Dráiocht is an arts centre Blanchardstown, Dublin with a programme of music, comedy, theatre and family events. The centre has a particularly strong youth arts programme including regular, affordable early years workshops. The Toddler Takeover is an annual event in which the whole of the centre is dedicated to creative activities for ages 1-4.
Cardboard den of dreams!
I was really taken by the early years workshops on offer at Dráoicht but unfortunately for me are scheduled on a working day. When I spotted the Toddler Takeover it just seemed to good to miss and as it was a whole day event and not just a short workshop it seemed justified to book a day off work so Pea and I could enjoy this.
There are optional workshops that could be pre-booked for a small fee. We could choose between Shadow Makers or Drawing with Ribbon. I decided to only book Shadow Makers so that we would have time to enjoy the ‘Roam free’ areas too. Blanchardstown is quite out of the way for us, and getting there necessitated two buses. It took a lot longer than I expected, and Pea skipped his usual naptime, preferring instead to finally succumb to sleep a mere 5 minutes before we arrived at the theatre. I did a little recce of the downstairs area before getting lunch in the cafe and then did the unthinkable – I woke the sleeping child. He took it well enough, and we went upstairs for Shadow Makers with time to spare.
Workshops were advertised as being suitable for 18 months upwards – Pea was a week shy of 18 months at the time and the content was a little too advanced for him. The idea of the workshop was to use a selection of craft materials to create ‘magical beasts and captivating creatures’ which would then be used to make shadow play. We weren’t really given any instruction or much assistance as to what to make and it felt a bit rushed as the whole workshop was only 30 minutes. I did my best to assemble something vaguely suitable while trying to prevent Pea from stabbing himself or another child with scissors. Once we were finished with our creations, we were invited to join everyone else to make a shadow show. This part was lovely and much more relaxed. And then it was all over, and we went off to explore everything else.
Pea strutting in the main auditorium at Dráoicht
There was so much to explore! The first-floor lobby had a train set and a cardboard train that the kids could crawl inside. In one part of the lobby, there was just a collection of white cardboard boxes of varying shapes and sizes – Pea busied himself picking these up and ferrying them to other parts of the room then back again. It never ceases to amaze me how much joy he can get from something so simple. When he tired of this, we went downstairs to check out the bits we’d missed.
The main auditorium was amazing! Bathed in beautiful, calming pinkish light and with a selection of cardboard dens dotted around the room. The dens were large enough for both Pea and I to fit inside and there were even cushions in there! A live band were playing and the whole thing was just lush and lovely. Throughout the room, there were arts and crafts items and opportunities to paint, draw or make. I loved it in here, and could have stayed all day. In fact I could have probably fallen asleep inside one of the dens, so lovely and chilled out was the whole vibe!
I dragged us away to check out one final room before we had to go. A bright, light-filled room on the ground floor with an exhibition of pencil drawings on the wall. Taped to the floor were large cutouts of the shapes in the drawings – a bed, a dress etc – and crayons, charcoal, chalk and coloured acetate paper next to each one. Children could fill in the cutouts with any combination of materials, which I thought was a genius idea. There were more cardboard structures in the centre of the room, and these had been decorated by drawings and scribblings of previous children.
Pea tries his hand at some colouring in
In the main foyer I noticed that the benches had blacks taped along the bottom creating a kind of curtain effect. We looked under the curtains – there was a set of wooden stacking blocks set up under there!
We had a really gorgeous day here. I was so impressed by the creativity and attention to detail on display – the various cardboard structures from the train to the dens were wonderful and I loved that the appeared designed to invite the kids to draw and doodle on them. It’s such a shame that Dráiocht is so out of the way for us as I’d love to take Pea some more of their events but we’ll make the effort to go to the Toddler Takeover each year until he outgrows it.
Dráoicht, The Blanchardstown Centre, Dublin 15. Toddler Takeover is an annual event and is free, but workshops attract a small fee (5EUR in 2018). Throughout the year, early years arts workshops are available. Baby changing facilities available, step-free access and a cafe on the premises.