Days Out: The Tate Modern, London

Last week, we were invited to London for an event, but seeing as it was only for the morning we thought we’d make the most out of our day (and train ticket!) and remain in London for the rest of the day.

Sadly, Sharon had to head back to work for the afternoon after the event; leaving T and I to our own devices, so we decided to take advantage of this and take a quick train ride to The Tate Modern. This was going to be T’s first visit to the galley. I was so excited!

We don’t usually do many “firsts” without Sharon, but art is one of the few things Sharon and I differ on. It’s not to say she dislikes art, she just doesn’t get it. She can appreciate a good painting or photograph, but that’s as far as it goes. I, on the other hand, really enjoy the arts and feel that it’s an incredibly important subject for children to explore. In fact, the earlier the better.

What do you think?

The Tate

Located in the old Bankside power station, near Shakespeare’s Globe in central London, The Tate Modern is the home to international modern art. With free entry (apart from special exhibitions), the gallery is incredibly family friendly and boasts several areas for children – including the ‘Start Display’, which is an introduction to art using some of the galleries most loved pieces, including several interactive ones.

I hadn’t been to The Tate for some time, decades in fact, so even for me it felt like a brand new experience. My first visit was going to be the turbine hall entrance, which would render any toddler speechless, however this was sadly closed due to refurbishment from a prior exhibit, so we came in via the gift shop which was an experience in itself (I could literally spend a lottery win there).

I wasn’t really sure how T would take the gallery. Whilst he’s an incredibly visual child – often telling me what things are or what they look like – I didn’t know how he would take the gallery experience. His last gallery-esque environment was The Booth Museum and that wasn’t the greatest experience. But nevertheless, we prevailed.

As mentioned, whilst The Tate is free entry, this is limited to a few galleries; which are located across three floors (or six areas if you separate the two ‘wings’ of the building). That being said, they’re nothing to be scoffed at – each gallery is enormous and are quite literally Tardises, often opening out into a number of different corridors and walkways. For something a bit different, there’s also level 10 to visit, which is the rooftop terrace and coffee bar, as long as you have the patience of a saint waiting for the lift to take you (no way I was I taking the stairs for that trip).

Each gallery has an array of exhibits, from photography to sculpture. Some are more interactive, such as the ‘Materials and Objects’ displays, and some are more thought provoking or require some deciphering. I really enjoyed the latter as I was keen to see how T’s little brain was processing what he was seeing.

Obviously it wasn’t just about T, I took complete advantage of having free rein of the Tate, and there were several pieces I took photos of to look up later and read more about. Exhibits such as one by Aldo Tambellini (pictured above) or Hague Yang, the Artist and SocietyExplore Artist and Society exhibit, or several of the Media Works exhibits. I could have stayed there hours upon hours. Impressively, we managed to stay there for three before T got over-stimulated and was ready to go home.

What I love about The Tate was the amount of room on offer for T to explore, as well as how welcoming it is for families. When we visited, there were several families walking around – with children running around – and staff really interacted when children asked questions. Equally, the other patrons weren’t that phased when T squealed or jumped around, if anything they encouraged it – or certainly the group of students who were sketching seemed to enjoy T’s company. It’s just not that kind of gallery where you’re expected to stay quiet – you’re welcome to express and enjoy the art as you see fit.

Although T didn’t often stick around in one place for too long, meaning I often thought he wasn’t enjoying himself or was getting bored, I do think he soaked it in as he now speaks of the random “rocks” or the “pictures with all the shapes” (Henri Matisse: The Snail) as well as how certain pictures made him feel. From what I got from T on the day, he enjoyed it, as did I. I was fascinated whilst listening to him tell me what certain sculptures looked like or what was happening in a picture.

If we lived closer I would absolutely get myself a membership, as I really want to re-visit with T and see how he grows with gallery; from whether he eventually finds a favourite piece to exploring different exhibits each time they change. There were also several other exhibits I personally would have liked to have visited but were for members only. On the same note, it would be the perfect place for me to have some me-time.

Have you been to The Tate? What did you like? How did your child(ren) find it?
Any tips for next time?

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