Tea Dance for Little People & Extremes at the Horniman

Frances Carlisle copyright

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 you can read here.

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.


  • TwinsplusTwo
    February 27, 2014 at 2:58 pm

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

  • Michelle
    February 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Looks like a lot of fun was had!!

  • Frances
    February 27, 2014 at 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)!

  • Jen aka The Mad House
    February 27, 2014 at 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

  • Emily @amummytoo
    February 27, 2014 at 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

  • Hannah Clementson
    February 27, 2014 at 6:46 pm

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

  • Mummy of Two
    February 27, 2014 at 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!).

  • Kara
    February 27, 2014 at 8:38 pm

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

  • Gude @HodgePodgeCraft
    February 27, 2014 at 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! 🙂

  • Kirsty
    February 27, 2014 at 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!

  • Mums do travel
    February 27, 2014 at 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….

  • Shell Louise
    February 28, 2014 at 4:35 pm

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

  • Angela Spicer
    February 28, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Looks like great fun

  • liska
    February 28, 2014 at 10:38 pm

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

  • Kizzy
    March 1, 2014 at 6:09 am

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

  • oana79
    March 1, 2014 at 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!

  • Aly
    March 2, 2014 at 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.

  • Rachel @ activities4kidz
    March 2, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Some lovely photos, looks like you had a fantastic time!

  • agatapokutycka
    March 2, 2014 at 11:25 pm

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

  • Lori
    March 4, 2014 at 12:59 am

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

  • Em @ snowingindoors
    March 15, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Gorgeous photos of an event that looks like it was loads of fun

  • Kirsty - Hijacked by Twins
    March 26, 2014 at 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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