What?: Art and yoga classes are two of my favourite things to do with Babu, so I was willing to overlook Artplay’s – I thought – slightly exorbitant £30-per-child ticket price if it meant getting to do two activities in one session (overlook is actually a total lie – I asked for, and got, a 50% discount because I just couldn’t justify paying that much money for a messy-play class).
We arrived late and in a mard. Babu hadn’t slept brilliantly and so neither had I. It was 10am on a Sunday and I’d stupidly assumed that the ticket price included coffee, which it didn’t (I later reread the email they’d sent me and realised that food and drink was provided by a pop-up bakery and thus was absolutely not free) and I hadn’t brought cash, so I definitely wasn’t getting any caffeine for the next two and a half hours.
The younger ones’ yoga session was beginning just as we arrived. Babu had only just turned two at the time and was under the 2.5 age limit but I’d asked if she could join in anyway for the sake of reviewing it – and also because I thought £30 just for the messy-play session was insane.
The exercise session (it’s zumba next time which sounds kind of fun) takes place in a separate room to all the messy-play action. I thought ours was cute with its aquatic theme, and I liked how the instructor chatted to the kids about their favourite sea creatures. It did feel a bit old for Babu when compared with our regular toddler yoga class with its balance-trail building, pose-incorporating songs and baby snack time while the mummies meditate, but in fairness it was meant for kids over 2.5 and not aimed specifically at toddlers so I can’t reeeally compare it with our regular class.
One thing that I felt was a bit weird for a messy-play and yoga class was that almost all of the other parents were wearing nice, actual-clothes clothes and didn’t join in with the exercises – in fact one mum had just dropped off her kid and left the room altogether. Meanwhile there was me in my crappy leggings (which I’d teamed with my super-cool Romeo & Juliet T-shirt and definitely didn’t look like a dick) because I’d assumed I was going to be getting messy and doing some stretching.
And we did get messy. So ridiculously messy – which would have been fine had we not been repeatedly told off for getting paint on the floor. The studio is on Berkeley Square and is proper jazzy, which is very lovely and everything (and probably explains the £30 ticket price since it’s run by volunteers) but I did find it a slightly odd venue choice for a kids’ messy play class, particularly since I heard someone say the landlords get weird about them leaving mess.
The messy-play bit was great. I will say that I’ve been to a lot of other great messy-play sessions that cost a fifth of the price of Artplay, but it was good, and very messy. I loved the giant paint wall, and the junkyard area filled with empty packaging waiting to be turned into something weird and wonderful. There were boxes stuffed with interesting bits and bobs to stick to stuff, trays covered in shaving foam ready to be rollered onto sugar paper, the walls or your face, and really the only way you’re ever going to get any use out of broccoli where kids are concerned – the ever-popular vegetable-printing corner. Babu loved it all and I got some deeply judgy looks on the tube on the way home from people who obviously thought I don’t clean my child, which is always the mark of a successful messy-play session.
Where and When?: Times and locations vary. Our workshop took place in Mayfair on a Sunday morning and lasted three hours.
Best Bits: I do really love this concept and the idea of there being no right or wrong answers. I thought the studio was beautiful and there were loads and loads of volunteers on hand to help the kids. Babu had so much fun flicking paint at everything and I think this would be amazing if it was a bit more affordable, particularly if the additional activity and the art stations were different every time.
Worst Bits: I still think £30 is a lot of money for messy play and it wouldn’t cost much to provide free coffee so that parents who’ve forgotten to take cash out don’t lose the will to live halfway through.
Facilities: Baby change, step-free access, buggy parking.
Cost: Our workshop cost £30 (although I asked for and was given a 50% discount), but Artplay has now adjusted prices to £20 for ages 2.5 and under.
Would We Come Back?: If they lowered the ticket price to £15 for everyone and babies were included in the exercise class then yes. Currently, probably not.
Bab decorates the walls at Artplay, Mayfair.