Get Creative at Home with Irish Museums and Galleries

Get Creative at Home with Irish Museums and Galleries

Here in Dubin we are now almost seven weeks into Covid-19 preventative lockdown measures. As I write, the situation here is beginning to look more positive with some restrictive measures recently eased and a phased road map for a return to normality. However, schools won’t reopen until September and creche’s and childcare for pre-schoolers won’t reopen for non-essential workers until July at the earliest. The likleyhood is that Pea won’t return to any formal childcare until September at least and the lack of routine has been detrimental to both of us. This week I’ve made a concerted effort to work with him in a more structured way. I’ve found some incredibly useful resources from Irish museums, galleries, libraries and other cultural institutions so here is a round up of some of my favourite finds.

Access Cinema

National organisation promoting independent and world cinema.

Shorts & Resources for Little Film Fans is a weekly selection of short films suitable for ages 3-8.

The Ark – The Ark @Home

Dublin’s cultural hub for children.

Catch online streams of previously recorded events, concerts and performances and a virtual installation of Love Song, in which children were asked to record and submit their own love songs. Activity sheets and resource packs for school-aged children can also be downloaded.

Branar Téatar do Pháistí

Theatre company producing work for children.

Pop up Poetry for Lil Peeps will be available online from 13th June for Criunniú na nÓg, the national day for children’s creativity. Expect new poems and rhymes in Irish and English aimed at children aged up to 6.

Until then, follow Branar on Facebook for updates or try your hand at this super cute ‘Make your own pet’ crafting project.

Chester BeattyExplore Online

Library holding manuscripts and rare books from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

There’s a wealth of content here with guided online tours of special exhibitions, 3D Virtual tours of the permanent collection, downloadable colouring and activity packs, and online how-to videos and workshops including how to make shakshuka, create an illuminated portrait or draw a mythical creature. You can even download a virtual meeting background, to liven up dull Zoom meetings.

Children’s Books Ireland

The national organisation for children’s books.

If you weren’t lucky enough to get a hard copy of ImagineNation, the workbook from An Post and CBI, you can download it here for printing at home. You can also find reading lists themed by subject such as diversity and emotional well being and other resource packs on the CBI website. I recommend following CBI on Facebook – in celebration of the Children’s Books Ireland Awards, one shortlisted title will be featured each day on the Facebook page. Expect readings from the books, writing tips, creative exercises.

Civic Theatre

South Dublin venue for music, dance, comedy and opera.

Bingo Wings’ classes online, free, from Monday 11th. There are 3 classes to choose from – Creating From Home for 13-18 year olds, Mondays 6-7pm; Dance Like Nobody’s Watching for over 55’s, Wednesdays 3-4pm and We Love to Boogie, for all the family, Thursdays 2-3pm.

Crawford Art Gallery

Cory city public art gallery and museum.

The Crawford’s website is brimful of creative inspiration but you do have to dig around a bit for content. The Talking Pictures series features a “creative prompt for happy talk and play” every Wednesday. The Homelife Sunday series includes weekly creative exercises such as making a vegetable mandala and hatching a cosmic egg. In the blog section, the 8 part Sculpture Secrets series includes a fun activity sheet for kids. Twitter seems best for keeping up to date with all of the gallery’s activities during this time.

Draoicht – #CreateAtHome

Multi-purpose arts and entertainment centre with an excellent programme of child and youth arts.

Weekly artistic prompts from #CreateAtHome. Topics have included making animal masks, papier mache book covers, building a Lego cat world and printing with recyclables.

EPIC The Irish Emmigration Museum

Interactive museum focused on the stories of the millions of Irish emmigrants and their contributions to the world.

Be a part of the museum’s next exhibition by sharing your story of Covid-19 online; download the free History-at-Home Explorers pack, add your ancestor’s name to the Emigrant Wall for The Power of a Name exhibition or simply take a VR tour of the museum.

Highlanes Gallery

Drogheda’s municipal gallery.

The gallery is offering weekly artist-led creative workshops. Sign up to the newsletter to gain access and watch past programme sessions online.

IMMA – IMMA Online

Contemporary art museum based in historic Dublin grounds. Explore the gallery collection online, watch exhibition videos and take part in the weekly Explorer at Home creative projects for children and their adults.

Libraries Ireland – Spring into Storytime

The national network of libraries.

