V&A: Childhood Museum

This was the Malik family’s second visit to the museum this year. The first time we came for the ‘Great cloth diaper change’ and this time the main reason for the visit was to drop off some milk for a mummy in need. (Find out more about that here!)

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Both times MiniMalik had LOTS of fun in the sandpit (despite barely touching his sandpit at home!) and generally running around trying to find all his favourite toys in the different displays.

MicroMalik was big enough to join in a little this time, he sat in the corner of the lights for ages just watching them change!

We indulged in the cafe, which is a little more expensive than we usually go for, but still quite reasonable. MiniMalik had a fish finger sandwich and I had pumpkin soup, both of which were lovely. There is a picnic area downstairs, so next time that’s what i’ll be doing!

I had dressed MiniMalik in a yellow t-shirt, which usually makes him highly visible … not so much in amongst the crowds of school children wearing yellow tabards!

Colourscape

I think this post is mostly going to come in picture form. Several thousand words couldn’t describe this wonder. The idea of Colourscape is simplistic:  a giant tent maze with rooms lit with different colours, mostly blue, red and green, but the effect creates a profound experience. Even while chasing after my wonderfully mobile children I was amazed at the ways the different rooms made me feel.

Beans, MiniMalik and Sprout had a great time running/crawling through the different rooms. Beans and MiniMalik favoured the red rooms, while Sprout was keen to crawl towards the blue.

It was fascinating the way the different rooms felt. The red seemed hotter, and almost violent to me. While the blue was calming and cool. MrsMalik liked the natural light room in the centre of the maze the best, and stated she could have spent hours there.

Colourscape ended it’s most recent run in London on September 22nd, but look for it’s return next summer. Details can be found at their website.

Some tips (MrsMalik additions)

You cant take your buggy inside! Most parents carried their children in their arms and left the pram outside, but for littlies it is worth taking a carrier of some sort! Neither MicroMalik or Sprout wanted to be in their carrier, they were both desperate to explore, so pop on a pair of scruffy trousers if you mind the crawlers getting dirty!

We were only in there for half an hour, but that is more than enough time for under 5s! It does feel like you’re wandering round in an undending maze and after a while I got a bit claustraphobic.

There is music at the weekend, but when we went on a week day there was a school group playing recorders as they went round the different colours. I can just imagine how amazing the professional music would be!

 

South Norwood Country Park

As a Canadian, I am always surprised to see totem poles in the UK.

As a Canadian, I am always surprised to see totem poles in the UK.

A few weeks ago, long before the weather turned, we were having a lazy Sunday at home.  Well at least we were trying to.  Beans was bouncing off the walls and Sprout was restlessly crawling around the lounge. Neither BeanieDad nor I were feeling particularly ambitious and didn’t really want to head too far, but an outing was desperately required. So after lunch we decided to go for a walk to South Norwood Country Park.

I’ve been meaning to head to this park since we moved to the area a year ago.  We live less than a mile from it and the website made it sound wonderful.  I made us walk there too, just to make sure my darling 3 year old burned off as much energy as possible.

Beans on the slide at the playground.

Beans on the slide at the playground.

The park is made up of several acres of woodlands and meadows. There’s also a lake and wetlands. The playground is new and extensive. There was lots of different equipment for all age groups, as well as a two small wooded areas perfect for hide and seek and exploration.

It’s also a foragers dream. Most of the paths are lined with blackberry bushes and we also spotted apples, plums, rose hips and elder flowers.  I’m sure there was much more that my untrained eye missed.

Beans hanging out in the woodland.

Beans hanging out in the woodland.

There’s a great lake, with lots of wildlife, as well as streams throughout the park.  The pathways are perfect for wondering and talking your time, and the city seems far away. It was lovely to have a little bit of the country so close to home.

On the way home I described it as the hidden jewel of South London, but Beans insisted that she was in fact the hidden jewel of South London. So there.

