Just this afternoon, as I was storing away the dense bag of drawings and artwork from Tigs first year at primary school, I stumbled across a box full of memories from what seems like a lifetime ago.
When our first daughter was around 18 months, we started to feel like a structured group would be beneficial to her on the days I didn’t work. In all honesty, I was looking for something to get me out of the house too, and with the baby groups suddenly outgrown, it seemed we were ready to embark on a leap into the world of extra curricular activities.
But what? With endless suggestions from well meaning friends and family, she seemed so little for gym club, or swimming. With a fabulous singing group offered free from our sure start centre, I wanted something that stretched her developmentally, but was still fun and worthwhile committing to on a regular basis. I didn’t want to go to another hall of tatty toys surrounded by cliquey Mums who all knew each other, but most of all, I wanted something that was ‘her’.
When a friend mentioned The Creation Station to me, I was immediately drawn. A creative arts session for toddlers in a local facility (with a lovely cafe and park), where the kids get onsie-d up and paint to their heart’s content, then the cleaning up is left to the host while you happily mooch off and get on with your day.
We gave it a try during a free taster session, and never looked back. Each Tuesday we had a reason to be somewhere and we became firm friends with the small yet friendly community within the group.
Each session started with a gowning in a red racing driver style cover all, which the kids loved. We soon learnt to wear old shoes! The host would introduce the group with a song and an activity around a topic, which was related to the termly theme (Weather, colours, textures…). The vocabulary was perfectly suited to the age group which ranged from 18 months to five years (pre-school) and the kids loved opening up the chest each week to find whichever items the host had planted to discuss the topic of the day.
As the intro finished, the kids would break out to the pre-prepared activity table and make an art project around the topic, as guided by the host. It never ceased to amaze me how creative you could be with a box of craft material, and even though we are super stocked up on that gear at home (word spreads when your kid loves art), you never really know exactly where to start with a load of pom poms and pipe cleaners when left to your own devices, do you?
At The Creation Station we made dozens of incredible creations. All of which are (obviously) filed under F-for-forever in a box under her bed to this day, three years later. Fish tanks made out of CD cases, snowmen emblazoned with sparkles made from clay, pumpkins collaged with orange and green tissue paper, and endless handprint animals, trees and christmas crafts. Calendars, fishing rods, wands and space rockets. You name it, we’ve made it.
Each session then finished with a song and celebration of each child’s work, which, in time, instilled a sense of confidence and pride in the children.
The Creation Station was the perfect toddler group for me when I was pregnant with my second baby, as it was relatively calm and stationary. Tig’s was always getting comments from other parents about how involved she got in her work, even from when she was really tiny. Other kids came and went – it wasn’t for everyone as some kids just weren’t into the activity and preferred running round the room in circles. You have to try these things though right?
For us, we loved everything about the group. The host, the friends we made, the treasures we took home which wallpapered our old kitchen for quite some time before making their way to storage.
Our group had somewhat of a baby boom, and there were at least five of us who were pregnant with our second kids, who soon became features in prams at the corner of the room, often just days or weeks old. We helped each other out with the kids and paints whilst feeding or dealing with explosive nappies, and many of the babies born in that chapter are now firm friends too.
We would stay for coffee (and feeds) in the cafe, followed by a play in the park, and then occasionally a cheeky lunch too. The hour long session actually became the focal point of our Tuesday for a very long time.
Sadly for us, our host moved on. We weren’t ready to say goodbye, but with changes always on the horizon, that morning session was soon replaced with pre-school, naptimes and the void was filled. Our host gifted our tiny baby Mouse the smallest of cover-alls which she still wears as a puddle splash suit to this day (and reminds me so much of her sister wearing it every Tuesday for ‘Art’).
The Creation Station continues to thrive and it seems they have expanded into different age bracket groups and even adult sessions too. They continue to offer parties and events, franchise opportunities, and craft supplies online all of which can be located on their website www.thecreationstation.co.uk. Here you can also find out if there is a class in your area.
I know that as a family we all got something really special from The Creation Station. It definitely built on something our daughter seemed to have within her already, and for me as a new Mum to a toddler, it got me to love the hands on approach to being creative with my kids too.
Perhaps now that my dining table looks like it’s own Creation Station, I could look back with regret for paying to do this stuff elsewhere. The fact is however, that I didn’t have the confidence to get stuck in at home before, and I was looking for more than just somewhere else to make the mess. There are no regrets, and every penny spent on those groups was money well spent.
The Creation Station gave us a box full of memories, but it also gave us friendship, fun, sanity in the chaos of toddler life, but most of all, it gave us a little girl who wants to be an artist when she grows up.
Written in partnership with The Creation Station