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When choosing a day out, the stakes are high for us families – as increasingly we are putting pressure on ourselves to provide a ‘magical childhood’ for our children. This desire is seemingly unique to our generation of parenting – for previous generations of children, if you were lucky enough to have a magical childhood it was likely be by accident rather than design. But you did have freedom to wander and space on your own, with other children, to play. And generally, children had more free time. We did sports, music and arts within the school day – enrichment didn’t have to be provided by endless after school and weekend activities.

 

As modern parents, our time as a family has been squeezed by scheduled activities and in some cases, increased working hours. Our awareness of this is what contributes to us putting huge pressure on ourselves to make our family time special. We love our children and we want to make their time with us the best it can be, to make memories they will treasure, to create a childhood which influences the adults they become. Wanted, loved, valued, celebrated.

 

So, if we decide to splash out on an event which promises a magical experience, then we want it, we expect it – to be just that, and the disappointment if it fails to deliver, is huge. A family festival in Yorkshire recently received such bad press from parents for failing to deliver the experience they had been promised – that it reached the national news. That level of disappointment is understandable. But is it avoidable?

 

Is it possible that in our efforts to ensure the best childhood for our children- we are looking too much to others to make those magical experiences for us? How many families in previous generations booked holidays to the North Pole at Christmas? And was Christmas any less magical for it?

 

I’m in the business of providing arts events for families – and I don’t want to discourage families to come to our events – but the experience I’m trying to encourage is one in which families themselves play a big part in creating their own enjoyment.

 

I recently took part in a consultation commissioned by the Arts Council England, called ‘EveryDay Creativity’ – which asked whether everyone should be encouraged to be an artist and to be creative in their everyday lives, rather than looking to professionals to make them feel creatively fulfilled or entertained.

 

We talked about where ‘Everyday Creativity’ is already happening. I was struck that when at the beach, families do something they don’t do in a single other environment. They are creative together. On a beach, you might play chase with the waves, build a sandcastle (or a whole medieval village complete with castle, moat, and fields). Or dig the deepest hole. Or craft your child a mermaid’s tail or a racing car facing out to sea. You might collect shells by colour, or stack up smooth chalk pebbles into tall towers. You might draw a picture with seaweed for hair. You might draw arrows in the sand leading to a buried pebble treasure.  And it seems to be that what is unique to a beach is that we feel we have permission to do all those things there. There is a culture of creative play there. No-one is looking. No-one is judging. Everyone does it.  Yet I can’t think of many other places where families automatically play together. We might go for a walk in the woods but how many of us play in the woods with our children?

 

It’s easy to find ourselves in a situation when, as parents on a precious day off with our children, we are sitting at an event having feelings of ‘entertain me’,  ‘make it special’ and if it under-delivers – feeling ‘what next? ‘what can we buy?’ whilst dealing with the frustration of knowing that actually our kids would have had a lovely day playing with us on the beach…

 

Rusticus Adventures and Rusticus Encounters are only as enjoyable as our audiences make them. If we had no-one with us on our journeys, we wouldn’t have a show. Together, with our audiences, we have conjured up sea storms, we have smuggled stolen goods, we have travelled round the world, gone back in time, and puzzled out a mystery. At Rusticus we see the natural world as the biggest playground. And the sticks, the trees, the sun, the rain and the mud as anything we want them to be.

 

It’s easier than you think to have a magical experience with your children this summer.  You don’t need us. But we’d love to see you anyway…

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Rusticus will be performing ‘Up in the Air’ every Thursday (11.30am/1pm & 2.30pm) at Sewerby Hall throughout the summer holidays. Plus extra dates – keep up to date with our What’s On Calendar. 

Read our member review, Emma’s experience of Rusticus with her kids (4 & 2).

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