What?: The first time we went along to an Experitots trial my first words on arriving at the Who Am I? gallery were “can anyone else smell burning?”. Sure enough, two minutes later the fire alarm sounded and we were escorted down to The Garden kids’ gallery on the lower-ground floor – we presumed, at the time, so that our children could start again with civilisation once London had finished burning above us. They never let us back up to the gallery and we ended up trapped in the basement for two hours, held hostage by our kids as they enthusiastically soaked themselves in the water-play area and repeatedly threatened to throw themselves off the utterly pointless climbing frame with its ladders to nowhere.
Thankfully the ‘Explainers’ team promised to reorganise the workshop, and we vowed not to go anywhere near The Garden ever again. We came back to two weeks later to a still-standing Who Am I? gallery to reattempt the same session, based around the subject of identity. We are, as you probably know by now, big fans of free-flow workshops and this one was perfect with its floor-based activities, including boxes to rummage in, costumes to try on and materials to create with. Each station posed a question such as “what do you look like?” or “what do you like?”, and it was quite an eye-opener to let Babu loose in the space and see what she was drawn to (as it turned out, it was the ELC doctor’s costume and various pieces of experimental eyewear).
Halfway into the workshop we were called into a corner to take part in an interactive story session. Some of the younger kids (the workshop is aimed at ages 18 months to four years) had started to lose interest and wander off, so this felt like the perfect (vaguely) structured distraction. The story was all about the self, the body and our emotions, and was brilliantly told by Explainer Claire, who knows exactly how to keep kids engaged without being annoying or condescending and who if I had the money I’d be hiring on a daily basis to entertain Babu while I napped. The story was interactive in the truest sense, involving lots of props and interaction – such as singing, actions and opening suitcases to reveal surprises, and was followed by 10 minutes of additional play with the free-flow bits, kind of like a delicious story sandwich on wholegrain activity bread.
Where and When?: Sessions will take place at 10.30am on Tuesdays, in a different part of the museum each time. The Science Museum is on Exhibition Road and is a six-minute walk from South Kensington tube.
Best Bits: The workshop was well thought out and very chilled, with plenty to play with and lovely gentle staff assisting. I loved that it was gallery-based, rather than the kids being plonked in some soulless classroom somewhere in the basement, and I can’t wait to see what future sessions in other parts of the museum are like.
Worst Bits: You’re right there in the middle of the gallery so it’d be pretty easy for your child to just wander off if something caught their eye.
Facilities: Baby changing, buggy parking, step-free access, on-site cafe.
Cost: This trial session was free and the cost of subsequent drop-ins has yet to be confirmed.
Would We Come Back?: Yes! We can’t wait.
Babu decides what kind of bear she is at Experitots, Science Museum, South Kensington.