A Day at the Museums

The Museums in South Kensington – most especially The Science Museum and The Natural History Museum – were staples of my childhood. I remember many a school trip – soggy sandwiches and broken down coaches included- and family day out spent happily at both, so it’s natural that they were both on the list of “Family Days Out To Look Forward To” before Thomas was even born. However, with one thing and another, we hadn’t actually got around to taking him until last weekend. And having now taken him, I’m glad that we waited a while. We were able to go without a pushchair in-tow (which simplifies everything) and Thomas was properly interested in so much that was on offer, participating not just in the interactive areas for young children, but also asking questions about everything he could see.

Having asked Thomas if he wanted to see rockets or dinosaurs first, we headed straight to the Science Museum. I had heard the same advice over and over again that the main areas to go with little ones are the basement and the fourth floor, but of course that wasn’t accounting for Thomas’s obsession with steam and engines. The enormous working steam engine in the entrance hall captivated him for so long that I began to think we’d never get away. It was only the promise of more engines that succeeded, and he was in seventh heaven when he discovered “Stephen” (Stephenson’s Rocket) “Billy” (Puffing Billy) and “Emily” (a great big steam engine with a passing resemblance to “Emily” from Thomas and Friends) plus plenty of others. We spent a good while on a gallery which housed a number of small scale models of trains and other machines. At first he was a bit put out that they weren’t moving, so he was absolutely ecstatic to discover that some of them did indeed move if you pushed a button! The cars and space rockets were also a huge hit with Thomas, and of course, there was plenty to interest me including old dental units, an early radiographic machine and a three dimensional model of pig insulin. But visiting museums with kids is very different to visiting them without: your own interests get rapidly sidelined, of course!

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We didn’t make it to the bubble show that everyone has been raving about, but we did see a rocket show up on the fourth floor that Thomas really enjoyed. It was probably pitched at slightly older children, with explanations of Newton’s Laws of Motion, complete with audience participation demonstrations. However, the show was extremely well done in that it also kept Thomas’s attention throughout without dumbing down. To my surprise he found hydrogen explosions absolutely hilarious, and was not at all phased by the loud bangs or rockets being flung across the room. (This is the kid who still covers his ears if a particularly loud car approaches, and screams blue murder if anyone dares to use a hand dryer in his vicinity!)

We also spent quite a bit of time in the Pattern Pod, where the interactive floor was a big hit, and also in the Garden in the basement.

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We headed to the Natural Museum in the afternoon, although to be honest, Thomas was already showing signs of being pretty tired and possibly a bit over stimulated. However we’d made the mistake of mentioning that he could see a dinosaur, and he damn well wanted to see it! Dinosaurs are another area of unpredictability with Thomas. He sometimes cowers in fear at anything dinosaur related on television, but at other times loves it. The diplodocus in the entrance hall was definitely loved. So much so that he begged to “see more dinosaurs now”. However, when we got round to the entrance to the main dinosaur exhibit, he got very unsettled – probably because it’s quite dark and noisy – and asked to go. We decided to cut our losses and head home before a great day ended up with a massive meltdown.

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He has asked all week about the dinosaur, though. And for the first time in ages, I chanced putting Andy’s Dinosaur Adventure on Cbeebies on for him. The last time he saw an episode several months ago he screamed until it was turned off. This time thought he was very excited by seeing “the big dinosaur skeleton” and seemed to get quite in to it. So I think we’ll be back to the Natural History Museum again before long!

As the mark of a good day. Thomas actually fell asleep on me on the train home. This is the kid who never, ever sleeps during the day unless he is utterly worn out. It’s become my goal to get him so tired on days out that he sleeps happily, and this time it worked! Definitely a good day had by all.

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One Reply to “A Day at the Museums”

  1. That looks like an amazing day out – he just looks so happy 🙂 – and definitely head back to the dinosaurs, H took the girls in the summer when I was at Britmums despite concerns about dark and noise and everything that made the aquarium a flop the time before but they loved it – I’ve got a brilliant video of a moving T-rex and a small Kitty shouting “stick your tongue out at me dinosaur!!”

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