Hundreds of videos of authors and library staff reading children’s stories and leading workshops can be found here. You can use the filters to search by age group and type (e.g. workshop, author reading etc). For live readings, follow your local library on social media. It is now possible to join your library online which gives access to the Tumble books library for young children, educational resources for all and Borrowbox for audio and ebooks. Some local libraries are also organising book drops for vulnerable members of the community.

Marsh’s Library

Library of the late Renaisance and Early Enlightenment.

Complete jigsaws online, learn to make folded paper art, download colouring in sheets or complete the mini Lego figure hunt.

The Model – Inside Out Online Programme

Contemporary arts centre in Sligo town.

Inside Out Online includes two separate creative programmes – one for adults and one for children and families. The children’s programme consists of a series of creative activities and there’s a nice mix to cater for all ages and abilities. Simple activities have include colouring downloads and more more advanced activities include making a Cubist collage and making fabric art.

MoLi

Irelands new museum of literature.

Novel Teens mini-masterclasses for teenage creative writers. For younger children aged 9+ join author Sarah Webb for Bright Sparks creative bursts. With some help these could be adapted for younger children.

ReCreate

Social enterprise championing creative reuse of unwanted items.

Creative Corner is a series of creative workshops with projects such as wearable art, 3-D creatures and a stringed instrument. You can also share your creations to become part of the digital exhibition. Finally, I recommend this blog post about balancing working from home and creating with childcare.

Rediscovery Centre

The National Centre for Circular Economy.

The Rediscover @Home series is a selection of video tutorials, tips and tours. The Children’s Education and Junior Science series includes videos has included engineering bridges, wildlife gardening and textile collage.

Regional Cultural Centre Letterkenny

Multi-disciplinary arts centre in the North West.

The RCC has responded to the Covid-19 challenge in a truly creative and innovative way with a Virtual Artist-in-Residence scheme, a community photographic diary, a curated community mixtape, the Minecraft art exhibition and creative challenges for both children and adults (in association with Glebe House and Gallery. Home is Where the Art Is, the programme for children, features a daily creative challenge. Past challenges have included shadow drawing, designing a treehouse and recreating a famous painting. Responses to the challenge can be shared on the Facebook group RCC Kids and I highly recommend joining for a healthy dose of inspiration, fun and positivity.

Cruinniu na nOg

Cruinniu na nOg

Crúinniú na nÓg is Ireland’s national day of creativity for children and young people. All across the country children and young people from 0 to 18 will have the opportunity to take part in a dazzling variety of free creative events from stop-motion animation to family friendly raves. The first Crúinniú took place in June 2018 and returns this year on Saturday 15th June.

Last year we made a family day of it with a family friendly guided tour of Dublin Castle and a concert and music workshops at the National Concert Hall. A full list of events can be found on the Crúinniú na nÓg website and can be searched by location and filtered by age range and event type. All events are free of charge but some must be booked in advance.

Below is our pick of the most exciting events taking place in Dublin and suitable for under 5’s. I haven’t included any events that are fully booked at the time of writing and this is not intended as an exhaustive guide but rather a means to get a flavour of just some of the fun to be had.

Put Yourself in the Picture @ The Coach House, Dublin Castle 10.00 – 17.00

Portrait exhibition featuring over 100 drawings from some of Ireland’s best known artists placing children at the centre of art-making.

All ages

Sculptunes @ National Concert Hall 10.00 – 12.30

A series of interactive musical installations designed for early years children. The pieces invite both child and adult to push, pump, and play as they explore how to create sounds. 

Ages 0 – 5

Sensory Storytelling @ Swords Castle 10.30 – 15.30

Join storyteller and theatre maker Cliodhna Noonan for an abstract storytelling performance based on the legend of the Ursitoarea fairy from Romania.

All ages

Play Today Workshops @ Axis Ballymun 11.00 – 11.45 & 12.00 – 12.45

Imaginative play workshops for early years children and their parents, involving stories, singing and puppets.

Ages 3-6 . Booking required.

Silk Worm for Families – Elephant’s Sanctuary @ Chester Beatty Library 12.30 – 13.30 & 14.00 – 15.00

Celebrate the current exhibition Thai Buddist Tales: Stories Along the Path to Enlightenment by making a large collaborative mosaic featuring elephants.

All ages

Irish National Youth Ballet Company @ Dance Ireland 12.00 – 13.00

Dancers from the Irish National Youth Ballet will perform extracts from their show Snow White. Afterwards, children are invited to stay, play and meet the dancers.

