Tea Dance for Little People & Extremes at the Horniman

Tea Dance for Little People & Extremes at the Horniman

image by Frances Carlisle

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.


image by Frances Carlisle

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.

TDLP-1001 Frances Carlisle

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.

TDLP-1006 Frances CarlisleRenowned 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.

TDLP-1030 Frances Carlisle



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.

TDLP-1003 Frances Carlisle



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.

TDLP-1023 Frances CarlisleBut 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.

TDLP-1022 Frances Carlisle


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.



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  1. February 27, 2014 / 2:58 pm

    How fantastic- my kids would love that kind of event. Looks really well thought out. Lovely photos too!

  2. February 27, 2014 / 3:46 pm

    Looks like a lot of fun was had!!

  3. February 27, 2014 / 3:48 pm

    Beautifully written post, eloquent as ever and exactly as I recall the morning (but could never have written about it nearly so well)!

  4. February 27, 2014 / 5:04 pm

    I do take about big stuff with the boys but they are 7 and 8, so I think I need too. I love the pictures and wish we lived nearer London sometime for the breadth and depth of stuff that goes on in the capital

  5. February 27, 2014 / 6:41 pm

    Stunning pics and sounds like a great event. I know what you mean about not being sure how much they understood, but it looks like it was worth it just for the experience if nothing else. I really want to get my kids involved in more things like this. x

  6. February 27, 2014 / 6:46 pm

    Wow this look so so fantastic. What amazing photo’s it looks like lots of fun memories were had x

  7. February 27, 2014 / 8:13 pm

    What brilliant ideas. It is hard to tackle difficult subjects with little ones isn’t it so this looks like a great way to make them ‘fun’ and easy to understand (even if they didn’t take everything in!).

  8. February 27, 2014 / 8:38 pm

    This looks like great fun – my kids would love to do that

  9. February 27, 2014 / 8:52 pm

    What a great idea for an event – so original and creative.
    We love Not Now Bernard here too, so I look forward to that post! 🙂

  10. February 27, 2014 / 9:00 pm

    The Horniman is a truly great museum and add to it such an amazing production, which looks more like an interactive experience, and you have one fantastic day out. The photographs are absolutely fantastic! I wish I could take images like that – one day!

  11. February 27, 2014 / 9:46 pm

    This looks like a wonderful event and the photos are gorgeous. I’ve not been to the Horniman Museum but it’s on my list….

  12. February 28, 2014 / 4:35 pm

    Lovely photos and it looks like lots of fun was had by all 🙂

  13. Angela Spicer
    February 28, 2014 / 5:58 pm

    Looks like great fun

  14. February 28, 2014 / 10:38 pm

    Your photography is so beautiful and full of light/atmosphere. Beautiful x

  15. Kizzy
    March 1, 2014 / 6:09 am

    Love your photo’s and this looks amazing. I wish there was more events like this near where we are.

  16. March 1, 2014 / 3:29 pm

    Looks fantastic for a party, I am sure fun was had and learning happened in the process. Maybe not the one intended by the grown-ups but some learning did occur for sure!

  17. Aly
    March 2, 2014 / 1:00 pm

    Your beautiful photos make it look like massive fun for kids and adults alike.We haven’t visited there but it’s somewhere we might consider during the Summer.

  18. March 2, 2014 / 11:25 pm

    It looks wonderful.
    What a great way of spending quality family day out.

  19. March 4, 2014 / 12:59 am

    What a lovely written post and pictures to match. this sounds like such a creative and imaginative event. Very inspiring x

  20. March 26, 2014 / 10:17 am

    Beautiful picture or what looks and sounds like a great day! There are some pictures to treasure! x #blogclub

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