Turn on a kids’ TV channel, and you’re regularly assaulted with ads for “must-have”, “indispensable”, “essential” toys and resources that are required to ensure that your child is adequately educated, entertained and developed. Helen Bramhall, Creative Director of Crafty Angels is on a mission to show families that we don’t need to spend masses of money to get our children’s minds and imaginations active, engaged and creative. She invited Miss Mini-Apprentice and I to her Wednesday Messy Brekkie session from 9.30-11 at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle to find out more about her social enterprise.
We arrived a few minutes early, so spent the time browsing the gallery. What a treat! Miss M-A agreed that these were things best just to look at, and not to touch (phew!), and we had a lovely few minutes wandering around, talking about what we saw. Getting people into cultural venues they normally wouldn’t visit is one of Crafty Angels aims, and they certainly succeeded with us. We found the Biscuit Factory to be packed full of really beautiful art, much of which had a local connection. There is a gloriously sunny and bright café upstairs, serving homemade treats and ice creams and a fabulous shop, full of quirky and interesting gifts. It’s definitely the kind of place to check out if you’re present-shopping, and a great opportunity to support local artists. (The prices are vey reasonable too.) The café kindly offer 20% off on the day for Messy Brekkie visitors, so why not stay for lunch?!
Arriving in the upstairs room, we were warmly welcomed, and had a look around the venue. Unlike many toddler groups, there was very little plastic in sight. The different stations around the room were characteristically filled with natural materials, an open invitation to explore shape, texture and smell and to allow the child’s imagination and creativity to guide them. Our little girl settled down at a tray filled with leaves, cones, sticks and stones. The home made play dough was scented with mint or cocoa, making them deliciously appealing. She got to work, developing gross motor skills and losing herself to creativity as she beavered happily away.
She and I both really enjoyed the paints. By mixing glue, food colouring and shaving foam in icing bags, the resulting concoction was thick, gloopy and smelled glorious. It was great fun to squeeze out, working hand muscles and problem solving skills together, in order to achieve the desired effect. The homemade rollers then came into action, with the children gleefully pushing and rolling and experimenting. It was very fun and satisfying!
If children learn through play, it’s wonderful to give them these opportunities to experiment in as many ways as possible- with colours, texture and movement etc- with their little brains work hard in many different areas at the same time
The sewing table proved very popular, too. Using a huge bobbin as a table was a conversation point in itself. Armed with a variety of different coloured and textured wool, scissors and needles, the children sewed simple cardboard patterns with great concentration. I found it very therapeutic and relaxing to join in, too.
The den in the corner and the tall cardboard tube/pompom run also appealed to the children’s imagination and kept them busy. I, however, was more interested in the amazing snacks available! There was a fantastic range of healthy foods for the children and adults to enjoy- strawberries, blueberries, yoghurt, crackers, cream cheese… We have always found times when mixing with other children are always a great opportunity to get little ones trying new things that they might not otherwise consider.
The class costs £6 per child, with sibling discounts available. During the summer holidays, you can nab your first session for only £3- so why not pop by on Wednesday at 9.30? For those who find the cost prohibitive, the social enterprise subsidises the cost by selling craft kits. These packs guide you through up-cycling and repurposing every day objects and materials, so are a great way to get people thinking creatively. Helen wants the group to be open and welcoming to everyone, whatever their background or means. These kits make great birthday presents for children- maybe you could stock up on a few for your present drawer, so you’re always prepared for a last minute party?!
We had a really happy morning at the Craft Angels Messy Brekky. Thank you so much for inviting us! Not only did we find out lots of great ideas to try ourselves, we had the invaluable opportunity to interact with other children (and grown ups!), and a really wide variety of great activities. Yes, the very point of these activities is that you can do them for very little money at home- but the great advantage of coming along to the group is that the children can move around and engage in the activities they choose, which would be impractical on this scale at home. And the best bit is, someone else got to do the cleaning up at the end!
Activities change weekly, so there are always new ideas to pick up and experiences to enjoy. Do get in touch with Helen from Crafty Angels for more information or to book.
Talbot Jones Risk Solutions loves to support other local organisations. Do get in touch if we can help you with a free insurance review, advice or quotation, or if we can help with promoting or marketing your business or charity.