Ages 3+

ReCreate Family Fun Day @ Corkagh Park 12.00 – 17.00

The ReCreate team will bring an array of creative activities to Corkagh Park. Be curious and inventive together with materials such as wool, plastics, fabric, and foil.

All ages

Owls Creative Play @ Fernhill Park and Gardens 12.15 – 16.00

A series of events from owls nature club including insect hunts and art making using natural materials.

All ages

Tiny Dancer @ Dubh Linn Gardens, Dublin Castle 14.00 – 15.00

A dance set for children and their families from DJ Donal Dineen.

Ages 0 – 8

Imaginosity

Imaginosity

Imaginosity is Ireland’s only interactive museum for children under 9 years of age. It’s really more of a large play centre than a museum, with an emphasis on imaginative role play and a daily schedule of activities such as parachute play, story time and crafts.

Our visit

So this is another place that’s been on my radar since we moved to Dublin but just didn’t get to until earlier this year. There are a few reasons for this. The location is fairly out of the way for us and booking ahead is strongly advised as at busy times visitors may be turned away. I’m generally wary of pre-booking things that are a trek to reach because that is just an open invitation for a toddler to do their worst as you try to wrangle them out of the house on time. In the end, I opted just to book online on the day of our visit so I could be sure we didn’t make a wasted trip.

The website states that during busy periods (weekends, Bank Holidays etc) timed entry is in operation. We visited on a Friday in January but the online booking is biased towards the busy period as it forces users to select entry in two-hour intervals. So I could book 11.30am – 1.30pm or 1.30 – 3.30pm rather than choosing a two-hour spot commencing at the time of my own choosing. I was stressing about arriving on time for our slot, worrying that if we arrived late we’d either be refused entry or just lose out on time. We did arrive 15 minutes late and it was no problem and we weren’t under any pressure to leave after two hours. Maybe I’m being picky here but I wish that the online booking was sophisticated enough to service peak and off-peak bookings. I should note that telephone booking is also available so perhaps that is more flexible.

Okay, rant about the booking process over. What’s actually inside? Three floors of interactive, educational exhibits, that’s what. Level 1 is themed around a typical town centre with child-sized library, market, bank, diner, surgery and garage. Level 2 has a puppet room, theatre, art studio, construction site and dolls house. Level 3 is mostly the roof garden which was closed when we visited in January. Connecting all floors is The Climber, a formidable looking structure aimed at children aged 3 and up – and therefore desperately alluring to daredevil under 3’s like Pea.

Bumblebee in The Garage

The garage was hugely popular with all the kids. In particular, the life-size stationary yellow car (I’m pretty sure it’s actually Bumblebee in fact). This was a bit unfortunate for us, as Pea loves vehicles of all persuasions with a passion bordering on violent. He wanted to get in the car but another kid was already there so we immediately had a meltdown situation. I distracted him with a collection of toy cars and a ramp nearby. This worked for all of about 2 minutes when another child had the cheek to approach the ramp and play with one of the many cars. Pea screamed at her, she burst into tears and was swiftly extracted by her guardian. I scolded Pea possibly a bit too sharply and earned myself a concerned look from a member of staff. Not a good start.

With a bit of coaxing, Pea let himself be drawn away from the cars to explore the rest of the tiny town. We had some success pushing mini shopping trolleys around in the supermarket and eating plastic cakes in the diner. The only thing that really came close to entertaining him as much as the garage was the Town Table, because there were trains. Apparently Level 1 also has a butchers and a water play area which we didn’t see.

We found Level 2 considerably quieter and calmer but the exhibits on this level didn’t have the same appeal for Pea as Level 1. He did rather enjoy the construction zone and some of the sensory pieces but he kept gravitating back towards Level 1. It’s hard to compete with Bumblebee. When he started begging for snacks we retreated to the cafe. Level 1 is visible and accessible from the cafe, and just after our order arrived Pea legged it back to Bumblebee, so that was that. After a bit more playing around in the garage zone, we called it a day and schlepped home.

The Construction Zone on Level 1

All of this is sounding very negative but I can’t really fault anything about the exhibits at Imaginosity or the staff, who were generally lovely. It’s just unfortunate that I have a kid who loses his shit over planes, trains and automobiles. We’ll definitely make a return visit once the outdoor play areas have reopened. Now that I know the set up I’ll have a better idea of how to manage Pea’s triggers and won’t stress out about the time slots.

Essential info

Imaginosity is at The Plaza, Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford. Open daily, see website for full opening hours. Admission is €8 adults and children over 3, €6 for toddlers. Facilities include cafe, gift shop, baby changing and lift access and buggy parking. Buggies cannot be taken into the play areas but baby carriers can be borrowed at reception.

