Getting creative at the Hepworth

As part of my campaign to ensure 10YO and 3YO don’t spend their entire summer in front of the telly, today we headed for the Hepworth in Wakefield.  They’re running various free holiday activities over the next few weeks, and this week’s sessions are entitled Artigami, which involves, according to their website: “folding, ripping, bending and more, discover the art of paper folding to create structures inspired by the holes and strings in Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures.”

Because I’m a bit rubbish at driving to new places, and especially rubbish at finding parking spaces, I decided to take the coward’s way out  environmentally friendly option of public transport.  The cheapest way of getting one adult and two children from north Leeds to central Wakefield is a Metro Family Day Rover ticket, which we picked up at our local post office for £11.40.  This was only actually a pound cheaper than buying return bus and train tickets for me and 10YO, given that 3YO still travels free. However, as it covers up to two adults plus three children, or one adult and four children for all off-peak buses and trains in West Yorkshire for a day, it’s a bargain well worth knowing about.

Travelling by public transport with small people is usually – on the outward leg at any rate – heaps of fun. I still remember being a grumpy commuter lurking behind my free copy of the Metro, but to them it’s an opportunity to scramble up to the front seat at the top of the bus, to look at the world from a whole new perspective, sing “The Wheels on the Bus’ whilst actually on a bus (!), to stand facing backwards on the escalators at the train station, shout ‘Bye bye Leeds’ at full volume as the train departs – in short, to act like it’s all a huge fun-filled adventure rather than a tedious grind.

We got a train to Wakefield Kirkgate which is much closer to the Hepworth and as we arrived just before midday, decided to eat first and get creative afterwards.  I hadn’t been organised enough to bring a packed lunch so the cafe at the Hepworth did very nicely out of us.  Am I just living in the past, or is £18 is a bit steep for lunch for 1 adult and 2 kids?  On the plus side,  the cafe did have an unusually good selection of healthy hot and cold choices for kids.

After we’d eaten it was time to get down to some arty business.  The childrens’ activity sessions were taking place in a bright welcoming room just off the main lobby area, and I could tell that 10YO and 3YO were itching to sit down at one of the tables and get stuck in with the scissors and glue sticks.  But first we were issued with a clip board with some pictures of sculptures, and sent off round the gallery to try and find them.  I thought this was a really nice touch, as it helped us – particularly 3YO – engage with the sculpture galleries which we had initially, if I’m honest, found a bit inaccessible.   I’m not a particularly arty person myself.  Literature and theatre are my preferred versions of culture, so I’m slightly out of my comfort zone in art galleries, particularly when looking at abstract modern pieces.  We got quite involved in trying to spot them all, and 3YO was particularly keen to be lifted up to look at some of the larger sculptures in more detail.  Then it was back down to the activity room, and we spent a happy hour or so cutting, hole punching, glue-ing and generally creating.  The objective was to try and use paper in a more 3-D way than usual, using some of the sculptures we’d just seen as an inspiration, rather than creating something flat on a page which is what our craft activities normally tend to be.  There were various options – cutting out paper patterns which could then be folded up and made into models of some of the Hepworth sculptures, or doing your own thing and seeing what you could create by yourself.  Unsurprisingly we went for the latter option, and between us we created (to name a few) a boa constrictor, a kaleidoscope, some multi-coloured glasses, a house and a sort of dream-catcher thing.

3YO getting stuck in at the  Hepworth

3YO getting stuck in at the Hepworth

What I particularly liked was that this felt like much more than the kind of “craft activity” we’d do at home.  There was a real link between what we were doing and the work on display in the gallery.  In the past we’ve had less successful days out at galleries or museums which just haven’t felt very child-friendly due to what 10YO describes as the “Don’t touch that-ness” of these places.  But this felt like a really good way of helping children to acclimatise to being in that kind of space.  The staff running the session were really helpful and friendly and encouraged the children to explore their ideas.   The selection of materials to work with was also quite exciting from the children’s point of view – in addition to the ubiquitous scissors and glue sticks they also got to experiment with hole punchers, staplers, twisting bits of wire to fasten things together and using coloured cellophane to hold up to the windows or in front of a projector shining its light against a wall.  In many ways it felt like an arts and craft activity organised by professionals, and consequently much better than the stuff I cobble together at home with old cereal boxes.  It’s on every day this week until Friday, there are different themed activities on during the rest of the holidays – oh and there’s also a great playground just outside – so if you’re in the area, why not check it out?!


A Shabby Day’s Work indeed

A family member whose political views are several miles to the right of mine recently forwarded me an opinion piece by Max Hastings in the Daily Mail, about the recent Cabinet reshuffle.  If you’re interested, you can read the article in question here.  I read it on my phone before I’d had my first cup of tea of the morning, and fired off a swift and stroppy reply to my relation to the effect that I disagreed with every single word of the article.  He asked for a more considered response, so I’ve given it some thought this evening and here is what I think: Continue reading

The minimum wage for 10 Year Olds?

10YO was on a bit of a chore-doing, money-earning roll yesterday. The school’s summer fair was coming up and she wanted extra cash (probably to buy back all the tat we’d donated to the lucky dip stall). The 50p per week pocket money we sometimes remember to give her clearly wasn’t going to go very far, so she spent 40 minutes watering the plants in the garden and doing some ironing, then commenced negotiations with her employers about a fair rate of pay for her labour.

Husband opened the bidding at 40p for 40 minutes work. Unfortunately she’s sufficiently worldly wise to know that the legal minimum wage is in the region of £6 per hour, so a penny a minute was flatly rejected in the manner of the best trade union leaders. I think I actually heard her say “I know my rights” at one point, before she demanded at least £3 for her efforts.  Husband and I – feeling oddly miscast as the capitalist bosses – countered that the minimum wage was lower for those under 18, and entirely different rates applied for apprentices, who receive additional benefits such as training – and hadn’t we, after all, taught her how to use the iron and water the plants?

