I am blessed with several wonderful godchildren whom I usually see at their most angelic. However, I understand that this is not always the case and that their mothers are quite keen to find activities to wear out their rambunctious offspring. Especially at weekends. So, when I was asked if I would like to send a reporter to checkout Islington’s Enchanted House, a place dedicated to children and their parents, my thoughts turned to godson no.2, Edward, aged three, a bundle of energy, and his mother, Miss P.
“A feature of my mildly complicated family life is that every second Sunday my husband undertakes a four-hour round trip to return my step-children to their mother in the depths of Hampshire. This leaves plenty of “quality time” for me and the adorable infant.
This is usually filled with an action-packed trip to the library and playground – very pleasing that last week my three year old managed to choose a new Neil Gaiman book all by himself, less pleasing that rolling in the sandpit is still his preferred activity with the inevitable Sahara of sand transported back to our house, filling bed and bath for days to come.
This weekend LLG sent us off to test out something rather more exciting. The Enchanted House, held at The London Art House just off Essex Road in Islington, is a fabulously extravagant event for parents and their little angels. Concealed behind a moderately unprepossessing exterior is a sumptuous entertainment space with rooms painstakingly refurbished with inspiration from Picasso, Lord Leighton, Tadema and Klimt, which is the backdrop for a veritable extravaganza of infant revelry.
Foolishly, not fully appreciating what a temple of delights awaited us, we were not there at 2.30 queuing as they opened the doors. We wandered in a little after three and a treasure hunt was already in full swing.
A word of warning: if you are committed to the sugar-free brand of parenting this is not for you. There are plenty of healthy snacks on offer but I defy any parent to prevent a sugar frenzy. Edward is instantly roaring around, gathering up treasure of chocolates and sweets, which are swiftly consumed in spite of parental attempts at moderation or control.
Then back downstairs for cupcake decorating. In this area of artistic endeavour, Edward has always believed that more is more. Today is no exception.
Yes, those are jelly beans, Jelly Tots, Smarties, white chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips. The only thing holding him to such moderation was the size of the cupcake.
Meanwhile I am happily scarfing smoked salmon sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam and rather more elegantly decorated cupcakes.
It is only after tea that we discover the main playroom (rather how I imagine the Jolie-Pitt’s playroom to be) which has everything a child could imagine. Bouncy castles, ball pit, sand and water play, endless imaginative play areas: zoo, farm, jungle, dolls house, shop, Duplo, Lego, building blocks, puppets to name a few.
An almost panicked look comes over Edward’s face as he tries to assess where to start, until he sees the dressing up corner. Edward is a huge fan of dressing up, and I mean huge. Once he had found the costume rack everything else paled into insignificance.
It was a little like an episode of Mr Ben. First (to my chagrin) he was Ben 10 and then quickly changed into a cowboy (or, let’s face it, Woody from Toy Story…)
And then it was all about super heroes. Spiderman has a good run enjoying the bouncy castle and drums, but then he finds another little boy who is dressed as Batman and quickly changes to match him. They race up and down “saving the day” together.
Meanwhile there have been games, a play and face-painting. The only low moment was, once face-painted as a tiger, Edward roared so convincingly that he made a smaller child cry… The other mother did not take it well.
As we left Edward asked “Please can we go to the magical wonderland next weekend?” No additional comment required.
Enchanted Sunday sessions cost £39 per adult, and £39 per child. A family ticket for four costs £130. Sessions fill up early, so book ahead. The next ones are: September 4th and 25th, October 30th, November 6th and 20th and Mothering Sunday on 18th March 2012. They are also open for birthday parties on most Sundays in the year and during the Easter and Summer school holidays, Half Term Breaks and Bank Holidays.