LEA & PEA’S DUBLIN EVENT GUIDE – MARCH

LEA & PEA’S DUBLIN EVENT GUIDE – MARCH

Mum Tribe Ireland

Welcome to Lee and Pea’s pick of the best things to do in Dublin with kids this March. It’s a bumper selection this month as the city (literally) goes green for the five-day St. Patrick’s Day Festival. From 2nd to 3rd of the month, immerse yourself and your little people in a multilingual experience courtesy of the Mother Tongues Festival. Close out the month by heading to the coast for the Mountains to Sea Book Festival. Space doesn’t permit us to include all of the fabulous family friendly events from these festivals. We’ve selected some of our favourites here but be sure to check out the full programme for both festivals so as not to miss out.

1st & 2nd, times vary:  Seedlings Early Years Workshop – The Last Straw! @ The Ark

Draw and create shapes with hundreds of paper straws and contribute to a sculpture that…

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The Ark

The Ark

The Ark is a purpose-built cultural centre for children based in the city’s creative quarter, Temple Bar. Expect a busy schedule of theatre, music, exhibitions and workshop catering for ages 2 to 14. 

Our visit

The Ark has been high on my hitlist of toddler friendly things to do in Dublin since we arrived here in late March. As the events are aimed at children aged two and above, I’ve had to hold off until Pea came of age. I couldn’t quite wait until his second birthday though, I just don’t have that kind of willpower. When I started writing this post, it was going to just be about our experience of Grass, a dance production back in September. But I’ve been so behind with my blogging that we’ve been again since, so I’m going to write about our second visit too. Kind of a Buy One, Get One Free type of deal. 

Grass, 27th September

I took a chance and booked this for a then almost 22-month-old Pea in disregard of the age guidance. I don’t make a habit of ignoring age guidance for this type of thing but there’s a dearth of these opportunities in Dublin and I’ve taken Pea to enough shows for young children now to know that he can stay focused in the right conditions. 

Grass features dancing, puppetry and projections in a performance that explores the ground beneath our feet and the creatures that inhabit it. I thought Grass was a beautifully conceived an executed show. Like the best performances for young children, the concept is a simple one with a little bit of educational content (interesting facts about various insects) a playful approach and a lot of surreal fun – the ant dance-off being the highlight for both me and Pea. 

What didn’t really work for us was the seating. We were seated on the floor right in front of the stage. Cute little fake grass mats were provided which I thought might keep Pea distracted. Wrong. What caught his interest was a ceramic plant pot. It looked like just part of the set but in fact was just a clever way of concealing some of the lighting. We were warned not to touch it as it would get hot. So, that was the one and only thing that Pea wanted to get his hands on. I kept trying to prise him away from it and trying to distract him with other things but he just kept going back, as did several of the other children.

So that was annoying for him and stressful for me. He did eventually settle down and were able to enjoy the rest of the show. I don’t mention this to sound nitpicky – I’m not a theatre professional and don’t pretend to understand the challenges of staging any kind of production, let alone one for such a niche audience. I just think it’s interesting that a neat solution to a staging issue had the potential to derail the performance simply due to the tendencies of the target audience. Since we attended Grass Pea has reached the recommended age threshold and I can confidently say that he’s no more capable now of not touching something he wants to touch than he was two months ago. 

Seedlings Early Years Workshop – Slime Symposium, 30th November

Seedlings Early Years Workshops are hands-on, creative workshops for children aged 2-4 and are held monthly at The Ark. When I went to book this a few weeks in advance I discovered it was sold out. I added my name to the waiting list not really expecting anything to come of it. When I didn’t hear anything by the day before, I assumed that was it and made other plans to for my day with Pea.

As it turned out, Pea had a rough night with teething and barely slept. So I barely slept, and then we both did sleep, late into the morning and we missed our window for my planned activity for the day. I couldn’t fire up my burned out brain to devise an alternative plan so resigned myself to
the day becoming a write-off. Then we got a call from The Ark advising that a spot had become available for the 2pm workshop and did we want it? Hell yes, we did. 

The Seedlings workshops are designed and delivered by Artist in Residence Lucy Hill and take a different format each month. The ‘slime symposium’ promised messy play and our own slime to take home. Nice. Lucy started things off by introducing the children to two crates one filled with ‘mud’ (If I recall correctly it was actually chia seeds but looked very convincing) and one filled with seaweed. Pea ignored the mud but happily got into the seaweed, running it through his hands and studying it closely.

