Wonderlab at the Science Museum

Oops, it’s been well over a week since my last post. I feel like sometimes I really get into the groove of blogging, and manage a post every few days, and then my mojo goes and I have to force myself to start typing. 

Earlier this week Frida and I visited the Wonderlab at the Science Museum, and I was so impressed that I wanted to write about it in case anyone was thinking of visiting. 

The Wonderlab is a hands-on zone for children to explore different scientific phenomena, such as energy and light. The museum states it’s designed for ages three upwards, but I think there was enough suitable for toddlers to make it well worth a trip.

Although the Science Museum is free, the Wonderlab costs around £7 for an adult – though it’s £14 for an annual pass, so I chose that option. Frida went in for free. 

Highlights for us included an amazing rotating model of the earth orbiting the sun which children can walk on, a light table (I really appreciated that this was at toddler height), a room with changing lights, and some very cool displays involving ice and steam. 

For older children there were so many amazing looking zones, including slides with differing levels of friction, pulley systems which raises them wholly into the air, and building materials. I think this is definitely a place we will be coming back to for years to come. 

We went during the week which meant there were a lot of school children visiting at the same time, which did feel a bit overwhelming and noisy. I think next time we go we’ll try to go late afternoon when hopefully the school trips will have left for the day. This is a “problem” in all the main London museums (though actually it’s fantastic – I’m so proud of our free, world-class museums and that they cater so well for children). 

The Science Museum also has a more toddler-focused space (“The Garden”) in the basement with water play, mirrors, instruments, and space for free play. It’s a brilliant place to visit with children, especially if you’re prepared for it to be a little busy. 

Frida was quite tired when we went as we had just come from the Natural History Museum, where we visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition (which was amazing but the photos were quite high up and not very big so I had to put Frida in the sling so she could see them properly, which wasn’t ideal), but she had a great time and I’m already looking forward to going back at a slightly less hectic time. 

I’ll leave you with a video I took of Frida enjoying the changing lights – so cool!


 

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Tate Britain 

Every week I try and take Frida somewhere a bit different, as a change from our local parks and playgrounds and cafes. It could be as simple as going to a city farm, or visiting family in another town, or making the most of London’s many world-class museums and galleries, most of which are free. 

This week I had planned to take Frida to visit my sister and nephew who live in Brighton, but when we got to the station (after a big rush to make our train) we found it was cancelled, with more disruptions to follow. As we were already at the station it seemed a shame to go home, so I decided to take Frida to the Tate Britain art gallery. 

I love taking Frida to galleries; discussing the works of art with her, asking her what she thinks an abstract piece represents, and seeing which works she is most drawn to. There are many sculptures in the Tate Britain, so we had to have lots of conversations about why we can’t touch them! 

We spent a long time lying on the floor looking at two mobiles which were hanging from the high ceiling. I asked Frida if she thought they would be heavy or light, hard or soft, warm or cool, rough or smooth. A group of school children walked past us lying on our backs and seemed very bemused! 

Some of Frida’s favourites were a couple of Turner’s later paintings of the sea (Tate Britain has an extensive collection of Turner’s work). As these were high up I had to pick her up a lot to get a good view of them. I might see if I can borrow a book of his work from the library. 

The best thing about taking a toddler to galleries and museums is definitely the spaces themselves – so much space to run and explore! I did try to encourage Frida to whisper or at least speak quietly when we were in the galleries proper, but in the cavernous halls she was so delighted by the sound of her voice as she wandered about.

The most important part of any trip for me is, I am ashamed to say, the bit where I can sit down and get a caffeine hit! We spend so much time in cafes that Frida is becoming a real pro at ordering (“Frida wants a babyccino and mummy would like a latte!”) and will happily sit and drink her drink without needing to get up or be distracted. 

I feel so lucky to live in a city where we can access this kind of culture for free. 

