Formerly - A look at the ups and downs of life with a double pushchair!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Do you have a clipboard?

Is it me or have things become a lot more child friendly since we were kids?

I remember being dragged round museums and stately homes by my parents. Sometimes there was something interesting to see but often I just used to look forward to the picnic or the stop at the ice-cream van. Nowadays every attraction seems to be designed with children in mind and that ever exciting activity sheet to fill in. 

Since eldest daughter was born 8 years ago we have re-designed famous pieces of Art at the Tate modern, found out exactly what each dinosaur ate at the Natural History Museum and found out how to wrap a mummy at the British Museum. But it isn't just the large museums that provide activity sheets. Everywhere seems to have them these days. I do wonder when the day will come that we will enter Tesco or the Swimming Pool and be handed out a sheet to fill in.

And so it was on our sojourn to the new forest last week that we stumbled across the New Forest visitor centre in Lyndhurst and hidden in the corner of the gift shop was a door labelled museum. We had stopped for a picnic and to use the facilities and decided that perhaps the museum would be something to look at for half an hour or so. We didn't imagine it to be that interesting but as the saying goes "Never judge a book by its cover or a museum by its door".  Kids went in for free and at £3.50 per adult it seemed a bargain and at least we could get out of the rain.

On opening the door to the museum we were faced with a host of activity and colouring sheets, clipboards and pencils. The museum may have only been small - essentially one big area downstairs and a gallery upstairs but it was the best designed museum for kids I have ever been to. After an hour we had to send the dear husbands out to pay for more parking. There was so much to do. The kids could dress up in animal costumes, watch a nature film, do colouring, puzzles and a treasure hunt. There was even a beanbag area and megablocks and books for babies. We had no idea the New Forest could create so many ideas for a museum.

A couple of days later we visited Beaulieu and the activity sheet here covered the entire site. I felt it my duty as a parent to educate my children and make sure that we filled in all sections of the questionnaire in order that they could receive their certificate at the end. It covered the abbey, the stately home, the motor museum and even the gardens.

Setting off enthusiastically for the abbey we headed round the same small section 3 times in search of the specific floor tile shown on the guide and then we had a rather heated discussion about what the cloister was and how many arches we could see around it. Part of the motor museum was being re-developed so this made it all the more challenging as several of the cars had moved location so it made it all the more fun. I felt like I looked round the entire gallery just looking at the numberplates desperate to find out what vehicle had the plate ML570. I cheered so loudly when we found it the other visitors must have assumed I was a crazy lady.

By the end of our day at Beaulieu we felt proud that we had found all the items and educated our children about the grounds and Lord Montague himself  (whose flag was flying that day so we knew he was at home - question 7).  It's great to educate your own children.

When we asked them in the car what they remembered from the day eldest daughter said that the picnic had been fantastic and boy in the middle was very excited to have been to the home of King Monty View! Ah we can but do our best!!

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