About this blog

Hello, I am Dr. Louisa Penfold!

I started Art Play Children Learning back in 2016 as a way to help parents do fun and meaningful art activities with kids.

I currently work at Harvard University as a Lecturer in Arts and Learning.

Check out the video below to hear what Art Play Children Learning is all about…

This blog features ideas for how parents can integrate contemporary art into children’s lives. To find your way through the posts, I have created the following five directory sections:

  • Kids art activities
  • Family excursion ideas
  • Tips for parents and teachers
  • Amazing artists and educators
  • Academic research

A little about me 

Aside from nerding out on this blog, I also do some other things.

I am originally from Melbourne, Australia but have lived overseas for many years. From 2015-2019 I was based in London while doing my PhD in art education. My doctoral research looked at the design of children’s creative spaces in modern art museums. This work was run as a partnership between the University of Nottingham and Tate Modern. My PhD supervisors were Professor Pat Thomson (School of Education, University of Nottingham) and Dr. Emily Pringle (Head of Learning Practice & Research, Tate).

A big part of my PhD looked at the ways that contemporary artists and designers’ experimentation with materials can be used to support children’s learning. You can read more about this in my article ‘Material matters in children’s creative learning’ which was published in MIT’s Journal of Design and Science in 2019. I have also had my writing featured in Medium, The Age, and The Australian newspaper.

From 2011-2015 I was a Children’s Curator at The Ipswich Art Gallery, Australia where I worked on the development of children’s exhibitions such as Wild Thing (2012), Construction Site (2013), Light Play (2014), and Electronic Art (2015). More recently, I was a Research Fellow on Serpentine Galleries’ Changing Play program in London. Check out my writing in the Play as Radical Practice and Special Rights publications produced out of the project.

In 2012, I spent time researching intergenerational learning approaches in American art museums as part of my Masters program at the University of Queensland. This research was undertaken in the education departments at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Smithsonian, and the Museum of Modern Art.

In February 2020 I moved to Boston to work at Harvard. I teach the courses ‘Contemporary art in early childhood education’ and ‘Practice-based research as creative enquiry’. I also frequently run workshops for early childhood educators on contemporary art and children’s play, both in-person and online. At the moment, I am also working on writing my first book for parents on children’s art education.

I love connecting with others who share my enthusiasm for art and education so sign up to the mailing list to stay in touch!

Happy making,


P.S. Thanks to Stefan Zander for filming the video.

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Publications and presentations 

Articles and Book Chapters

Penfold, L (2021), ‘Designing children’s learning environments using modern art,’ in Young Children: The NAEYC Journal (under review).

Penfold, L (2021), ‘Creative learning through land art,’ in Moorehouse, P. (Ed) ‘Creativity in Practice: Nurturing creative and critical thinking.’ Routledge (forthcoming).

Penfold, L (2020), ‘Why teach kids art?’ Feature article published in The Australian newspaper. September 12, 2020.

Penfold, L & Turner, L (2020), ‘Reflecting on children’s play at the Whitworth Art Gallery.’ In Hackett, A.; MacRae, C. & Holmes, R. in Working with Young Children in Museums: Weaving Theory and Practice. Routledge.

Penfold, L (2020), ‘Connecting young children’s learning processes with art museum practices’ in Shaffer, S. International Perspectives on Children in Museums. Routledge.

Penfold, L (2019), ‘Material matters in children’s creative learning.’ MIT’s Journal of Design and Science. Issue 5 – Essay in Exploration: Resisting Reduction.

Penfold, L (2018), ‘Children’s play with materials matters,’ Serpentine Galleries’ Special Rights publication.

Penfold, L (2017), ‘Foreword’ featured in Serpentine Galleries’ Play as Radical Practice publication.

Penfold, L (2017), ‘Art as Experience,’ Educational Review, 69(4). P. 523.

Penfold, L (2016), ‘Art museums as creative laboratories for children’s play, experimentation and the co-creation of culture,’ Art Museum Teaching: A Forum for Reflecting on Practice.

Piscitelli, B & Penfold, L (2015), ‘Child‐centered Practice in Museums: Experiential Learning through Creative Play at the Ipswich Art Gallery,’ Curator: The Museum Journal, 58 (3). P.263-280.

Conference Presentations (last updated May 2021)

Innovative Global Education Early Years Conference, Singapore (May 2021). Keynote presenter: Materials as active participants in children’s learning with art.

Art in Early Childhood Conference, online (February 2021). Presentation: Connecting children’s learning with art museum practices.

Oslo Metropolitan University ‘Art in Education’ conference, Norway (2019). Presentation: Making ‘kin’ with plastic in children’s art education Co-presented with Dr Nina Odegard (Oslo Met University).

University of Cambridge Museums ‘Lines of Enquiry’ symposium, UK (2018). Presentation: Connecting young children’s learning with art museum practices.’

Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education Conference, Denmark (2018). Presentation: ‘The performativity of visual imagery in early childhood education.’ Co-presented with Dr Nina Odegard (Oslo Met University)

European Education Research Conference, Italy (2018). Presentation: ‘Pedagogical documentation as curatorial inquiry in art museums.’

Play2Learn, Lisbon (2018). Presentation: Text based games as a literacy practice. Co-presented with Dr. Becky Parry and Dr. Frances Howard.

Australian Association for Research in Education, Australia (2017). Presentation: ‘Children’s learning with new, found and recycled stuff’ symposium with Professor Pat Thomson and Nina Odegard

Space, materials and the body: Researching young children’s experiences in museum at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK (2017). Presentation: ‘Developing child-led pedagogic practice in art museums: An action research project.

Engage International Conference, UK (2016). Presentation: Children, experiential learning, and play in art museums


Handmade (a podcast on materials), ‘Plastic with Louisa Penfold’ (2019).


The Education Hub, ‘Designing Children’s Play Spaces using Contemporary Art’ (2020).

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Art Play Children Learning by Louisa Penfold is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Tribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.