What?: Hailed as both “the best thing you can do in London with kids” by Time Out and “the world’s most spectacular interactive gallery” by… um… the Science Museum, Wonderlab could easily have got us all a bit overexcited – but then almost everyone I know who’s been has said it was rubbish, so we’d prepared ourselves for a flop. The gallery is pitched at ages six and over, making a significant chunk of it unsuitable for toddlers and the whole thing inevitably stuffed with school kids pretty much every day during term-time, but we were determined to go and have a lovely time anyway.
First of all, yeah don’t go in the week during term time. You know what school kids are like – omnipresent monopolisers of the stuff and absolutely dreadful queuers. We missed out on the friction slides – probably the thing I (and definitely the thing Babu) was most excited about thanks to the line of year eight kids snaking across the gallery (that and the height-restriction notice that decreed Babu too much of a short-arse to ride). The chemistry bar, the pulley machine and the electrical-circuit game may also be slightly lost on the under-5s (although Babu gave the latter a pretty good go), but with more than 50 interactives across the entire gallery, there’s still plenty to keep tiny hands occupied.
Take for example the mirror boxes that allow them to gaze at infinite reflections of themselves, the solar system with rotating platform they can climb aboard and the curious tree trunk you’re encouraged to throw metal discs at. Babu was also a big fan of the magnetic plumbing wall, the ‘chaotic rope’, the K’nex-esque 3D construction game, the mysterious flowing mist and the heat camera that turned everyone into terrifying clown people. While most of the activities required some degree of parental help, there wasn’t a lot that she wasn’t into and the only real challenge we faced was trying to usher her away from the machines that would almost definitely have caused significant injury (i.e. the theramin bollard she would absolutely have fallen off) – that and the Shake Bar that’s ‘conveniently’ located directly outside Wonderlab’s doors.
Where?: Wonderlab can be found on level 3 of the Science Museum, which can be accessed via the pedestrian tunnel at South Kensington (five-minute walk).
Best Bits: Fun for adults as well as kids, and pretty good value for an annual pass.
Worst Bits: I was so sad Babu was too little for the slides. I think next time we’ll go on a weekend when it’s not full of schoolies and I’ll sneak her down them on my lap. Also children. Children everywhere.
Facilities: Cloakrooms, step-free access, baby changing, cafes.
Price: £15 for an adult annual pass and £10 for an adult day pass. Under-4s go free and for 4-16s it’s £13 for an annual pass and £8 for a day pass.
Would We Come Back?: We bought an annual pass, so definitely.
Babu and Bab Dad check themselves out in the infinity mirror box at Wonderlab, the Science Museum.