Museums occupy a special niche when it comes to family days out – they’re one of the few attractions to unequivocally span the generation gap. Visitors of all ages are captivated by treasure troves of fascinating exhibitions, weird facts and odd discoveries. Toddlers to grandparents can share memories from times gone by, igniting little minds and fuelling the imagination through the realms of art, science, music and history. A day in the museum doesn’t just provide intellectual enrichment – it also strengthens the family unit.
In the UK we’re blessed with hundreds of wonderful museums, from historic institutions to quirky and contemporary affairs. Kids in Museums (image above) work with museums across the country to provide advice and ensure that our museums are open, accessible and available for one and all to enjoy.
BritMums, a great resource, had this to say about family-friendly museum visits: “Museums, art galleries, places of historical and cultural interest are all extra ways of expanding a child’s view of the world and their general knowledge. It’s always a great idea to follow up a trip out with the children with discussion; What did you like? What didn’t you like? and so on to fix the experience more firmly in their minds.”
With half-term around the corner, I’ve drawn up five fascinating attractions which I hope will inspire your family and draw the generations together.
Memory lane at Tiverton Museum
This award-winning museum provides a fascinating insight into Mid-Devon’s history; whatever your age, its eclectic displays should prove utterly enthralling. What better way for the kids to learn than by hearing first-hand tales of times gone by? I love listening to my nanny recount her memories and I’m sure that Tivvy Bumper, the GWR Steam Engine that’s on display, will rouse a tale or two from anyone who recalls the steam era.
Half-term brings a Celebration of Autumn to the museum where your little ones can enjoy a day of traditional crafts. Bring along some fruit for the apple pressing and get a closer look at the vintage agricultural equipment. The event takes place on Tuesday 28th October.
The museum also welcomes temporary displays throughout the year. One of the exhibitions that caught my eye is ‘If the shoe fits’. My husband will attest to my fascination with shoes, and this exhibition tells the story of how footwear has evolved over the years, including such quirky topics as superstitions involving shoes. The exhibition runs from 3rd October – 20th December.
There is much more to explore at Tiverton Museum and with kids’ admission free when accompanied by an adult, your day out needn’t be expensive.
Next on my generation-spanning list is an exciting museum with loads of interactive experiences and hands-on learning…Places to stay in Devon
Young at heart: Eureka! The national children’s museum – Halifax
With eight galleries showcasing a dizzying array of topics, you and the little ones will be completely absorbed. Eureka! is a unique enterprise with an emphasis on learning through play.
As for what visitors can expect while wandering the exhibits, the museum had this to say: “Everything at Eureka! is designed to inspire children to find out about themselves and the world around them. They can step inside giant parts of the human body, catch a wave, save a polar bear and even get a job at the Post Office, all in a day’s play.”
This half term, Eureka! will be getting spooky – step inside the enchanted forest where witches with bubbling cauldrons will be brewing magic potions. Apprentice wizards and witches can conjure interactive tales, with mask-making and creepy costumes to help them get into the spirit. Grave robbers, dastardly dancing and special activities for smaller visitors make this an event not to be missed. It runs from 25th October – 2nd November.Holiday homes in Yorkshire
A step back in time at Beamish Museum – County Durham
This world-famous museum is set over 300 acres of glorious countryside. Visitors are transported back in time and invited to experience life in the North East of England during Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian times. Step into the different eras, with ‘real life’ settings including houses, shops and other buildings which have been moved to Beamish and restored to their original state.
Halloween is always the predominant theme over October half-term and Beamish does it in style, hosting four Halloween evenings. Don your ghoulish gowns and prepare for an evening of fiendish fun. The town and several other zones will be swamped with terrifying creatures and there will be a best-dressed costume contest plus loads of spooky activities. Whatever your age, a Halloween extravaganza awaits. The event runs from 29th – 31st October. Ticket only event, tickets available from www.beamish.org.ukPlaces to stay in County Durham
Ships ahoy at the National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum, winners of this years Telegraph family friendly museum award, tells the story of the sea and the pivotal role it’s played in the lives of Cornish communities. Boat-lovers are in for a real treat with fantastic exhibits, many of which are interactive. Learn how sailors use navigation and meteorology, climb the watch tower, whose panoramic views are breath-taking, and visit the tidal zone where you will be immersed in a sub-aquatic world. Two large windows look out into the harbour where you can watch sea creatures swim past and learn about the effects of moon and sun on the tides.
This half-term there are oodles of activities taking place. Here are a few to whet your appetite:
The Story Explorer invites visitors to go fishing for clues around the museum, dredging up tall tales and washed up treasure along the way. It takes place on 30th October at 11am, 12pm and 2pm. Spooky shenanigans are guaranteed with the Halloween trick or treat tour. Make monster masks, bloodcurdling badges and trick or treat baskets before setting off on a torchlit tour of the museum. 31st October, 6.30-8.30pm.
Story Time with Sally Crabtree will take you beyond the horizon of your imagination. Cast your line into the sea of songs, hoist the story sail and make treasures from the cargo of creativity! 31st October, 6.30-8.30pm
A full list of half-term activities can be found on the museum’s website.Holiday homes in Cornwall
Find your inner child at the V&A Museum of Childhood
The V&A Museum of Childhood houses the UK’s national collection of children’s objects, from the 1600s to the present day. Here you can learn about the significance these items have had on children’s lives and how they have influenced their thoughts and feelings. It’s a fascinating insight into the early years of British children.
Half-term brings a special WWI-themed event to the museum: Wizz-Bangs and Pipsqueaks. There will be a range of themed activities to take part in, including First World War-inspired costumes (which visitors will be encouraged to try on) and a telling of the Story Spinner’s version of Fly Cher Ami, where a pigeon saves the lost battalion. 27th – 31st October from 10.30am to 4.00pm.
There’s always something new for families to try at the museum, whether it’s playing with an interactive toy or taking part in one of the free drop-in activities which occur every day. All in all it’s the perfect half-term day out.Holiday homes in South Kensington
Schedule some time this half-term to bridge the generation gap and come together for a day of family fun. Kids; parents; grandparents – everyone’s invited, because learning is for life, not just for school.
Family Friendly Museums
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