Since my littler son and I first went to Red Jelly, Tash has moved on from the business to start primary school teaching. She had had several amazing years starting and running the business that was incredibly popular, so she put the word out to see whether anyone would like to take over. We went along to a session a couple of weeks ago and I’m sad to say we were disappointed. The new owner is very sweet and has good intentions, but the session lacked the energy that Tash used to give it – the children seemed disinterested in everything from the songs at the start to the rushed-through story at the end, and the messy play trays were pretty underwhelming, with so few animals to play with that my son asked the owner whether she could find him some more whales and other sea creatures (it was an underwater-themed session). One of the trays also contained scented shaving foam that filled the room with a slightly sickly smell and spilled out over the mats surrounding it leaving children slipping all over the place and covered head to toe in the stuff to the point that their clothes were wet and stank of the foam’s scent.
I’m not sure what kind of handover Tash did, but as well-intentioned as it all feels, the magic (for us anyway) has gone. There were probably half the families attending and it felt a bit empty, with the children seeming unengaged. Hopefully with some practise and once she finds her feet, the new owner will make Red Jelly her own. But I’m not sure we will be going back. I don’t like to say negative things about people’s businesses, but equally the blog is a place of transparency and a place that people trust for advice. I wouldn’t be giving its readers an accurate summary of what to expect if I left the old review up untouched, and I also don’t think that removing it altogether would be an honest thing to do.
A few months ago, in my post about Little Museum Visitors at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, I bemoaned the lack of creative classes/activities in Lewes for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Well there is a something, but it’s not in Lewes. It’s in Hove, a short jaunt down the road or railway line.
Red Jelly is about MESSY creative play for children. Each week is themed – from ‘The Snail and the Whale’ to ‘Set Sail’ to ‘Peppa Pig Party’. There are Saturday classes for older children (up to age seven) and themed creative birthday parties. The toddler/pre-school classes run for an hour, four mornings a week and are drop-in. I love this – who needs scheduled classes when you have something as unpredictable as a toddler in tow? We do them when we feel like it – and when tantrums/time allows. It’s about making a mess, and not having to tidy up afterwards (love this too). Founder Tash Tamlyn believes in focusing on the journey rather than what children make – letting them be curious is how their creativity develops. There’s all kinds of materials to explore and it’s all developed in line with the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum and designed alongside education professionals and child psychologists.
The session starts with donning gingham smocks, singing a catchy song and warming up with movements lead by Tash. Then everyone crafts, paints, explores and makes a mess until a song about tidying up comes on at the end of the hour. The kids join in with this as only kids can (i.e. fairly ineffectively) but the sentiment is fantastic. Then it’s story time, a sticker for everyone, a drink and a biscuit/cracker. Parents get a cup of tea too (love this too). The pictures in this post are from the ‘Set Sail’ session, in which kids made fish out of paper plates; played with ‘frog spawn’ and ‘pond weed’ (stringy tinsel) in water; messed about with aquatic creatures in a ‘messy trays’ of pasta and paste; and explored a cardboard box tunnel dressed up as a boat – which they could paint inside and out. Halfway through the session, my boy – his hands full of fish and octopi – started dipping them in paint and printing with them. He was merging the exploring stuff with the crafty stuff and I was worried. Was this ok? I asked Tash. She beamed, winked and said: “It’s not ‘ok’ Kate, it’s what it’s ALL about. Let’s see what he does, shall we?”
FYI, Zoe Ball recently joined forces with Red Jelly for her daughter’s birthday party – celeb endorsement or what? Oh and also, on Saturday the 21st of June there’s a special ‘Frozen’ session from 3.30-4.30pm priced at £10 per child. Booking is ESSENTIAL – because it’ll be amazing and the kids are mad for a bit of ‘Frozen’, aren’t they?
Drive: 18 minutes
Address: Hove Methodist Church, Portland Road, Hove, BN3 5DR
Tel no.: 01273 93 0013
Hours: Term time only, Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri 10.30-11.25am (note that during the second half of the 2014 summer term, Monday classes will not be running). Summer holiday events are due to be announced, check the website
Price: £8 drop-in on the door; £7.50 paid in advance online; £40 for six sessions (used within four months). Sibling discounts available
Disclosure: I approached Tash about writing about Red Jelly and she gave me a free session, a painting smock and some Red Jelly CDs and messy play materials to say thank you. No financial compensation was offered or accepted in exchange for this post. Thank you Tash, for the brilliant sessions we’ve been to so far – we’ll be back soon for SURE!
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