Feeding the goats

We often go to the farm – last year when the weather was still mild we used to go every other week at least. We haven’t been much recently though as our favourite farm (Vauxhall) has a closed cafe until mid-February, and honestly getting a coffee and relaxing a bit is an important part of the farm trip for me! 

However despite the cold weather the sun was out today, and Frida had been asking to go, so we wrapped up and headed out to meet a dear friend and her little boy there. 

Frida is getting braver and decided to feed the goats all by herself today. She loved using the feed dispenser (great for fine motor skills – slotting the 20p coin, turning the knob, collecting the pellets) and as always, hand washing was a bit hit with both children. 

I’ve shared a few photos – I hope you’ll forgive the indulgence! 

Vauxhall city farm

Frida is a child who loves animals. And I mean really loves them. If she’s sad and a bee flies past – wham, smiles. A cat walking down the street? Best. Thing. Ever. Don’t get me started on ducks and geese…

Because of this love of animals there is no better place for Frida at the moment than a city farm. We have taken her to Deen City Farm by Morden Hall Park (our favourite place) a number of times, so I thought we’d try a different one, and we headed to Vauxhall.

When going to a farm it’s very important to wear appropriate clothing, in this case a dress with ducks on. This dress gets chosen a lot, perhaps unsurprisingly! 

Now Frida can walk independently she is able to interact with spaces so differently. She seems much happier to potter off and do her own thing.
Vauxhall City 

Her absolute favourite activity was hand washing, and we stayed at this sink for a good 10-15 minutes. Every time I asked her if she was finished she would say “no!”. 

Vauxhall City Farm is brilliant. There are: goats, alpacas, sheep, all of which you can feed. Donkeys, horses, pigs. Chickens, a turkey, and lots of ducks. Small mammals such as rabbits, hamsters, degus. 

Frida very bravely fed a goat and now will hold her hand out to you flat if you ask her to show you how to feed a goat. 

It also has a great, pleasant cafe, with good coffee and delicious gluten-free cakes, as well as tasty looking proper meals. Because entry is free I don’t begrudge paying for tasty snacks. 

I really recommend the farm for toddlers; in fact, we’ve already been back once with friends.

These are the days 

When I started this blog, I thought that it would act as a sort of journal which we could look back on when Frida is older. I’ve never been much good at keeping a diary, but I thought the public nature of a blog might shame me into maintaining it semi-regularly. 

This morning was certainly a morning for the journal. 


We’ve had beautiful sunshine for the last few days so we wanted to go and make the most of it as a family. 

We have a the brilliant Morden Hall Park a 15 minute drive away; part National Trust, part park, leading on to a city farm, it’s such a great place for children. There is a stream running through the rose garden for paddling. Yes, it’s as idyllic as it sounds!

We brought her scooter and she had a great time scooting towards all of the many fine dogs who were out enjoying the sun, shouting “dog” at them. One licked her. She was thrilled. 

She is absolutely obsessed with ducks at the moment and never passes up an opportunity to go and look at them. Her ability to spot ducks, dogs, birds, cats and babies (“bubba”) a mile away is terrifyingly good. 

We took her for her first ever paddle and she absolutely loved it. I mean, loved it. At first she wanted to stand holding our hands but quickly she decided that was not good enough and crouched down in the water grabbing handfuls of muddy gravel (“stone! stone!”), occasionally trying to put some in her mouth.

She had such a wonderful time crawling and splashing and enjoying the cold water and the hot sunshine. Equally wonderful for her was getting dry, standing there gloriously naked in the dappled shade whilst blossom fell in her, chewing a breadstick and pointing out all the dogs she could see to us (“dog! dog dere! dere! bird!”)


These are the sorts of days I daydreamed about before we had Frida, before I was even pregnant. 

I don’t ever want to forget how her voice sounds, or how her little kisses feel, or the weight of her sleeping body as I carry her in from the car and lay her down to sleep. 

