Britain’s museums and galleries have upped their game, now entertaining and enthralling young visitors as well as educating them. Where “don’t touch” used to be a common command, these days children are positively encouraged to interact, often involving some mind-blowing hands-on displays. Here are some of our favourites.
Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden
This is no straight-laced museum but a place for a phizz-whizzingly good time. Children can dress up as Dahl’s characters, make up funny words, smell walls that look like chocolate and create illustrated tales. As well as meeting the great storyteller through pictures and manuscripts, you can even sit in his chair and jot down your own swizzfiggling story ideas.
Did your kids see Night at the Museum? Well this is where prehistoric creatures, science and nature truly come to life before your eyes. Come face to face with the animatronic T Rex, stand beneath the world’s largest mammal and feel the ground move in an earthquake. Witness giant tarantulas among the specimens in the Darwin Centre’s Cocoon, and discover just how humans are changing the environment. Inspirational for all ages.
With their highbrow culture and silent exhibition halls, art galleries were once fun-free zones for kids. But Manchester Art Gallery is just one place where things have changed. Dressing up in imitation of the artworks, chariot racing and a gallery filled with tactile objects all bring art into creative young hands. Here you get backpacks stuffed with activities for 7- to 12-year-olds and tool belts with binoculars and magnifying glasses for younger children. All this, plus a calendar packed with workshops and events, in a buggy-friendly venue with a decent family café.
Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh
ODE takes children on an awe-inspiring journey, special effects at every turn, from the Big Bang, through the earth’s core, to the future. En route they’ll witness spectacular natural phenomenon such as icebergs and the Aurora Borealis, zoom back millions of years aboard a time machine, stand on the edge of a volcano, fly over glaciers and experience the Arctic, oceans and rainforests in 4-D.
Magna Science Adventure Centre, Rotherham
Learn all about the elements on a high-octane, interactive adventure through fire, water, earth and air. Make waves, squirt cannons and get rained on. Dry off by a towering fire tornado and experience a ground-shaking pyrotechnic display. Drive a JCB and explode a rock face. Spin on a gyroscopic chairs and play on trampolines, spinning bowls and tilted roundabouts – all in the interest of science, of course.