My daughter loves pink and ponies. Turns out she loves duelling gladiators too.

We are regulars at the Chiltern Open Air Museum on the Herts/Bucks border and we particularly enjoy their themed weekends. You can take your pick from the likes of medieval knights or Victorians but being a household containing a classicist, it’s the Romans who are our perennial favourites.

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The latest themed weekend at the museum saw it host the splendid Britannia reenactment group. They set up camp, where visitors can interact with Romans explaining various aspects of life from the time, while the highlights are two demonstrations of gladiatorial combat. Britannia work brilliantly with the crowd, providing an educational, gripping and often laugh-out-loud funny introduction to the world of the gladiator from some 2000 years ago.

We were hoping that our three-year-old daughter might show some interest in the spectacle. We hadn’t expected that she would sit enthralled for the entire demonstration. Better still, as we completed our visit to the museum some time later, we were passing the performance area again just as the second demonstration of the day was starting. Tilly insisted we stayed to watch it and by this point was joining in with chants of ‘jugula’ to encourage Caesar to dispatch the opposing team’s gladiator. This is a level of interest that can only be matched when she’s sat square-eyed in front of the iPad and we know which of the two we prefer her doing.

For the grown-ups, the recreation of the gladiatorial action is mightily impressive, so much so that I captured some of the highlights in slow motion goodness. My budget doesn’t stretch to licensing the Gladiator soundtrack but I reckon it’s pretty dramatic all the same:

You might well question whether fighting and even fake blood is the stuff of preschooler-friendly viewing. Well I’m in no doubt. We made it clear throughout to Tilly that it was just pretend fighting (the ones who lose end up with red paint on themselves), while all the gladiators appear again at the end to prove that no reenactors were harmed in the making of the spectacle.

Since attending the weekend, Tilly’s interest in the Romans has been renewed. She’s started playing with a gladiator figure we have – along with her soft toys, which is pleasingly surreal – and she’s been trying out some gladiator moves in the garden with ShireMum and the Roman swords we bought at the museum. Tilly has also starting asking for the Roman words for a manner of objects now, so it looks like her second language will be Latin. Salve!

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5 thoughts on “Traditional Roman entertainment for preschoolers

  • 7 June 2016 at 11:26 am
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    I used to love this kind of thing as a kid, I’ll have to find something like it locally to take the kiddos to, I reckon they’d get a lot out of it (even if it’s only tips for fighting each other in a gladiatorial style!)

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  • 7 June 2016 at 9:16 pm
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    I am a bit Roman-obsessed so this has got me very excited! Of course, no one wants soft play or finger painting. We want gladitorial combat. Minus the ouchy bits of course. I think I might have trouble explaining afterwards why it’s not ok to attack daddy with a stick however. #Twinklytuesday

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  • 14 June 2016 at 9:56 am
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    Aww this is brilliant how lovely that she is so into it that’s she’s role playing at home. Sounds like a great museum too to be putting on regular events.#TwinklyTuesday

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