The Science Museum Wonderlab!
We have long been fans of the Science Museum, just one of the many free resources London has on offer. It literally doesn’t cost a penny to get in (you can make a donation) and there is SO much to see and do that why wouldn’t you want to visit, child or adult?! We also particularly like this museum as an added extra because down in the basement (which also has a great hands on area for tiny ones called The Garden – well worth a visit) is the ‘Secret Lofe of the Home’ gallery with an article on display called a Baby Daisy vacuum cleaner. Next to that item is a plaque stating who donated the artefact to the museum many moons ago and the plaque is in the name of one Mrs F.R. Davies. Mrs Frank Reginald Davies was, as it happens, my Grandmother… So we have a soft spot for always visiting this area first and having our picture taken next to the vacuum cleaner which she found in her attic, an early model of a product we now use every day, when she lived in a big Victorian house in Diss, Norfolk. She wasn’t a Norfolk girl like me originally coming from south London and the Science Museum was somewhere she always liked to visit – I remember her taking me with my cousins as a child and now when I go I always think of her! A special museum for evwryone with a very special meaning for me. My Grandmother was a right funny old thing but she was pretty awesome and I know she used to get a massive kick out of us visiting that old Baby Daisy of hers!
So we LOVE the Science Museum and historically, while we have much enjoyed The Garden downstairs and The Bubble Show which has been running for years (all free), we have also always made a trip upstairs to the old Launch Pad where more hands on experiments were on offer for slightly older children. I was horrified the last time we visited to find that the Launch Pad was no more and what’s more, what has been born in its place, The Wonderlab, is now a chargeable exhibition! I used to adore that the Science Museum was so inclusive of everyone by not charging and even more to the point was that because on that date we were late to the party not realising we needed to purchase tickets, they had all been sold and we couldn’t go at all! But I was very intrigued to find out if paying for this new lab would be worth the money when I’d become so used to this being a ‘go to’ free activity… Well, our time came this week and with tickets pre-booked we were IN!
After enjoying some of the many free things to see and do at The Science Museum we took a step into to the Wonderlab which is based in the Equinor Gallery and actually… For £8 per child I have to say WOW (It’s worth noting that for just £13 you can buy an annual pass and that makes it practically free because you just won’t think about it the next time you visit! Also you can knock another £3 off each ticket if you buy a family’s worth of annual passes in one go – adult tickets are a couple of quid more than children’s.) I guess resources don’t come cheap but I’m happy to note that they haven’t scrimped on any of this and it’s a world away from the tired old Launch Pad! ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!
With over 50 exhibits (all new) this is a really hands on approach to science and maths for little ones and with a great big wow factor to boot! We went to see a science show at the theatre a couple of weeks ago and this is just like that only in the palm of your own hands. Making science and learning totally fun, dramatic and absolutely nothing like a school lesson – just fabulous! My kids loved the spinning planets, the rocket building, the amazing slides, they couldn’t get enough and didn’t really know which way to turn as there is so much and they were sad that we literally couldn’t see and do everything meaning we have to go back. No hardship believe me. I sense an annual pass coming on because I’m only two visits you’ve already saved… Masses! I’ve a friend who visited the same day as us and just like we had been the first visit after wonderlab started, she hadn’t realised or budgeted for an extra cost. So she didn’t go in. As a result I think she felt a little deflated about the whole museum which is SUCH a shame. I honestly and truthfully can hand on heart say you won’t regret buying an annual ticket but they do also allow you to upgrade on the day so you don’t have to make that decision until you’ve been in. My friend missed out that day, I just hope she gives it another chance! It is a bit annoying when you’re used to only making a donation as you visit BUT… And I’m tight with money just remember… This is can totally see is worth it and understand why they have to charge. It’s heavily staffed with amazing ‘explainers’ who really interact with the children. It also has very expensive exhibits with expensive materials used every single day. I assure you, the ticket price is worth it!
Little touches around the museum make it extra special like the new artwork on display just outside the Wonderlab! The acclaimed and much-loved illustrator Quentin Blake was commissioned by the Science Museum to create brand-new artwork for the walls outside the exhibition for visitors of all ages to enjoy. I love it and LOVE how he’s depicted items from the museum as well as using 20 staff members for his muses in the illustrations – they are so worth going to have a look at even if you don’t have time for the Wonderlab (but you should make that time… Honest)! There’s also a milkshake stop and lots of seats just outside – just saying…
While we were at the Science Museum we also checked out the new family exhibition all about the sun, The Sun: Living With Our Star. With yet again more hands on fun for the little people, objects to hold and learn through exploration as well as lots of things to see this is the perfect exhibition for kids. I appreciate looking around stuffy old museums at boring old exhibitions with your parents isn’t quite what kids are really after but this couldn’t be further from that description. This is a topic which I new would interest Jimmy (It’s just up his street) but it really pulled Florence in too with such a fab way of showing the information – Bask in sunlight on an indoor beach, try on historic sunglasses in a digital mirror, and watch the Sun rise around the world on a huge illuminated display as you explore the fascinating story of humankind’s relationship with our closest star. We found it fascinating, all of us!
The Science Museum has always gone a really long way to make learning fun, interactive and engaging and I have always loved my visits both as a child myself and an adult with my own little people. There are loads of things to see – way too much actually to fit into one day. We tend to choose our faves (like the basement, garden, bubble show etc.) and stick with those while seeing a couple of other things too. Obviously the new Wonderlab is now on our list but we also just love wandering around and finding where the day takes us. The main hall where automobiles are on display all up the walls is terribly exciting as is the space room where it’s very dark with a recreation of Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon! There’s always something on from storytelling and challenges to shows and more!
Obviously we took a little trip down to the basement so that Raffie could have a play in the 3-5 year old’s area (he’s very advanced – ha ha)! I took the other two here when they were babies and they loved the water play. Sadly this element was closed as something had gone wrong but he enjoyed the sensory play with the other things. Also closed was the Home exhibition. For refurbishment… I hope they don’t discard my Grandmother’s Hoover! I have lots of reasons to go back – another one is that I left my camera in the car which is why you see such grainy phone camera images here. I apologise and next time will take my big camera and get some decent shots!
My only criticism isn’t with The Science Museum at all but with TFL. For the love of transport why don’t they make South Kensington have step free access?! With so many families visiting every day they need a ramp. Plain and simple. Not a lift, it would get too congested. A ramp. I see it. Easy peasy. Goodness only know why they don’t?!
You have to visit if you’re in London and don’t make one day to do ALL the museums… You need a whole day just for this one alone! Believe me!
We were kindly gifted tickets to the Wonderlab and The Sun exhibition.