What are weekends for if not adventures and exploring somewhere new? I find it much harder to get the kids out and about at this time of year and for the last two Saturdays our plans have been completely ruined by the awful weather our poor country has been thoroughly battered by. As a result I was really looking forward to our jaunt to Liverpool this weekend, specifically to Tate Liverpool and the Albert Dock.
I must admit that an art gallery is most definitely not the first place I would consider when looking for somewhere to take our little gang. Art galleries are quiet places, places with fragile items and a reputation for being boring if you’re a kid. Tate Liverpool invited us along to shake up our preconceptions and show us that they are family friendly and ready to invite kids into their space.
Dave and I were both painfully aware of launching our three little noises into the Sunday morning quiet of Tate Liverpool – whilst Tate Liverpool are clearly keen to embrace families and encourage children to visit, we did worry that perhaps the other visitors to the gallery might not be quite so enthused! We explained to Ben and Chloe about how you should behave in a gallery – that they needed to speak quietly and not dash about as other people were thinking and wanted to look at the art. To be fair to them they did pretty well, Amy on the other hand? Not so much. The large open space was just too inviting to her little legs and when we tried to confine her to her pushchair, well you can imagine her rather noisy reaction!
Whilst Amy didn’t quite have it in her to follow the socially accepted rules of visiting an art gallery she was really interested in the things around her – in particular a table on the 1st floor which she kept going back to time and time again – “Me see what happen table?” “Not eating dinner at table” She just couldn’t get her little head around this every day object looking so very strange!
At present, Tate Liverpool are hosting a Matisse exhibition which I was interested to see thinking that the bright, bold colours would be appealing to the children. Ben announced that he thought much of the exhibition was boring (and I was rather glad he didn’t pay much attention to the the nudes as I didn’t really want to have a discussion about painting naked ladies this morning!) however he did like the look of the enormous “The Snail” and read some of the information alongside the piece before we looked at it again to see if we could find the snail shell shape within the collage. After talking about the piece we moved to the Shape and Make station which was stocked up with lots of brightly colour sheets of paper, scissors and white trays to work on to encourage children to get creative and make their own Matisse inspired art work. I didn’t talk to Ben at all about what he was doing until he told me had made a house and then explained “A snail’s shell is it’s house, so I made a house” – cue one impressed Mummy!
To help children to really explore the gallery they were each given a rocket backpack stocked with exciting things like magnifying glasses, binoculars and magic glasses. Ben and Chloe were super excited by this (though the bags were a little clumsy to wear so they did get a bit frustrated with them falling off). I loved that the contents of the bags were designed to encourage children’s observational skills – in particular a set of cards which had images on one side (great for Chloe) and questions on the other (perfect for Ben). The idea being that they would have to hunt out the artworks on each card and discuss the answers to the questions – this gave the visit more focus and helped us to talk about what we could see at a far more accessible level. Dave and I both commented that visitng Tate Liverpool on our own would be an entirely different experience as we would be able to take the time to read information and consider the pieces on display whereas this was more about an instant reaction to what was in front of us.
Once we had made our way through three floors of gallery Amy had well and truly had enough – I think a combination of being tired and hungry probably wasn’t helping her cause, so we made our way through the gift shop to the cafe to claim their reward for completing the scavenger hunt – a little gingerbread star biscuit each. (And of course Dave and I rewarded ourselves with a hot drink each!)
I think we probably filled around an hour in Tate Liverpool and both agreed that it would have been a much easier visit with just the big two who were able to understand a bit more about the way they were expected to behave. Ben probably got the most from the visit as he enjoyed reading bits of information about the art works though he admited to me at the end that he thought it was all a bit boring and he wanted to go somewhere he could run around – typical boy! Amy was still talking about the table falling over at bedtime which just proves that even at 2 years old she was able to think about the artwork and have her boundaries stretched a little!
(The Matisse exhibition is on until the start of May next year)