WOW. This afternoon we went to the family friendly opening of their newest exhibition, and interactive hands on selection of giant playground equipment. It's absolutely brilliant, one of the few activities that I think all kids from babies up until teens will enjoy, and it's perfect for a rainy day. Also like all the other exhibitions everything else in the Baltic it is FREE!
Turns out that we were well jammy getting a ticket for the opening event, because not only did we get to see the exhibit first, but the lovely people at the Baltic had even put on a spread for us. Drinks, cakes and fruit platters. Shows that it is worthwhile keeping an eye out on Facebook for event invitations, I'd seen this on on the great Family Explorers Facebook page.
The playground project is based on the fourth floor, as we had the buggy with us we had to get 2 separate lifts to get up there. When we got up, we walked into the massive area where the project is exhibited and we were properly wowed. The pieces that they have in there are huge, the ceilings are so high and it had a really welcoming atmosphere. The baltic staff were around to tell us to get involved, they were encouraging the adults to use the equipment too.
The most noticeable thing in the room is the large orange snake, with cut out holes to get in. It's big enough for adults to get inside, some bits of the inside can be used as a slide, and people were encouraged to walk on the top of it. There really was a great atmosphere of absolutely anything goes, as long as you are having fun. The cynical part of me thinks that that might change as the accident form book starts to fill up, but I hope not. The staff were all very much on brand - use everything as you wish as long as you are having a good time.
Next up was the industrial looking sandpit, with a range of toys in different materials to use in the sand. The walls of the pit were high enough to sit on comfortably when supervising the little ones, and they had even added some gridded flooring to help get rid of the pesky sand when getting out of it.
We enjoyed making full use of the rope swings and netted platforms (not included are the 15 or so pictures of me struggling to get up - akin to a tortoise stuck on its back.)
As well as the big bits of equipment to play on here were other areas to get involved. There was a craft area where you could add pieces you'd made to a colourful structure, coloured pens attached to compasses on a giant whiteboard to make geometric prints, musical instruments made from industrial pieces such as gas canister drum or violin type sounds which came from a wire and woodwork vice contraption, and large blocks which you could fit together to make chairs, tables or whatever took your fancy.
After giving up on getting the perfect instagram shot by throwing the masses of confetti which was scattered around the place, over the baby we went over to check out the food. We couldn't believe our luck, anyone who knows me knows that I have a massive sweet tooth and I also love a bargain, so I was loving that we got some free cake. All of the cakes were lush, I wanted to eat them all but did manage to practice some restraint. Restraint is not a skill which the toddler has mastered as of yet, and he probably spent half of the time we were at the event loading chunky handfuls of grapes into his mouth. I dread to think about the state of his nappies tomorrow. Important to note here the food was only for the opening event, you'll have to buy your own cake/handful of grapes if you want them, but there is a very nice cafe in the Baltic.
After eating our weight in fruit and cake we explored some of the other bits of the exhibition. It wouldn't be a Sprog on the Tyne blog post without a picture of a toddler scarpering, and there were plenty of places he could stretch his legs here, they had built a little corridor using plywood within the main space, I think there might have been something cultural lining these walls, but I didn't catch much of it as it was a blur as I gave chase to Sebastian. There was a dark chill out room which was playing a video of park type scenes, and along the walls there was information about the artists, why the exhibition was in place and their inspiration.
Regular readers you'll be happy to know the toilet photos are back. We did use the toilets on the fourth floor where the exhibition was being held, but they didn't have baby change on that floor, and the nearest was on the second floor. On our way out we stopped to check them out (They were good, big enough to fit in a buggy whilst you go to the toilet and a really big changing area), and thought as we were there we might as well have a couple of minutes in the Quay. The Quay is available whenever the Baltic is open and is a great space for kids. It's got a boat for them to play in, toys, a craft area, books and places to build. On a weekend they'll often have themed craft running, and we have called in a few times on a Sunday after having a walk and a bite to eat in the Quayside market.
On our way out we had a look at the new wallpaper in the Baltic shop where you can colour in an area, and then had quick play on the outside piece which I'm guessing is part of the playground project - some huge trees which have stairs and foot places carved into them. It was a nice end to a really amazing afternoon.
I absolutely loved the exhibition. It was completely different to anything I've been to before, the staff were so engaging and we felt totally comfortable there. I would completely recommend it to everyone really with any aged children or even without to go and see it and explore the pieces. It's a perfect idea for if it is raining and you're hoping to tire out the kids. It's open every day, and is running until the end of October 2016. Brilliant, I'm sure it'll get busy as I can see it being really popular but I'm sure if that is the case they will have some system for keeping the numbers actually in the exhibition down to a safe level.
Opening Times - 10:00 - 18:00 each day apart from Tuesday when it opens at 10:30
Cost: FREE - although there were some boxes stating a suggested donation of £3 would be appreciated.