I then offered 50p, which was again laughed off the negotiating table.  I was feeling a bit anxious about the effects of escalating pay demands on the overall household economy.  If 3YO sees money being handed over for chores, then there’ll be tantrums if she doesn’t get the same, so I’ll be forced to subsidise an inefficient industry consisting of two low-skilled, unproductive domestic cleaners who make more mess than they clear up, then before I know it there’ll be inflation, a three-day week and I’ll have to go cap in hand to the IMF.  Or something.

Eventually 10YO rather grudgingly accepted a 100% increase of our original offer, plus a 1p good will bonus.  We also agreed that in future if she wants to earn additional pocket money I will pay her £1 for any job from the list of household chores which I ambitiously pinned to the kitchen wall a few weeks ago (then promptly forgot about).  That way I’m incentivising her to do jobs which I would find most helpful.  I handed over 81p feeling that I’d got off lightly, with 10YO promising to do lots more chores, which I’m pretty sure she’s already forgotten about.  But this is another aspect of parenting that’s got me wondering what the general consensus among parents is?  Is pocket money a right, or should it be dependent on chores, and if so, how much is a fair payment?


Today I’ve been watching 3YO go cold turkey. It’s been pretty ugly.

Before you start worrying what Class A drugs I’ve let her dabble with, let me just clarify that her addiction is to something entirely legal and available from numerous reputable organisations – including the BBC. Yes, our perfectly legal fix is kids telly. Not only is it legal, it’s available round the clock on numerous different channels , so it must be totally harmless, right? Personally, as I’ve written about previously, I’m starting to have my doubts.

TV: a legal high?

TV: a legal high?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged between two and six years old watch only one to two hours of “quality media entertainment” a day (So that’s Waybuloo out for starters). I’ve not found any such clear-cut guidance from UK based websites, however this report from the BBC in 2013 suggests that “too much TV does not breed badly behaved children” (But then a broadcaster with two dedicated kids channels running 12 hours a day would say that, wouldn’t they?) (And TV can’t “breed” kids of any behavioural type, surely? We’re talking nurture not nature here I think? Sorry, being pedantic.).

Personally, I’ve always used TV to keep both 3YO and 10YO entertained while I have a shower in the morning, attempt to cook them reasonably healthy meals, and do a bit of tidying and cleaning so that they’re not living in complete squalor.  Unfortunately, the temptation is to use TV so that you can get on with laundry, unpacking the shopping, making a phone-call… before you know it, you’re parking them in front of the telly at any opportunity so you can get on with all the tasks that having kids can distract you from. And then, of course, they’re absorbed in what they’re watching, so the telly stays on…. This is the scenario that has gradually crept up in our house, to the extent that 3YO now largely ignores the wide range of educational and creative toys available in our front room, in favour of lounging in front of the TV. Matters came to a head yesterday when, during an eagerly anticipated visit from a nursery friend, my little addict crept away to put the TV on while her friend was playing in the garden.

So today the TV was turned off (at the plug, which is inaccessible to her) and all requests were firmly resisted. It started well. We got the toy pirates out, and sat down together helping them have sword fights, walk the plank, climb the rigging and then retire to the bed from the doll’s house for a nap. After a sleep, hungry pirates clearly need breakfast, so while I hung out the washing on the line, 3YO retrieved her tea-set from the play house in the back garden and knocked up some plastic food on plastic plates for the pirates.   So far, so creative. And no mention of TV.

After drawing chalk pictures on the back door step, and practising writing her name a few times, it was getting towards lunchtime. Sensing that I might be going to cook, she asked if she could put the TV on. I refused. Offered a choice of alternative activities while I got lunch ready. This led to tears, noisy demands for telly and ultimately a few toys hurled at me.

The ‘naughty step’ has never much worked for 3YO (although it’s scarily impressive watching her trying to smash down the nearest door to escape!) so with a sudden inspiration I told her to go to her room and stay there until she could be calm and quiet and didn’t want to hurt me anymore. She stamped off upstairs and within minutes was back, proudly announcing that she’d dried her eyes with a tissue, and was ready to be calm and quiet. Result! She then proceeded to sit at the table and eat lunch without any of the usual kicking off, and after eating, we went straight into baking jam tarts, which went very smoothly until the tarts went into the oven…

At which point, cue more pleading for TV… normally I would say yes, as it allows me 10 minutes to tidy the kitchen.  It’s not surprising therefore, that being denied TV on this occasion led to more tears and rage. I tried my earlier trick of taking her to her room to calm down…. And when I checked her five minutes later she was fast asleep!

Now, 3YO doesn’t normally have – or need – afternoon sleeps. But this impromptu nap got me thinking: is her habitual request for telly during the day really just a request for some ‘down time’, to have a break from engaging, interacting, learning and doing? Until the point she fell asleep, she and I had been chatting non-stop pretty much all day. Maybe she’d just had enough of me, and needed some time to herself?

We all know it’s mentally draining for parents to spend the whole day just in the company of their child.   But today 3YO has taught me that one-to-one quality time with a parent can also be tiring for little ones! Normally her days are much busier than today, meeting friends, going shopping or to nursery. But I’m wondering how I can best teach her to play by herself for short periods, so that on the occasional days when we’re home alone, she has an alternative to TV when she needs to relax and slow down? And what would be the best thing to encourage her to do? I’d really love to hear other parents’ suggestions on this one!