Museum of Science and Industry – (MOSI)

Planning this post in my head was difficult and I questioned whether or not to write it. This is because MOSI wasn’t particularly suited to us at this point.

There wasn’t anything particularly bad about it. It was just more focused for adults and older children, rather than inquisitive toddlers. And that is not a bad thing, it just doesn’t fit in with us at this time!!!

So, quickly going through the downsides, they include:

  • poor signage
  • the museum being in 4 separate buildings
  • the exhibits not being particularly hands-on

Also, parking is a problem as street parking outside is only for 2 hours and probably won’t be long enough (which is a good thing as there is plenty to see!)

Now that I have got that out of my system, I can talk about the positives from a toddlers perspective. There is a brilliant exhibit next to the restaurant which is hands-on and practical and lots of fun for young and old alike. It is full of little puzzles, interactive science experiments and various other bits and pieces like that.

While the little ones will enjoy playing, it is possible to explain the science as well behind it all which is what going to the museum is all about. Our favourite was the experiment dropping the ball into the different surfaces and predicting how high they would bounce. It is quite dark in there, so pictures are not easy to take!

In terms of the other good aspects of MOSI, the cafe serves excellent pizza and the gift shop is to die for. I could have spent all day in there!! While it was not particularly for toddlers, we did spend 3 hours in there. As such, it certainly wasn’t a wasted trip!

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For toddlers, MOSI isn’t in the same league as the National Media Museum or the Railway Museum. Perhaps it isn’t supposed to be. The focus is on industry, which isn’t as exciting for toddlers as opposed to science and things going “bang” or “pop”!!!

However, there is a place in the world for MOSI, especially if your child is learning about local (to Manchester) history or the Industrial Revolution. We are not in that place yet, but when we are, we know that we’ll be able to get a lot of knowledge out of our visit there.


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Sheffield Life Festival

The sign of a good day out is when you can’t stop talking about it afterwards and that was certainly the case with the Sheffield Life Festival we went to!

With Heidi being completely obsessed with all things medical and a particular focus on radiology (can 2 year olds specialise?!) it felt like going to a medical research event was a must do, even though it was in Sheffield and it certainly was!

Although the Sheffield Life Festival was in the slightly strange location on an indoor market, it helped create a good atmosphere. I dare say people who didn’t know about the event were drawn in. This hopefully increased the impact of the event. As a dad of a toddler, it helped as it was inside (read: dry and warm!)

Sheffield Life Festival

So the event was 9 or so stands dotted around the market all showing different aspects of medicine and medical research. While a few of the stands weren’t really appropriate for toddlers (and that is completely understandable) there were some which were absolutely brilliant.

The dentistry stand run by the dentist students was brilliant, Heidi is into brushing her teeth (thanks to a Minions toothbrush!). Hearing her talk about how she brushes them was an absolute joy. The students were absolutely fabulous with Heidi too. They showed her and taught her about fillings and being interactive with a drill.

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We moved on to the stand run by the medical students. Given Heidi’s obsession with all things medical, I knew that this would be a success! We used a mock MRI machine and then we looked at real life x-rays. Then we played a game trying to put internal organs in the right place (not real!) While this final bit was a bit advanced for both of us. However, it gave me ideas how to teach/stretch Heidi’s learning going forward.

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The other stands were not quite as toddler friendly. However, we did enjoy the chicken bone experiment (it would take me an age to describe it!). Just getting Heidi used to science, experiments and safety goggles is all good. Oh, and Heidi kindly got an ice lolly to help with her calcium, obviously!

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Things for older children

There were some really cool things for slightly older children, which we tried to have a go at. This including using microscopes which was on the “to do” list after going to the Be Curious event in Leeds previously (link here) and so that was really good to do. We also saw some futuristic companion pets, although I think that was somewhat lost on Heidi!

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All in all, we spent an hour and a half at the Sheffield Life Festival which was really good. We would have spent longer if we weren’t getting a bit hungry and had to head back home. Even after seeing everything, Heidi wanted to go back to see the x-rays and the dentists again!!!

Other Activities

After a quick bite to eat, we continued with the toilet training (update here!) with Debenhams toilets being the place to go! As the snooker championships are on at the moment, there were a few activities on the go. One was a mini-football court set up, which Heidi had a little go on…

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I said at the start that the sign of a good day was went you can’t stop talking about it. Heidi was mentioning it all day yesterday and even wanted it as her bedtime story. Another sign that it was a good day was when Heidi fell asleep straight away for the journey up the M1. She was absolutely exhausted!

