This Valentine’s Day was our first one as a family and I wanted to go out and do something all three of us would enjoy but I couldn’t for the life of me come up with anywhere to go. The main issues I had were that we are incredibly bloody skint right now so going for a meal out or doing something costly weren’t options and we’re all full of cold therefore our usual go to of a nice Winters walk and maybe a go on the swings was also off the cards. I’m not well informed nor am I experienced about what is local to us or things that are suitable and worthwhile for babies to do which, although this is something I’m working on changing, left me feeling pretty uninspired and no longer enthusiastic about the day at all.
That was until my Partner, who is usually in my current predicament and likes to leave the planning up to myself actually stepped in and said he had taken care of things. I was taken aback and incredibly curious to see what he had discovered to do indoors for free that I hadn’t been able to. Keeping it a surprise until the night before, he finally disclosed this top secret location which was- ..drum roll please.. The Baltic Museum Of Contemporary Art?
Instantly picking up on my scepticism (maybe the raised eyebrow gave it away) he went on to tell me about a sensory room they had there which you could take your babies to free of charge. Oh, well that made a little more sense. I knew of the Baltic Museum itself but couldn’t see Kaiber as the kind of guy to be into analysing oil paintings or appreciating thought provoking exhibitions. Now a sensory room, that’s more like it.
We got ready in the morning following a delicious breakfast of avocado and poached eggs on toast, of course, and off we went. Newcastle City Centre is around 30 minutes from our village and easily accessed via public transport despite it being somewhere we go to regularly so I was excited for a change of scenery and a little nostalgia in the City I grew up in. Plus, Carl drives busses for a living which means free travel which is a bonus.
Kaiber napped on the bus which was the result we were hoping for by leaving just before his nap time despite it not always working so well. We took the leisurely stroll from Eldon Square down passed The Centre For Life and onto the Quayside whereby me and Carl have had many romantic walks together during our time working in one of the call centres down there when we were just beginning to get to know one another.
That walk alone makes it a great location for a day out before even reaching the actual Museum. It’s a lively, scenic area of Newcastle, crossing over to Gateshead with an incredible view of a collection of the well known Landmarks visible whichever direction you head in including: The Millennium Bridge, The Tyne Bridge, The High Level Bridge, The Sage Gateshead and The Baltic Itself. There’s also nearly always something happening be it a busker playing catchy music, people relaxing at The Quayside Seaside (which is great in the Summer), people jogging or cycling and boats of plenty sailing over The River Tyne which, if you’re lucky, may mean you get to see the lifting of The Millennium Bridge that illuminates the water in a wash of colours when the skies begin to darken- a true spectacle in it’s own rights, one I’ve never bored of since I first watched it as a little girl.
Walking over the Bridge itself is always relaxing even in the windy weather we had today and we were lucky enough to have our photo taken as a family by a kind lady who had been on the ferry with her Grandson.
The Baltic is the largest institution dedicated to contemporary art in the UK which makes it something of a marvel here in the North. It actually consists of 2,600 square metres of space just for art and that is pretty impressive. With a passion for commissioning and producing exhibits through inclusion and diversity whilst also creating environments for opportunities of all different natures, not just art, it is a place that caters for all kinds of people.
When entering the Museum we were able to navigate our way towards our desired floor in seconds thanks to the helpful and friendly receptionist who pointed us to floor two as well as showing us the direction the the toilets and elevators.
The area as a whole was actually larger than we initially expected, made up of more than just the sensory room. There are arts and crafts tables set up, a large area filled with giant building blocks and tables with various items for building, exploring and learning. I was also impressed with how the seating and eating areas were dispersed around the floor and not just cramped into one noisy, busy place meaning you could find a little solace from the noise and have a nice break. There is also a long parking bay for buggies and pushchairs or plenty of room to keep them nearby.
The sensory room itself was great and Kaiber was fascinated by everything going on around him as his first time visiting somewhere like this or being around so many babies and children. There was enough space and variety for everyone to get their fair share of use from each item or projection area without it feeling busy or rushed.
The room consisted of a variety of wooden toys with dangly bits, noisy bits, reflective bits, spinning bits and all manners of bits much to Kaiber’s confusion and amazement. There were a few different light projections and a moving light tube with some colourful light up spaghetti as we called it. A sensory wall made of mirrors allowed for a lot of face pulling, giggling and touching and giant comfy foam blocks ideal for standing aid, climbing or even a comfy option for us parents to lounge on and read some of the story books scattered or just chill out whilst baby explores the building blocks beside them.
Once we had finished exploring our senses we pulled up one of the provided high chairs and had a budget lunch I had put together with whatever bits of nibbles we already had in the fridge and cupboards. We were sat right in the corner with more of that brilliant view whilst I breastfed in comfort and the baby change was easily accessible nearby for a quick nappy change before we made our tracks to leave. There is also a lovely looking cafe on the lower floor if eating out is preferred. We noticed a few other things going on for toddlers and older children on our way out and it’s worth checking the Baltic website to keep up to date with what’s on for them or general family events throughout the year.
As with most outings involving an often impatient nine month old with a short attention span, our stay time wasn’t huge but I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed we had spent a good couple of hours there in total. I will admit that we also went for a little nosy around some of the artwork too which added that extra it of time and variety and I’m certain a larger amount of time could be spent on the floor with an older child although there is plenty to do in and around Newcastle itself, around ten to fifteen minutes walking distance from the Baltic or about a five minute bus journey on a shuttle running every ten minutes.
All of that considered, there’s no reason to not make a day of it and I would highly recommend the sensory room for any other inquisitive Mams who haven’t quite began exploring things to do with their babies or who are looking for somewhere cheap to visit and maybe meet some new Mammy friends.
We decided to head home a little earlier so we could delve into some of Carl’s infamous home-made soup. The perfect way to warm up and come together after our lovely trip. We also almost managed to spend a grand total of £0 but caved whilst just missing our bus back and grabbed a coffee each from Greggs as it was f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g. Other than that we didn’t spend a penny.
We will definitely be returning to the Baltic in the near future for another trip seeing as Kaiber took an interest in the other parts of the Museum including the art.. who was I to make assumptions about his preferences in paintings after all?!