After the seaweed fondling, the kids donned cute little smocks and were set to work at their slime making stations. The slime actually was cornflower more chia seeds and food colouring, with various accessories to embellish it with. We had googly eyes and purple glitter, neither of which Pea was all that interested in. He mostly just wanted to stir the slime ingredients around in the bowl and that was fine. Lucy and her team of assistants made the effort to engage with us and demonstrate the wonders of slime but did so in a relaxed, unobtrusive way. The consistency of the slime, by the way, was more doughy and sticky than slimy but it looked pretty and it felt great so no complaints here. 

As well as the slime making, there was a lightbox covered with dyed tapioca balls (the ‘bubbles’ in bubble tea) on top of it that Pea loved playing with. They are satisfyingly squishy to flatten underneath the palm of your hand. Around 10 minutes before the end of the session Pea abandoned messy play altogether in favour of barrelling around the studio. No one said a word or made us feel awkward, which isn’t always the case with similar activities we’ve participated in. 

Essential info

The Ark is at 11a Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. Tickets for Grass costs EUR 12.50 each. Tickets for Seedlings cost EUR 11.50 per child/adult pair. The Ark building has step free access, accessible toilet and baby change facility. No cafe on site, but there are numerous options around Temple Bar and Dame Street.

 

EPIC the Irish Immigration Museum

EPIC the Irish Immigration Museum

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EPIC the Irish Immigration Museum tells the stories of the 10 million people who left Ireland.

Our visit

EPIC is one of Dublin’s newest museums, opened in 2016 in the historic CHG building. With it’s modern facilities and highly interactive displays the museum is very appealing to families with young children. As a recent returning immigrant I was interested in reflecting on the experiences of Irish immigrants and their contribution to the countries they settled in. When Pea’s Dad had a job interview nearby, we decided to make a day of it.

For the first hour or so it was just me and Pea, while Pea’s Dad went to his interview. We asked about parking the Pea mobile when we booked tickets and were advised to fold it up and put it in one of the lockers. I don’t think any of us expected it to fit. It didn’t.  I felt obliged to push it around one-handed while attempting to control Pea with my free hand.  In the end, an obliging staff member agreed to store the buggy in a locked room, giving me both hands free for optimum toddler wrangling.

Upon arrival, visitors are given ‘passports’ with a space inside to stamp each of the sections as you move through the museum. This is such a nice idea. It’s practical, as it serves as a map of the museum and I found this much easier to navigate my way around than a traditional floor plan. It doubles up as an activity trail, as visitors stamp their own passports in the stamping machines in each room. This would be a great way to keep little people focused.

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The first few rooms focus on individual stories of immigrants, the reasons they may have left (famine, political strife, employment opportunities, missionary work). Later rooms cover the social, political and cultural impact of Irish immigrants worldwide. There were some really nice little touches throughout the museum. In one section, there’s a selection of old fashioned school tables with crayons, which kept Pea busy for a blissful twenty minutes or so. We had the most success, funnily enough, in a room decked out like a traditional Irish pub with little tables, traditional music and pub quizzes. The touch screen quizzes proved to be a great distraction for Pea, and gave me a much needed rest. I also really liked the ‘Achieving Infamy’ section with a myth-busting quiz about notorious Irish criminals.

When Pea’s Dad returned, we were all hungry and Pea was looking tired, so we stopped for lunch. Once Pea fell asleep in his pram we were able to go back for a second walk through and this time I was able to take my time to read the bits that interested me. There is a lot to take in, and even though we spent most of the day here there were still sections that I didn’t get to fully appreciate during Pea’s napping window.

I really liked the fact that the museum shines light on the positive impact immigrants have had in the world and not just on the tragic reasons for leaving the homeland. I had expected it all to be a bit heavy on famine and strife but it was much more balanced than that. The exhibits are interactive and innovative, making some subjects, such as sports, much more appealing to me than they generally would. While there’s nothing here to directly engage with very young children it’s overall very family friendly and Pea certainly found enough to keep himself occupied.

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Essential information

EPIC The Irish Immigration Museum is at the CHQ building Custom House Quay, Dublin 1. Open daily, 10-5. Admission is EUR 15 adults, EUR 7.50 for children 6-12, under 5’s go free. Step free access, accessible toilets, baby changing and lockers are available. The CHQ building has a gift shop and several food and beverage outlets for refuelling.