I’m sure we will be back to the Sheffield Life Festival in future years and take in more activities as this was just one part of it, albeit the most toddler friendly!

Continue reading Sheffield Life Festival

Be Curious

I never thought that I would be taking my daughter to University so soon. However,  I took Heidi to the University of Leeds “Be Curious” event, celebrating British Science Week.

Heidi is extremely fond of all things to do with the human body. She has particular obsessions with X-rays and pretending to be a doctor (with proper stethoscope!). As such, this event seemed like an interesting one for us, especially with parts being marketed for families (although not 2 year olds particularly!)

Part of the attraction of the event was to show Heidi what a campus looked like. I also wanted to tell her the story of my graduation through the University of Leeds (2005 – Accounting and Finance, in case you were wondering!) and actually reminisce myself!

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Look, I’ve made it to Uni!

First impressions was that the campus had changed/modernised quite a bit. The new, funky multi-story car park was the first port of call (with free parking for the event – such a bonus!). We headed into the Parkinson Building to be greeted with about 10 stands in the main hall, as well as a couple of breakout rooms upstairs. It was busier than what I thought, but not manic. There were lots of fresh faced volunteers willing to help out.

We picked our stands carefully, trying to make sure that there was going to be something relevant for Heidi. We picked up a snakes and ladders game (to be opened on a rainy day), played a matching game with odd socks and then a mock up of a spine was explained to Heidi by a very understanding member of staff.

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Lollies always help!

We then went upstairs to the family room, where there was the colouring competition (I won’t hold out much hope!) and the medical equipment, which really excited Heidi. There was a real-life one-to-one demonstration of an ultrasound probe being used on a heart. This really fascinated Heidi given her obsession with all heart related things and seeing the movements of the heart was amazing to her.  She also saw MRI images of the skull and the heart and this was equally amazing for her (and me). The fact that she could make out certain aspects of the image was heart warming (forgive the pun!)

All of the staff were really friendly (and obviously knowledgeable!) and didn’t seem to feel uncomfortable explaining things to a 2 year old. However. I imagine that it was quite strange for them!

We then made our way downstairs to see the rest of the stands. This included tasting food made with Medieval recipes (wasn’t the best!) and look at kinetic energy powering lights.

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The main attraction was the 15 seater planetarium which was showing a video about cells. Unfortunately, Heidi freaked out about being in an enclosed space (and was probably tired). As such, we escaped about 2 minutes to allow everyone else to enjoy the film in peace and quiet!

There were bits that we didn’t do because Heidi was too young. This included looking at cells through microscopes, looking at insects using microscopes and having a 3D camera take a picture of your face. However, these looked really quite cool. I hope that they will be there in a couple of years when Heidi is a bit older!

Obviously, with the event being in a University, there isn’t the changing facilities on hand. Maybe some temporary arrangements could have been made, certainly if younger children are attending with older siblings etc.

All in all, it was a lovely couple of hours stretching Heidi’s imagination and knowledge, whilst also going down memory lane! Hope the event is on again next year!

Continue reading Be Curious

Rainbow Factory – 4/3/2016

We were invited to attend the “launch” of the new Rainbow Factory theme – Space. With Tim Peake currently on the ISS, this seemed like a perfect time to do it, and of course, RF did it expertly well. Some would say that it was “Out of this world”, but I would never go down the route of a pun filled review…!!

Having said that, the staff are absolute stars (ok, I will stop now!) and as always, they make the day there oh so enjoyable. They are always willing to help the little ones and seem to know what they can and can’t do, whilst stretching them a little bit. They seem to be masters of all things creative, which is somewhat disheartening, seeing how easy they make it!

Anyway, I have done a number of reviews here (Valentines Day event) here (Christmas show) and here (“regular” visit) and so feel free to read my thoughts there. As a result, I thought that I would try my hand and be a little creative, getting inspired from RF…

So we arrived
for a tour about space,
I was so sure
that it would be really ace.

Jordan took us round.
A small group of 5.
The children were so happy,
enthusiastic and alive!

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Start of the tour

We learnt about the planets,
the moons and the stars.
We learnt that to space travel
we needed rockets, not cars!

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More learning…

After reading the book,
we finished the tour
We headed to the creative kitchen
after knocking on the door.

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Now a bit creative…

There we were given sticking
and colouring to do
With plenty of colours
including yellow, pink and blue.

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Kirsty helped us make
a beautiful, colourful rocket.
It was far too big
to put in our pocket!

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Bryony and Claire helped
to put on a show.
Even the excited little ones
had a very good go

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Games and dressing up carried on
throughout the afternoon.
We didn’t want to go home
at all very soon.

