I've been meaning to try out The Laing Art Gallery's under 5 area and their weekly Tuesday group for a while. A friend of mine had mentioned that the kids room was a nice space, and I'd seen the brief info about the Little Artist class on the gallery's webpage. The class starts at 10:30 which always seems a bit early to get me, the two year old and the baby up, breakfasted, dressed and into Newcastle for. But the today the stars aligned (read the baby decided to wake us all up earlier than normal) so we headed in to check it out.
Getting There and Parking: The Laing Art gallery is in the centre of Newcastle. We parked in Oxford Street car park, where it's pretty cheap and there are usually spaces available. Although like all Newcastle City Council multi-story car parks the spaces are so close together, which can sometimes be a nightmare when you are trying to haul a child out of either side of the car. Parking was £1.30 for the hour, and its only a 2 minute walk to the gallery. I forgot to take photos of the gallery (I know, I know, I'm really good at this blogging lark) as we were of course running slightly late as I'd subconsciously jeopardised us actually leaving the house on time by taking the wrong exit on the way into Newcastle. The Laing is pretty easy to spot though. You pay for the group at the main reception desk. It's £2.50 for the first child, and £1 for any others. The kind person on reception didn't charge me for the baby, but I think that's pretty fair as the class is more suited towards older toddlers and pre-schoolers I think. My toddler's hand was stamped to show that we'd paid, and then we headed to the under 5 area of the museum.
Under 5 Museum Area: The under 5s area is split into 3 areas. To the left is the play space which had a child's height desk along one side with various things for kids to look at, touch and play with, there were books to look at and also sofas to sit on which I thought was a nice touch, as often in these places there isn't really anywhere you can sit and have a rest for 5 minutes. The area on the right was in a classroom set up which was where the Little Artist group was being held, and at the back there was a reading room with a huge forest mural on the wall and a few dressing up outfits and a massive mirror to check how you looked in them. The reading room connected the play-space and classroom areas. The play-space was accessed by a waist height door, which had a little lock on it, which was another feature I thought was a nice touch, as it means you can lock the door once you're in and the 'little darlings' can't escape out of your sight.
The Class: The website states each class, "include exploring the galleries, movement activities, an art/craft activity and a snack and story." Due to aforementioned wrong turning we'd arrived 10 minutes late and therefore missed the song at the start, and when we arrived the room was empty whilst the group were looking around the museum to find flowers in the exhibition pieces. It's a shame we missed this bit, as I think my toddler would have loved it. His favourite thing is running away from me (which he is annoyingly good at) and enjoys it all the more when we are in public and there are lots of people and equipment to hide behind. We used the few minutes we had to ourselves to have a look around the pre-school area.
When the group came we started with the craft activity. As well as me, my toddler and baby, there were 3 other children in the group. Tina the person leading the group told me that the numbers vary, but that because it was the first week back after half term, and due to the hot weather it was a smaller group than normal. I think my toddler was the youngest participating, and the other kids were probably between 2-4. We put on our aprons and were given some black paper, paints, and some corks to make a flower painting. Thankfully the baby was in a good mood, and was happy to sit in her pushchair whilst I could help my toddler to get properly messy. I was offered a high chair, which she is a bit too small for at the moment, but useful to know she can be involved a bit more when she gets bigger. It was really good fun to do the painting with my toddler, as it's something I don't do enough really. We have loads of pictures on our fridge from when he was at nursery, but since I've been on maternity and its my kitchen that will get wrecked and me who has to clean it up afterwards he hasn't been given much change to explore his creative side with crafts.
After using about 20 of the supplied wet wipes to wash down my toddler's hands and face, we moved over to one of the other table and chairs for a drink and a biscuit. After snack time we moved into the reading room and Tina read 'We're all going on a Bear Hunt' which all of the kids seemed to enjoy.
When can I go? The group is on every Tuesday during term time. Check the Laing's website to confirm the dates here - https://laingartgallery.org.uk/whats-on/little-artists
Food: We didn't use the cafe but it is right beside the pre-school area. It was much bigger than I was expecting and had high chairs available.
Cost: Free to use the under 5 area. £2.50 for the Little Artist group, £1 for siblings
Would I recommend it? Yes definitely. It is comparable in price with a baby and toddler group, and the elements of exploring the museum and the led activity made it something a bit different to the usual groups we go to. I think it's good value, especially if you are paying for more than one child. I'll go back to the group again, and I think i'll also pop into the under 5 area if i'm in Newcastle and looking for something to do or somewhere to meet friends where my toddler can play safely in an enclosed area whilst I can catch up with my friends on the sofas. I would like to go back and see the Alice in Wonderland exhibition too, which I've heard does have some small areas that little ones can play in. As it was £7 entry though, I thought I'd leave it to another day when I had more time.
Address - New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8AG
Telephone: (0191) 278 1611
Monday Closed (excl Bank Holidays)
Tuesday 10am - 5pm
Wednesday 10am - 5pm
Thursday 10am - 5pm
Friday 10am - 5pm
Saturday 10am - 5pm
Sunday 2pm - 5pm
Have you been to this either the Under 5s area of the Laing or to the Little Artist Group? What did you think? Leave us a comment to let us know.