Posted in baby class, gallery, sensory

Mini Masterpieces, Dulwich Picture Gallery

When Vogue magazine rates a baby class as among the very best in London, you know you’ve got to check it out. So, the wee man and I hot-footed it to Dulwich Picture Gallery for Holly Dabbs’ excellent Mini Masterpieces class, recommended for little ones from 6-24 months.

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting from the session beyond a bunch of babes getting messy with paint…but it was so much more than that!

For a start, Holly and her small team begin by taking you through the permanent collection – singing as they go – and encouraging you to share, point to and delight in the art around you with your little one. Now, you might think the works of 17th and 18th century European masters is a bit beyond a 10-month-old – and we did swerve past a beheading – but you’d be surprised how many of these greats love a cow, dog or sheep as much as we do. Cue much moo-ing, woof-ing and baa-ing as we made our way round to the total bemusement of the other gallery-goers!

Next came the painting. On giant sheets of paper taped to the floor the babies were let loose with paint brushes, crayons, cornflour and food-colouring and it was – as you might expect – gloriously messy mayhem. True, the wee man seemed more intent on eating the paint-brushes than channelling his inner Jackson Pollock, but he loved it none the less. A magic way to spend the morning.

Cost ⭐️⭐️⭐️

£12 but worth it

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pram or sling – either fine, no stairs to navigate

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Baby changing available (though I just changed the wee man in the private room provided) and a good cafe on site if you fancied lunch after.

Feeding-friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Yeah, with this crowd you’re golden

General vibes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The wee man and I were covered in cornflour and all the happier for it.

Posted in day out, Days out, sensory

Squish Space, The Barbican

Review below from our lovely friend Lauren, who we met at NCT and is mum to gorgeous Freya. Thanks to Lauren for agreeing to be our second guest contributor.

After Squish Space was recommended by a friend, I thought I’d give it a shot considering I was in the area. Once I’d navigated my way to the entrance around the maze that is the Barbican centre, I found it tucked in the corner. While I was expecting to be greeted with a room full of brightly coloured inflatables, and the usual soft play suspects of balls pits, giant cubes etc – there was nothing of the sort. To the adult eye it all looks a bit underwhelming, there is a fair bit of empty space: in fact it looked more like a small conference room. But the little one was absolutely delighted!

The contents basically look like the creators have raided Poundland and the Barbican’s storage room – plus added in some stuff from the boot of their car. Think exercise balls, giant cushions (some tied onto rolling boards in a type of soft skateboard fashion), piping, tonnes of brightly coloured mesh/silk/balls, and what appears to be tow rope attached to the windows (which she spent a good half an hour just pulling and laughing at). Simple ideas like wrapping loads of neon ribbon around hose pipe holders entertained babes in arms, to running toddlers.  And though I thought all the space made it look a bit empty, actually it meant the kids had lots of room to move/drag/throw whatever had caught their imagination.

While it all sounds a bit of a health and safety hazard, it is all really well put together. So much so that I’m not sure any kid actually went near the small bit of soft play equipment that is in there. And the more we played the more we discovered! The idea of Squish Space is to encourage interaction and play between children and their carers – and the good news is the Barbican have extended their work with creators India Harvey & Lisa Marie Bengtsson until Spring 2020! The space will evolve throughout its time there.

Cost ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s totally free!

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Although the Barbican centre is bit of a nightmare to navigate (top tip – use the silk street entrance), once you’re in there, there’s plenty of room to move around it in a slingor buggy.

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There are baby change facilities on each floor, and a buggy park available outside of Squish Space.

Feeding friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There are loads of big comfy chairs and sofas to feed outside the Squish Space room, and plenty of these are tucked into darker corners if you’re a bit feeding conscious. We ate at the Barbican’s family friendly cafe, it’s very spacious with plenty of tables and highchairs, and considering we arrived at 12:30pm its was surprisingly quiet. Kids eatfree with every adult meal, however I didn’t find the choice of food on offer was very baby/toddler friendly. It’s also buffet style, so I recommend going with someone who can keep an eye on baby while you head up!

General vibe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A sensory overload guaranteed to spike your little ones imagination! Very relaxed vibe, with parents and carers chatting away while the kids swap football cones.