When Ebony was a baby, we would quite often head into Manchester for the day. She would happily sit in the sling, and we’d wander around the shops, stopping off for food along the way. At that age, she wasn’t bothered about getting down and exploring herself, and seemed perfectly happy people watching from the safety of the sling. As she got a bit older, however, she wanted to explore at will. So we started looking for places to visit that would keep her entertained whilst also then letting me do a bit of shopping or meet friends for lunch.
Manchester city centre is quite big, so while there are lots of places for kids, they aren’t always that accessible. This was especially true when Ebony started wanting to walk everywhere, so we weren’t able to cover as much distance. A trip to MOSI or Manchester Museum would end up taking most of the day, and I wouldn’t get much chance to do anything I wanted to do. There is a park on Piccadilly Gardens now, but that wasn’t around back then, so I’d quite often be at a loss for where she could run freely without worrying about getting in the way.
As we were heading to 1847 for a meal one day, I noticed the art gallery just down the road. I decided to take Ebony in for a look around, and was immediately relieved to have found somewhere central that she could play. Manchester Art Gallery has a whole studio dedicated to kids where they can experiment, explore and let off steam. The activities in the Clore Art Studio change regularly, so it’s different every time we go. The first time we went, there was a corner of the room dedicated to white boxes of varying sizes. There were art materials out so children could draw on the boxes, and then the boxes were being stacked, and toppled over, by the children. Ebony was entertained for a whole hour, just building big towers and knocking them over.
Now, whenever we head into Manchester, that’s our go to place for somewhere to visit. A few weeks ago, we spent the day in Manchester with some friends and decided to pay a visit to the art gallery. This time the Clore Art Studio had been transformed by patterns. There was a huge sheet of paper in the middle of the floor, and plenty of pencil crayons and stencils for children to use. There are always volunteers helping out too which is great because it means you can find out more about the activities. One of the volunteers taught Ebony how to use stencils, so she had fun drawing shapes and colouring them in on the floor.
They also had a huge peg board and various plastic shapes of different colours so the children could make patterns of their own. Or, you know, take all the plastic shapes off and put them neatly away in the containers… Ahem. In the far corner, there were lots of brightly coloured blankets and cushions laid out on the floor. And, hidden amongst them were lots of musical instruments. Ebony and her friend Lily had fun playing the instruments, but also mostly just hoarding all of the instruments they could lay their hands on.
We’ve visited the art gallery quite a few times now and have never been disappointed. There are always lots of different activities, and something suitable for every age group. I would definitely recommend it as a place to visit if you’re looking for somewhere central to explore. It’s only a two minutes walk from Piccadilly Gardens so is really to get to, and the main exhibitions are also well worth a visit. I once took Ebony for an explore round the gallery and we spent some time looking at a photography exhibition about war. It led to a lot of awkward questions about what bombs, war, tanks and prosthetic legs were, but it was really interesting and I think Ebony really enjoyed being able to explore the main gallery for a bit.