Arts and crafts are among the things that in theory, should be brilliant to do with children but, in practice, are often more trouble than they’re worth. (See also sand play, baking and pond-dipping).
Every birthday and Christmas, well-meaning friends and family buy my little boy “fun” things such as paints, pipe cleaners, PVA glue, feathers, sticky-on googly eyes and the like. The idea being, of course, that we will sit down together like the perfect family and create lovingly-crafted works of art which will then be displayed for all to admire.
In reality, of course, before you’ve as much as got the paints out of the box, you need to Prep the Area. And unless you have a room in the house that contains nothing of any worth and is made up solely of wipe-clean surfaces, that involves covering furniture, floors, carpets and anything remotely valuable in plastic sheeting.
Then, you need to Prep the Child. This involves grabbing said child and wriggling them into a huge plastic apron. Well, either that or just accepting that their clothes will be dyed forever.
Next it’s time to get the paints out. It hardly matters what colour they are to start with, as within approximately 30 seconds every paint will be the same shade of muddy brown, due to overexcited and ferocious mixing.
After all that, the child will splatter paint on the paper for oh, another 30 seconds, and then declare they want to do something else. At which point it’s time to reverse the whole bib/sheeting nonsense and find somewhere to dry the muddy brown picture, before switching CBeebies on in defeat.
If you are daft enough to be attempting the above with more than one child, of course, the whole sorry affair will be punctuated with efforts to stop the baby wrapping themselves in the plastic sheet or eating the art materials while their older brother or sister paints. These will of course fail, and the baby will inevitably end up with glue or similar in their hair.
This is why events such as this weekend’s Art in the Gardens are so perfect.
With a children’s art activity village specifically devoted to letting children try out all things crafty – and with experts on hand to show them how – I can enable my children to have fun learning experiences in a safe place, where it doesn’t matter if they cover themselves and each other in paint and glue.
And once they’re covered in paint and glue, the children can enjoy the live entertainment and take part in various games and activities – all while I sample the coffee and cakes on offer. Bliss.
Art in the Gardens runs from 10.30am until 5.30pm at the Botanical Gardens in Clarkehouse Road on Saturday and Sunday.
There is a children’s village on the lower lawns and accompanied under 16s go free.