DCA to look at how we can measure the impact of art experiences upon families with young children.

Holly Rumble – artist educator and SGSSS PhD student

“I joined the University of Dundee in September 2018, to undertake an MSc in Psychological Research Methods before commencing PhD research in 2019. I have almost fifteen years experience as a practicing artist, focusing on intergenerational participation. My projects have taken me around the world, working with groups in Finland, Japan and Hong Kong. From 2015-2018 I worked as Public Engagement Coordinator for Tramway, Glasgow, beginning with the public participation programme for Turner Prize 2015. My interests lie in the power of arts participation to increase confidence, wellbeing and literacy. In 2017 I was awarded the Marsh Award for Excellence in Gallery Education for my work with families at Tramway. I am looking forward to working with Dundee Contemporary Arts to measure the long term impact of their family participation programme.”

Big box painting creations

If, like us, you seem to collect lots of cardboard boxes, don’t just recycle them, use them for some painting first. The bigger the better so get ordering washing machines! We went with a train as we have a Thomas fan but you could easily turn them into a castle, or a car, or a submarine or a space ship………..Creations that little ones can play with by going in and out are the most fun. Make spaces to sit in or maybe some doors to open. That will give the opportunity for loads of fun interactive play.

Little ones will probably need quite a lot of help with the building part so it’s a nice chance to get stuck in there. Make sure you follow their lead though and encourage them to show you how they want it to look. It is lovely for them to see something from their imagination become reality.

Once it’s time for the painting part you can let them go crazy. Use water based and washable paint that is baby safe in case they have a lick and make sure you put lots of plastic or newspaper all over the floor cos this one gets really messy. Maybe some children who feel a bit nervous starting with a big white page will feel more confident to get creative when it’s already just rubbish. And children who don’t think they like to draw or paint might like this idea as it includes the element of construction.

Rainbow rice sensory tray

Here is another idea for using coloured rice in a sensory tray from our summer festival fun at Belladrum. Follow our recipe for making coloured rice here . This time mix your bags of rice using different colours of food colouring in each bag and once dry lay them out in a rainbow pattern. (Yes we know this one isn’t in the right order for a rainbow! I’d like to say it was the kids that did it but it really wasn’t!)

It will ultimately end up all muddled together but that is part of the fun and the multicoloured mixture looks very pretty too. Perfect for using with ice cream scoops, or maybe try with cupcake cases to scoop it into, or hide multicoloured wooden blocks in it to seive out, or use it as the sprinkles on playdough cakes, or feed it to your unicorns….. Whatever you can think of.

The rice will keep for ages in an airtight bag or tub. As always adult supervision is required throughout to keep safe.

Sensory ocean tray with coloured rice

One of our festival activities this summer was a sensory tray filled with blue rice and lots of sea creatures and shells to go with the underwatre theme at Deershed Festival. All the children (and some of the big people) really loved the feel of this rice, playing at scooping it up and running it through their fingers. It’s great for making sensory trays if you have a little one who doesn’t really like things which feel gooey or wet.

Here is how you can make coloured rice easily at home.

You need:

white rice (the cheapest value stuff)

food colouring



Tip your rice into a ziplock bag then add in a splash of vinegar (preferably a clear kind) and a squirt of liquid food colouring or a little blob of colouring paste. You just need enough vinegar to help the colour mix through the rice and you can always add more if needed or more colour if it’s too pale.

You then need to squeeze it about in your bag till you have coated all of the rice in colour. Then you can either tip it onto a tray to air dry or, if you’re impatient like us, pop it in a really low oven. It might stick a bit as it dries but if you give it a squash around it separates out again nicely. It also doesn’t rub colour off if little ones have sticky hands which is the problem if you use paint instead of food colour. Some people add a drop of something that smells nice to take away the vinegar smell but we prefer just to leave it out for a while and a bit of a vinegary taste might stop nibblers anyway.

We did a few different combinations of blues and greens so that it looked nice when we mixed them all up together. You can store the rice in either an air tight tub or bag and it seems to last for ages. We have some that’s 6 months old and seems fine but usually we have spread it everywhere before it makes it that far. Luckily it’s easy to hoover up!

Add your rice to a big tray (like the kind you use for underbed storage) and add fish toys, shells, cups for scooping, boats, mermaids whatever you can think of. Have fun




As this is all non-toxic food stuff you don’t need to worry as much about little ones having a taste – and if they do have a nibble it tastes pretty yuck anyway so they shouldn’t do it again! As always though, this recipe is for playing together with your little one and needs to be fully supervised to keep it safe and avoid choking.

Art at the Start at Summer Festivals

We’ve been busy offering creative opportunities to little ones and their big people at Fesitivals this summer.

In July we were under the sea at Deershed Festival

and in August we were at Belladrum making animals in the Indian Jungle

We had a great time meeting lots of families and bringing some relaxing and creative  time to their festival experiences with a mixture of messy crafts and sensory play.


Our next post will explain how to make the cool blue rice you can see in our ocean sensory tray.