Not all museums are stuffed with dusty artefacts that are more likely to make your pre-schooler fall asleep than fire their imagination.
Here are some of our favourite ideas for cultural and educational days out which will keep little ones and their grown ups happy and inspired.
Just off the M62 between Leeds and Manchester, Eureka is heaven for inquisitive children aged 0-11.
They claim that ‘nothing is trapped inside a glass cabinet’ and it's true - all exhibits are designed to be interactive in some way.
With hundreds of buttons to press, levers to pull and things to investigate, children are free to get ‘hands on’ throughout the museum, and will learn a lot about how the world works while having loads of fun.
Under ones are free
1-2 year olds £5.25
Everybody over 3 years old: 12.95 (ticket prices include annual pass)
National Railway Museum
If your little one is train obsessed, they will love seeing so many iconic engines all in one place. The brilliant ‘little play station’ is an area just for the under-fives, with huge train sets, a build your own Stephenson’s Rocket, and a role play area. There is also a soft play zone for the under 2’s.
Roald Dahl museum
Aimed at primary age children, this museum is nevertheless engaging for older preschoolers. There are hourly storytelling sessions and interactive galleries, as well as a craft zone and various special events in school holidays. Due to the relatively small size of the museum it is wise to book in advance especially if visiting in school holidays.
Adults £6.60; 5-16 year olds £4.40; under fives are free.
The Look Out Discovery Centre
Located near Bracknell, this is more of a fun scientific day out than a museum, but it is educational and inspiring for pre-schoolers so merits inclusion. Many of the 90 exhibits are suitable for younger children, in particular the water and building zones. There are regular special days for toddlers with age appropriate arts, crafts and storytelling.
Parent and toddler £6.25 (weekday term time)
or Adult £7.30, under 16s £5, under 4s free. Reduced entry after 4pm
London Transport Museum
With a dedicated ‘All Aboard’ area for under-fives, this is heaven for children with even a passing interest in buses, trains and all things vehicular. Once children tire of the historic exhibits, head for the interactive area where your toddler will be able to get behind the wheel of a full size London bus, experience being in charge of a tube train, dress up and role play the ticket office.
Under 18’s are free
Adults £17 (includes annual unlimited admission)
Science Museum and Natural History Museum
With activities for all age groups, London’s Science Museum and Natural History museum - which are next door to each other - make a great free family day out. Unless you want to pay extra for one of the chargeable shows, these iconic national museums are totally free and a really memorable experience. Your pre-schooler can enjoy The Garden interactive gallery and the Pattern Pod at the Science Museum, and all the animal exhibits at the Natural History museum, where you can also pick up an explorer pack to help give some focus to your visit. The Investigate Gallery is a chance to get hands on with some unusual natural artifacts.
Museum of Childhood
Part of the V&A museum in London, this is an immersive experience taking you through various historical aspects of childhood from toys to family and culture. It may sound a bit dry for under-fives but the museum is well setup for pre-schoolers with daily activities suitable for young children, and events for all ages during the school holidays. There is a dedicated buggy park, good changing facilities and a Montessori pack you can borrow from the information desk to keep younger children interested.
Free entry. Charges apply for certain events.
With more and more museums making their exhibits friendly for little ones, don't be afraid to get out there and explore - your toddler is sure to love having an adventurous day out with you, whatever you decide to do!
For curious children with an interest in the world around them and all things scientific this is a brilliant interactive experience located in Cardiff Bay. Special toddler days once a month have lots of activities tailored to the age group and the interactive areas adapted to their needs.
Children 4-16 years old £6
Under 4’s free
Written for the Alliance by Martha Hales