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Pottering about beats posh lessons in Paris

Why are mummies so competitive? I mean, let kids be kids right? They don't all need to play the piano, recite poetry and know foreign languages before they even start school, right?

Okay, I'm not saying that you should keep them in the play pen watching telly, and throw packs of biscuits at them once in a while, but there's got to be a happy medium.

I met a lady last year at a play centre who told me she had just got back from France with her two kids. I mistakenly thought that she had been on the beach with them making sandcastles and eating ice-cream. But no, they'd been in Paris. Oh, Disneyland Paris, perhaps?

She looked affronted. No, they had been learning both French and the violin at a prestigious Parisian school. She seemed amazed when I told her I was looking at cheap last-minute packages to the Canaries.

So this year, I thought I'd show her. I took my son, Gary, to England on an educational trip. Well, of sorts. I mean, we did start out with a day at the funfair -- but shush about that -- then decided to make our little trip more high-brow.

I thought it would be nice to take Gary to visit some traditional pottery factories. I heard that Wedgwood did factory tours and so that was our first stop. It would be so interesting for him to see pieces that were actually being made for the royal family.

All fired up by the Queen's Jubilee, we joined the tour, but just as the lovely guide was starting, Gary threw a hissy fit. I was terrified of him crashing into the pottery pieces around the factory so my mother removed him in haste and took him outside while I continued the tour alone.

Next, with the Jubilee celebrations still in mind, we visited the magnificent gardens of nearby Estate. Gary said his feet hurt and refused to walk. I tried to carry him around but he was too heavy, so we decided to visit the monkey forest, which is part of the estate.


The monkey forest was really amazing as you walked among the animals. They completely ignored you or ran past you. There were a lot of baby monkeys, too, so Gary loved them.

Very pleased with how the tour was going so far, I wondered if Gary would be interested in making his own piece of pottery.

He said he would, so we found the Emma Bridgewater factory in the centre of Stoke where kids paint something themselves and the proud parents can then buy the piece.

Take that, Ms Play Centre Woman, I thought smugly. Forget French and the violin, my son's going to be a famous artist.

It started off fine. We both had our paint brushes and started to work on a teapot. I drew little colourful dots, but then Gary ruined everything by picking up some black paint and smearing it all over my artwork. I couldn't believe it.

Next time I go on an educational trip, I'm leaving him behind. Or maybe he could stay with Ms Play Centre Woman and learn the violin?

Now, there's a thought.

Learn more about the above activities at www.visitstoke.co.uk