The farm animals have a starring role in our new indoor play spaces at Active Kids

When we first began planning the redevelopment of our treehouse-themed indoor play areas, something we were passionate about doing was finding ways to bring the outdoors indoors. Well, one fantastic scenic artist has done just this, and we’re thrilled to be able to give you a sneak peek before we open this spring.

If you’re familiar with Active Kids, you’ll likely have met many of the friendly farm animals we look after in our outdoor spaces. There are chickens, hens, alpacas, pigs, Shetland ponies and lots of other amazing animals to see.

Scenic artist, Sophie Kneller, has been very busy bringing the walls of our indoor play space to life with the different animals from our outdoor farm. Her creations are vibrant and full of nature. And, in pride of place in the area for children aged three and under, are our donkeys Jack and Lulu, beautifully recreated by Sophie for children (and adults) to admire, no matter what the weather is doing outside!

With such large wall spaces to cover, Sophie is no stranger to working on projects of this size. Based in Hampshire, she travels all over the UK and Europe painting large scenes for all sorts of different clients, from theme parks to creating optical illusions.

Sophie has been travelling up to Stanley to work on the murals in 10-day sessions and has journeyed north for the last time to do some finishing touches. The walls are looking spectacular already.
“I like doing the final bits,” says Sophie. “In the early stages, there’s a lot of block painting and a lot of area to cover going round and round. Once the animals have been placed and you start to work on the final details, that’s my favourite bit. I love that stage.”

For Sophie, featuring the animals was a logical way to celebrate the outdoors. “The brief from Active Kids was fairly relaxed, but I knew they wanted to find a way to bring a lot of their own animals into the indoor spaces, so on my first visit I spent some time photographing them. Now, all the animals you see in here are right here on the farm.”

This is the first indoor play area like this that Sophie has worked on and she has loved every minute of the project. She’s hoping that there will be a positive reaction from the kids connecting with nature while indoors. “It was important to me that the walls flow together with the play equipment,” says Sophie. “I’ve been really happy with how its all come together. The colours of the wood on the equipment go really nicely with the wall backgrounds which feature lots of woodland and landscape as well as the animals. It’s got a nice warm feeling about it that I hope will make the kids feel really happy.”

For Sophie, getting the colours right was the key to completing the perfect fun and playful atmosphere. “Colour is really underestimated. Your emotions change depending on the different colours you’re surrounded by. The colours in here are really happy, so it doesn’t matter if it’s raining outside. It’s warm, bright and fun all year round so you’re always going to be able to feel lovely when experiencing the outdoors indoors in here.”

Alongside Sophie’s art, the treehouse themed play space will feature a variety of nature themed obstacles, tunnels, nets and slides as well as lots of interactive play spaces for younger children.

It’s not long to wait now! We are set to re-open in Spring with our new indoor spaces, which will also be home to a brand-new café with an outdoor south facing terrace for the warmer months. And, as always, our outdoor spaces will be open as well for children to have adventures.

We can’t wait for you to experience our new play spaces and see Sophie’s incredible work in person!