I don’t ever want to forget that, in moments like these, life is absolutely perfect. 

London Zoo 

My husband doesn’t work on Thursdays. He has compressed his hours, meaning he works four longer days, but then has an extra day a week gloriously free to spend with Frida.

We decided to put today to good use, making the most of the April sunshine and continuing celebrations for Frida’s first birthday, and take her to the zoo for the first time.

She has started to be much more interested in animals recently so we thought she would be old enough to enjoy it. And I am so glad we took her.

She spent most of our visit in the sling, quietly observing the creatures around her. She loved looking at the myriad colourful birds (“buh buh buh!”) and butterflies, and seemed more taken with these than the monkeys or tigers.

She was mesmerised by the giraffes, despite being quite tired by the time we got round to them. Such amazing features; I can only imagine what she made of them, how her brain must have had to work to make sense of them.

  

By far and away the biggest success was the penguin area, which has big glass panels where you can watch them swim. Frida was beside herself with joy (lots of pointing and delighted shouting) and we spent a loooong time there, just watching the penguins swim in the sunshine. Bliss.


London Zoo also has an aquarium within it – perfect for hiding from the April showers and a wonderful sensory experience for children of all ages. She watched the fish for a long time, holding on to me tight the whole time as I think she was a tiny bit scared of them.

I didn’t get many good photos as I tried to put my phone away as much as possible, and I have learnt in the past that photos of beautiful animals often end up languishing un-viewed on my iPhone. It was a glorious day though, nicely bookended by a walk through Regent’s Park where the blossoms and flowers are out in full force.

Tomorrow the forecast is for heavy rain so I’m pleased we were able to sneak in this visit.

The Horniman Museum

If you live in London, or plan to visit, and you haven’t been to the Horniman Museum and Gardens then I really recommend you do so, especially on a sunny day. 

It’s one of my favourite places in London; close to Forest Hill overground in South East London, it is a charming and very child-friendly space filled with displays and objects which will entice children of all ages. 

Our plans for Monday had to be cancelled at the last minute and the sun was shining as if to chase away the dregs of winter, so I took Frida on an impromptu trip there. She has been before but she’s now old enough that she could really engage with the place. 
  

We had lunch when we arrived – our first alfresco lunch of the year! Frida seemed utterly thrilled by it, I think mainly due to the pigeons which crowded around her highchair to collect croissant crumbs. She spent the whole meal craning round to look at them, beaming down and waving, then looking back at me as if she couldn’t believe her luck. 

  
After lunch we had a brilliantly sunny walk through the gardens. The gardens are fantastic and well worth the trip alone; there is a well-kept herb garden, beautiful flower beds, well kept lawns for playing, and (the highlight) a livestock section with glossy coated goats, sheep, alpacas and chickens. We spent a long time looking at the goats chewing some hay, Frida peering over the top of the fence and waving at them and me talking about what they were doing and what noises they make. 

There is also an outdoor music area with big xylophones and glockenspiels which we played with and made some loud noises. I love the sound of kids playing on these, which carries over the gardens on the breeze.

  

It almost feels a shame to go indoors but it’s worth it. When we walked in there was a little table set up for children to handle some natural objects – a turtle shell, an ostrich egg, a snake skin and a blue tit nest a box. I was impressed that the staff manning the stand were enthusiastic about a baby in a sling handling the objects, and it was a lovely sensory activity for Frida. 

The Horniman is famous for its grotesquely overstuffed walrus, and the whole natural history section feels a bit like a relic of a by-gone age, which hilariously terrible taxidermy and yellowing signs. 

  
Frida liked looking at the displays though, and was particularly taken with a big cabinet filled with green parakeets – she knows about these from reading Mr Magnolia. She was also quite interested by some monkeys, though as always the best attraction was the group of school children who were on a trip. 

  
My posts recently have been very “outing” heavy, I realise, and I haven’t done a shelf post for ages. So I will try and counterbalance that very soon!