What?: I always feel a bit weird about going to messy-play sessions that aren’t A Fine Mess, our all-time-favourite messy, arty-play class. We’ve tried other messy-play classes that were perfectly nice but always felt a bit like a poor man’s A Fine Mess. Paint Misbehavin’ sounded different though – like a whole new under-5s messy-play concept that wasn’t just trying to be another, less good A Fine Mess. It was the artist/artistic movement-themed thing that intrigued me the most. We’ve been to a lot of messy-play classes – including art-themed Messy Mondays sessions at the National Gallery – that were loosely themed around the work of a particular artist, but never a regular class like this that focused on a different artist or movement each time. It just felt like a really great way to gently introduce little ones to art whilst engaging art-loving parents and carers who otherwise might find messy play a bit tedious (and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s been there).
Paint Misbehavin’ runs on term-time mornings, which ruled it out for Babu who now does half days at nursery, so it was decided from the start that this would be a Mummy-and-Roro activity. This was just as well really since, despite being originally billed on Hoop as a 0-5s class, it’s most suitable for kids aged from six months up to three (and is now advertised as such). I actually thought that an eight-month-old Roro, as she was when we attended the Yayoi Kusama-themed Halloween special, might be a bit young for this class, but while she did spend most of the session shovelling the edible (and, to be honest, non-edible) things into her mouth and produced some amazing orange poos the next day, I’m pretty sure she got more out of it than a second breakfast of rainbow spaghetti and peas. When we returned the next month for the Bauhaus 100 session she responded even more, which was such a lovely thing to watch – even if she did consume roughly half a tube of acrylic paint during the course of the session.
So what do these classes look like? I’ve read reviews from a very small number of other people saying that they’re underwhelming, and I can kind of see where they’re coming from given that the venue is very ordinary (albeit inside Coram’s Fields, which I have a massive soft spot for) and that the activities are arranged in the middle of the space, on the floor – unlike, for example, A Fine Mess, where massive sheets of paper are attached to the wall to enable a truly immersive experience. BUT, if you can get over the fact that the space isn’t beautiful – which you should – and that it’s most suited to babies and younger toddlers – which is fine, and to be honest I’ve been to enough supposedly “0-5s” sessions that aren’t remotely suitable for babies – then this is a fantastic class that’s always very cleverly conceived and executed, with plenty for both ends of the intended age group, be it sensory trays or more hands-on art activities.
So how does the host know so much about art? Well, lucky for us Christina is a professional art teacher and, not only does she bring her young toddler along to every session, she tests all the activities out on him before each session to make sure they all work. I think to be honest we should all just take a moment to appreciate how lucky we all are to be living in London with our babies at the same time as Christina, because when you think about it it’s pretty rad that Yayoi Kusama and Bauhaus 100-themed messy art classes for babies are a thing we can do. And if this review doesn’t convince you that you should be checking them then maybe the fact that every single class has sold out since it began in September will… because really that’s all you need to know.
Where and When?: Sessions take place on Thursdays once a month (check Hoop for dates) from 10-10.45am in the Guides Hall at Coram’s Fields, a five-minute walk from Russell Square station.
Best Bits: I love how much thought clearly goes into these sessions and tying each activity station in with the theme whilst making it baby-friendly.
Worst Bits: The session is only 45 minutes long, which is probably about right for the target audience but I’m always a bit sad it was over so fast.
Facilities: On-site toilet and baby changing, step-free access, playground outside.
Cost: Tickets cost £8 and £4 for siblings.
Would We Come Back?: We already did and we have more sessions booked.
Roro and Jo get revoltingly messy at the Paint Misbehavin’ Yayoi Kusama Halloween special, Coram’s Fields.