[ADVERT]Sometimes you find the most incredible things where you least expect. It's always when you aren't looking and you find yourself wondering why on earth you hadn't known about it before.
The other week when I was at my local Bunnings store, I noticed a flyer advertising a Free Family Christmas Gift Making Night. My two eldest girls love a bit of craft: give them some glue and a pot of paint and they will be as happy as I would be if someone handed me a glass of wine and block of chocolate.
So I called and booked us in, thinking that they could make themselves a trinket box, or if I was really lucky, I could convince them to make one for someone else.
When we turned up, there were three large tables set up with all the materials required to make trinket boxes, tool boxes, trays and mosaic pots. There were pots of paint, ribbons, and jewels. There were half a dozen staff ready to help, and power tools set up for the dads to play with. Oh, and a dozen pizzas, and plates of biscuits, fruit mince pies and juice.
After having a long chat with Activities Officer Belinda and her awesome daughter Mel, I learned that Bunnings runs free DIY craft sessions every Sunday from 10.30am-2.30pm. The long session time means that you can come by when it is convenient for your family. There is a staff member available to help your kids with whatever project has been organised for that day (all staff have a Working with Children check), so you can leave your children and have a wander around the store to do some shopping. Or not. There is absolutely no obligation to shop while your children enjoy themselves, and even though we half expected the staff on the registers to call us back when we left last night with our huge haul of goodies, the entire event was free.
In addition to the weekly sessions (if you are lucky there will be face painting in addition to the craft) Homebase runs larger DIY workshops for all the major holidays and annual events including Easter, Fathers Day, Mothers Day, Halloween (they decorated a bucket then trick or treated their way around the store), Christmas and Australia Day. One session involved potting herbs which the kids then all ate (a good one if your kids won't eat their greens. Peer pressure is amazing). You have to book, but they are free and catered.
One she finished with the woodwork, she started on the pottery
The Homebase store also offers monthly workshops for grownups, and you get to try out new things and always get samples to take home. Ladies Nights are newer, but extremely popular. Last time they made jewellery. At Bunnings! Oh and ladies, there is always someone to watch the kids.
Last night the adults were encouraged to make gifts as well, so I got started on a wooden tray with rope handles. I was pretty handy with the hammer and nails until I realised that my pieces wouldn't fit together. Although there were instruction sheets available, I had neglected to consult them. "Maybe you need a man to help you, Mummy," my five year old said. After admonishing her for saying such out-dated nonsense, I handed my tray to one of the Bunnings guys who pulled it apart for me and showed me how to do it properly. And he was polite enough to not point out how astute my daughter was.
After the girls hammered, painted, glues and bedazzled their way through two tool boxes, three trinket boxes and two trays Belinda gave each of them a cup of wrapped chocolates to fill their boxes. Then my eldest noticed the large pots, and set to work creating a mosaic masterpiece. The beautiful poinsettia she then potted inside was also free.
I can't even say that this is best value kids entertainment in Perth, because value implies you have to pay for it. This was something better. It was good clean fun (actually, it wasn't that clean, but paint washes out), with tangible results: the kids were able to work on a project they could decorate and take home. The whole family was welcome. I was a lot more relaxed than I would be if we had that quantity of paint at home. And we were fed.
So if you want to be a part of something extraordinary, email Belinda and Mel at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to go on the mailing list for the next free event. If you don't live near Subiaco, don't fret: all the stores run free DIY workshops and kids craft sessions. Drop by and look for the flyers, or give your store a call to find out how to find out about them.
Homebase will be running something every day of the Christmas school holidays. I don't know many parents who could claim that. I certainly couldn't. But at least now I know where I can take them.