Tower of London

The Tower

The Tower

Last Christmas my brother gave us an amazing gift. He bought my little family a membership to the Tower of London. This membership also gives us access to Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace.  For free. It also gives us 10% off in the cafe’s and the gift shop. In short it’s amazing.  And it lasts for a year, from our first visit. Which was good for us, since we didn’t actually make it out to any of the five palaces until the end of August.

Now going to the Tower of London on the bank holiday Monday was a bit of a mistake. It was hot and crowded with lots of queues. But we still managed to enjoy ourselves. The line up for the Crown Jewels was excessively long, so we gave it a miss but did head to the White Tower and the Bloody Tower. Beans loved walking up and down all the spiral staircases, her mother less so.

 

The White Tower had lovely armour to admire, and full-sized horse statues. Each horse had it’s own unique facial expression, which was in quite the contrast to all the blank “faces” from the armour.  At the top of the tower was an amazing dragon made out of  weapons, jewels, armour, and scrolls.  It was my favourite thing of the day.

Family packs are available from the ticket desk and I recommend picking one up. Beans was pleased as punch to get her “Practicing Princess” badge and the workbook was age appropriate. It encouraged us to look out for all the wonderful animal statues scattered around the Tower, which gave our visit some direction.

I’m looking forward to visiting again. Perhaps when it’s not as busy.

 

Hyde Park: Isis Education Centre

On a sunny Wednesday the mobile mama’s headed into central London for the Isis Education Centre’s Discovery Day.  Throughout the summer the Education Centre has open it’s doors and provided free entertainment for young families.

IMG_9514The Isis Education Centre is located in the heart of Hyde Park,  and provides a natural oasis in the centre of London. They have been running “Discovery Days” this summer, inviting families to come in for Arts and Crafts, mini-beast hunting and plant “identifying.

IMG_9515The building itself is a lovely example of environmentally responsible architecture and the staff and volunteers are wonderfully welcoming. We started by making bee puppets and painting ladybird and butterfly pictures, before heading out into the garden for some mini beast discovery. The staff had set up several plastic containers with various wee creatures in them, but the part both MiniMalik and Beans enjoyed most was the bug habitat. There were several logs to look under and magnifying glasses were provided. One lucky girl found a toad (less lucky for the toad). We all got a good look at it before it was whisked away by a staff member to keep it safe.

IMG_9522 IMG_9519 IMG_9518The gardens surrounding the centre are full of herbs, flowers and trees. MrsMalik and I had some fun identifying the plants for the kids. There is also a gorgeous pond filled with interesting wildlife: newts, sea snails and slugs were all spotted.

IMG_9526After exploring the centre we had a picnic on the grounds of Hyde Park and then walked to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. We let the big kids splash around while Sprout napped and MiniMalik people watched.

The Isis Education Centre has several different events throughout the year. Check out their website  for more information.

Horniman Museum and Gardens

I almost don’t want to write this post. The Horniman Museum and Gardens is such a treasure of South London that I want to keep it all to myself.  We went this week during the height of summer holidays, and there wasn’t a crowd in sight, no need to queue for any of the exhibits or events and there was so much to do.

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Giant fabric Giraffe.

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Beans’ favourite part of the museum. I don’t know why.

I had done a bit of research on their website to see what was on for the under-5’s during the holidays and I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and volume of free activities. There seems to be 3-4 different things everyday to keep the kids entertained, on top of the coolness that is the museum and gardens themselves. The first thing we did when we arrived was go look at the monkey skeletons. Beans loves them. I don’t know why.  She was also a big fan of the dogs skulls attached to a nearby wall.

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Tree Frog Beans.

There was a big sign letting us know that the overstuffed walrus had headed to Margate for the summer, but a gigantic fabric giraffe was in it’s place.  There were also some lovely volunteers with different exhibit pieces that kids could touch. Beans was particularly fond of the giant peacock egg and feather. We then headed into one of the Family Fun Art sessions. Between 10 and 2:45 they museum was offering 30 minute art sessions for groups of children. This weeks activity was to create a tree frog mask. Beans is a creative sort and really took to it. Each session has a maximum of 30 children (ours only had 5 others), all supplies are provided and it’s completely free.

