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.
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.
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.
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.