Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
From Burnt Norton, by TS Eliot
How do you broach big subjects with little children? Like the recent extremes of weather? Or emotional neglect?
To be honest, it had never occurred to me to talk to Austin and Gwen about either. But, this half-term, we found ourselves at two different children’s events, where light entertainment was based around these deep subjects.
The beginning of the week heralded the end of what had felt like endless weeks of apocalyptical rain and storms. Fittingly, we went with our friends Frances Carlisle (a talented photographer, who specialises in weddings and who took all the shots in this post) and her son Sam to the Horniman Museum, in South-East London, where Tea Dance for Little People were staging ‘Extremely Adventurous‘ to tie in with the Museum’s Extremes exhibition. This is where we encountered our first thorny topic for half-term: dramatic fluctuations in weather.
Extremes (which we didn’t visit this time, but will do soon, no doubt) explores the different ways plants and animals survive in extreme environments.
Renowned for its family-friendliness, the Horniman had given over a performance space to Tea Dance, so they could put on an accompanying show, to introduce children to the water cycle and the changes wrought by extreme climates.
Heady stuff; but it seems that if you throw in some ice-in-a-cup, fake snow, ping-pong balls, songs, a parachute-cum-igloo and a
doily snowflake-painting session, then finding out about precipitation patterns can be fun.
I’m not sure quite how much of it went in to little heads. The age range (1-8 year olds) was too large for it to be tailored to a particular learning stage, and like many of Tea Dance’s events, it had the feel of a beautifully riotous playdate.
At one point it looked as though the man playing the Professor would be crushed by the gang of burly pre-schoolers (Austin included) who had set upon him and pinned him to the floor.
But the ice-in-a-cup did melt. Children ran to shelter from (imaginary) rain, which dried up during a desert sequence. They danced in a foamy snowstorm, and handled some snowshoes. As with all Tea Dance productions, it was fun, unpredictable, and inclusive enough for ALL the children to seem as though they were enjoying it.
It even prompted me to start some basic discussions with Austin about how weather works.
We might leave climate change and global warming till another day. But learning the basics about rain, ice and snow was good enough for now.
The second of our half-term encounters with deep issues was a visit to see Not Now, Bernard at the Unicorn Theatre. This merits a post all of its own, which will be out shortly.
Disclosure: none required. We paid for our tickets to Extremely Adventurous. All views expressed here are my own.
All images in this post are copyright of Frances Carlisle.