If you happen to find yourself in Wales this summer and are looking for something toddler (and adult friendly) to do on a drizzly grey day, I can highly recommend a trip to the National Museum Cardiff. We went last month, just before the Schools broke up for Summer. It is a bit of a trek from the Farm, and I was slightly apprehensive at the thought of a 2 hour road trip with C and JoJo screaming in unison. Fortunately it turned out to be a super straight route and, despite gatecrashing some Graduation photos on the steps of the Museum (!) , we had a fantastic time.
Here are my top 5 reasons to visit:
1.Hands on exhibits
I have been to a fair share of stuffy museums and exhibits , with and without small children in tow. I remember getting ‘politely’ asked to leave the Tate as a child when my brother accidentally waved his arm too close to a priceless painting. I hate it when I can feel the guards eyes boring a hole in my back if I lean in towards a cabinet, bearing a ‘Do not touch’ sign .
It gets worse when there are toddler shaped tornados following me. It is seriously no fun for anyone to spend the whole visit listening to me bark orders ‘Don’t touch that! ‘Don’t lick the cabinet!’ ‘Don’t climb on the Reliant Robin (yes, it did happen.)’ No. I am avoiding any museum or gallery that is not interactive, engaging and entrancing until my little ones are safely through the toddler years.
Fortunately the National Museum is very hands on and accepts sticky toddlers. We skipped the floor which houses the art exhibitions .C was in ‘Whirling Dervish’mode , and when we got out of the lift on the top floor she made a bee line for a bronze statue, arms outstretched in preparation to climb. I managed to spin her back round into the lift, and we went to look at ‘Wriggle: the wonderful world of worms’ exhibit.
The centre piece of this amazing family friendly exhibit is the Wrigloo, which is essentially a giant wormery. It offers visitors a chance to experience a worms-eye-view on life, complete with predators watching your every move . JoJo and C thought it was great!
C enjoyed dressing up as a caterpillar, but wasn’t keen on trying the ‘Scientist’ costume on!
I managed to do some learning and exploring of my own whilst the girls checked out the worm related book corner.
My favourite discovery was that the late Lemmy from Motorhead had a ‘late’ worm (a fossil) named after him.How very rock and roll. I have somehow managed to cut the model out of the photo (well done me), so I’ll leave it as a surprise for you to find out what Kalloprion Kilmisteri looks like!
This exhibition runs until September 2016, so still plenty of time to check it out.
The Clore Discovery Centre, located on the ground floor to the left of the main entrance, is another wonderful family friendly area. I couldn’t get over the fact that we were free to explore the items on display here.
Skulls, arrowheads, fossils, preserved insects ;things that are normally encased in glass, behind barriers or locked in storage vaults.
It was really enlightening to be able to handle them and even use a microscope to get a closer look.
We discovered that this is on (during Term Time) completely by fluke. On every floor, tucked into a quiet corner were little ‘treasure chests’ stuffed full of toys, instruments and books.
Each box was themed to the relevant section of the museum. They seemed really popular, so much so that we had to circle the dinosaur section twice before we could get to the box!
The marine box had a fantastic selection of toys and books which occupied the girls for quite a while.
We also had fun taking part in the play activities in the Clore Discovery Centre.There were lots of different musical instruments for the kids to try, with some supervision from staff members. C also got to make a jingley jangley set of bells. She chose to put a single bell on. One. Measly. Bell. It was still a lot of fun.
Need I say more? Not much in life is free any more, certainly not when it comes to amusing children. I advise using the car park at the rear of the museum.(Currently priced at £6 for a days parking). There is a direct path round to the entrance and tickets for the carpark are bought in the museum gift shop, so no faffing for change! We got there at 10.30 and left at 4, so that makes it a pound an hour for entertainment!
There are touring exhibits, which require tickets to be purchased.’Treasures:Adventures in Archaelogy’ is currently based at the museum, but as this is on until the end of October 2016 we opted to save it for another day.
4.Child friendly feasting
The café downstairs has a great set up for the under fives.The food looked and smelled delicious, but being the skin flint I am we had our own packed lunch. I did stretch to a caffeine hit and a piece of cake, mainly so the girls could take advantage of the games and books stationed around the restaurant.Our seating area was right next to a trolley full of things to keep little hands occupied. I think JoJo’s favourite bit in the whole day was playing with an activity cube, the very same make and model as the one we have at home. The museum is also Breastfeeding friendly, with a designated room should you wish to use it.
5. Something for everyone
There is an awful lot packed into this museum. The ‘Evolution of Wales’ gallery was so good, we went round twice. In fact, C watched the audiovisual about our galaxy three times. I think she’d still be there now if she’d taken enough food in with her.
The natural history galleries are also jam packed with interesting finds. I dare you to stand under the Basking shark and not be amazed at the sheer size of a creature that feeds only on Zooplankton. Mind blowing stuff!
If nothing else in this blog takes your fancy, go and visit Kevin the crab. For a hermit crab, he’s pretty friendly!
For more information and an up to date list of ‘what’s on’ take a look at the Museums website. If you do visit, let me know what your favourite bit was and why!