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Flower Gardens

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Outdoor musical instruments.

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Sheep!

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Alpaca.

With her mask firmly attached to her head we went to the Nature Base. This is just off of the Natural History section. There are a few interactive exhibits (massive magnifying glass, different animal sounds, a stuffed fox one can pet), as well as some live animals (mice). My favourite bit is a glass beehive. When we’ve been before the bees have been dormant, but today it was an alive mass of busy bees. After going through a few more of the exhibits we headed outside to the gardens. I noticed on my way out that their was a puppet show/play on that day in the pavilion, so we headed there first. Beans sat enraptured as we learned how Dan the seed became a dandelion through wind pollination (there was a bit more to it really, with songs and a villain and heroes, but the basic plot was about a plant). The gardens also have some new animals for kids to see and possibly pet. There were several signs about how the sheep may bite, so I didn’t let Beans touch them, but the goat seemed quite friendly. Beans was quite taken with the  adorable new rabbit and as a knitter I felt quite the affinity for the alpacas. Outdoor musical instruments are also available in the garden. There were xylophones, drums,  and various other percussion instruments for kids to happily bang away on. Even Sprout got in on the action, joyfully making as much noise as she could. The whole lot was quite impressive to my 9 month old. I could go on forever about all the wonderful things there are at the Horniman. Lots of free exhibits, hands on activities, storytelling and tours. The cafe is gorgeous and they have a wonderful conservatory, gorgeous flower gardens, wide open fields, at least a dozen different sundials scattered throughout, places to sit and have a picnic, a library and so much more. If you want to pay they have an aquarium and visiting exhibits as well. I really can’t recommend it enough and we end up going as much as possible. Beans, Sprout and I have been 3 or so times in the last 6 months and every time we’ve discovered something new and interesting. So even though I feel like it’s a secret, wonderful place and it pains me to share it, the museum itself deserves to have more visitors. So please go and enjoy! Information can be found here: http://www.horniman.ac.uk/ Nearest train station is Forest Hill. The museum is about a 10 minute walk (3 year old speed, 5 minutes at normal walking speed). Several buses stop near by as well.

Natural History Museum: Sensational Butterflies

Don’t go on too hot a day, but otherwise I definitely would recommend checking out

IMG_9350Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum.

Beans, Sprout and I headed out with the whole Malik clan this week to see just how many different butterflies we could spot. Both MrsMalik and I had tried to book our tickets online the morning before, but the computer system seemed to be down. A quick call to the museum however let us know that tickets would be available at the door, and there shouldn’t be too long of a wait. In fact, there was no wait, and buying at the door ended up saving us $1.50 in service charges IMG_9342each.  The children, all being under 4, we’re free and adult tickets were a very reasonable £4.50, making this an inexpensive afternoon outing.

The tent itself is very hot, but lovely. Their were many different types of butterflies from the very tiny to the very large (Emperor Moths are somewhat terrifying) and there was a rainbow of colours on display. MrsMalik was an expert caterpillar spotter, while MrMalik had a butterfly passenger for most of the visit.  Beans’ favourite moth was a lovely spotty one, while I was quite partial to the lush orange of the monarch butterflies.

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There are stamping stations throughout the exhibit where children can learn about how caterpillars turn into butterflies, as well as a cocoon hut where you might be lucky enough to spot a butterfly being born.

The exhibit ends with a small gift shop and a welcome breath of cool fresh air.

The courtyard of the Natural History Museum

IMG_9359works well for picnics, with ample shade and a little cafe. Lots of room for little ones to run about too. We chose to head to the Science Museum after our lunch;  but the V&A, the Natural History Museum, and Hyde Park (and the wonderful  Princess Diana Memorial Park) are all near by.

The exhibit is on until 15 September.