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As the clock approached 4
we knew we had to depart.
Happy for the emotions
we had in our heart.

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More action on stage

For now Heidi is asleep,
dreaming all about her day.
She would be back tomorrow
if I let her have her way!

Until next time….!!

London in a Day!

Trying to do London in a Day is difficult. Trying to do London in a Day with a toddler is approaching madness!! London is a wonderful place to spend the day, but was it good with a toddler… maybe not!
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The first question we had was how to get there – plane, train or automobile?! Well, plane costs upwards of £100 per person from Leeds Bradford to Heathrow. Once you clear security and get into the city from Heathrow, you don’t gain anything in time. Train costs about £100 per adult and under 5’s go free if you’re willing to share a seat with them.

Therefore, we decided to go by car and took the economical decision of hiring one for the day. It cost around £40, not including petrol of around £40. So after picking the car up at 8am, we did the lengthy journey down the M1 to London. After a service station stop, all in all, it took 3 hours 30 minutes to get to Stanmore tube station. Heidi was entertained by a portable DVD player, but it did get a bit hairy at times. Fortunately she had a sleep on the way down!!

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(hire car from Enterprise)

Stanmore is one of the few tube stations where there is a decent sized car parks. It is very close to the M1 and as it is at the end of the tube time, it is easy to get on the trains. Is it easy to navigate the Underground with a toddler and pram? Not really, but I was expecting worse! Getting into the city was easy enough but moving around the stations was difficult – but not impossible. To be fair, the “natives” were understanding of the pram and ensured that there was enough space to get on/off. The tube was very, very busy at times and so if you have a nervous child, it might not go very well. However, Heidi was amazingly alert, calm and entertaining!

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One of the keys was planning which stations had lifts and which didn’t. By using the lifts, you tend to see the back corridors of the stations which you never see! However, the lifts aren’t everywhere and so chances are you have to go up an escalator or two. You are best to carry your child and fold the pushchair and hold it. Obviously, this is very much difficult if there is just one of you.

So, having got into central London at 2pm – what do you do with a 2 year old?? Well, surprisingly, there is very little to do! There are no children specific museums and very little for toddlers at all! There seems to be more towards Greenwich/Docklands and that might be a better place to go next time.

We knew we only had 4 hours or so before having to head back so we decided to cut down the travelling as much as possible, and decided to do the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. Except there was a problem. There were massive queues (this was a Tuesday in August). As a result, we went into the Victoria and Albert Museum, for not other reason than it was quieter and we wanted to do anything!

The V&A is not child friendly at all and I wouldn’t go back at all. But because of the open spaces and “interesting” artwork, it did allow Heidi to wander around and be visually stimulated (I think!) We lasted 30 minutes and by that time, the queues in the Natural History Museum had died down and we ventured in. It was very busy but we spent about an hour in there looking at the various exhibits. There was a very child-friendly exhibition in the basement around animals which resulted in Heidi pretending to be a tortoise after touching a tortoises shell! The queue for the dinosaur exhibit was unbelievable and we didn’t try to go in.

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After an hour in the Natural History Museum, we walked down the road to the Science Museum. Perhaps the most toddler friendly place, we only made it on the ground floor and managed to watch a live show about bubbles which was really good fun (and educational-ish) Had we done it again, perhaps we would have spent all afternoon here. One good thing about London is that there are plenty of free toilets in the museums etc. There were excellent nappy changing facilities throughout.

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As evening drew on, we made it to Westminster in time to hear Big Ben chime 6 O’clock, which was more by luck than judgement. However, we should have planned this as it was pretty cool for a 2 year old! If possible, try to go to Westminster on the tube as when you leave the station, you instantly see Big Ben and it is a sight to behold.

We ended up walking along the South Bank to Waterloo. This is a particular favourite due to the street entertainers there and the good atmosphere that can be generated down there. Again, an excellent place for toddlers! We found a “suitable” restaurant for tea (not many are overly family friendly – and certainly no Wacky Warehouses!) before walking back on the more sedate North Bank to Westminster and the Tube back to the car.

All in all, we got back to the car at Stanmore at 8pm and didn’t get back home until 12.30am – a very long day!! Heidi was asleep all the way home which was a relief, although the drive back for me was a challenge due to the long day!! Doing London in a Day is tough!

Was it enjoyable? Yes!

Would we do it again? Yes!

Would we do it differently? Absolutely!

It was worthwhile, as 4 months later, Heidi still remembers certain aspects of it, which shows that the day carried some really good memories for her.

How would we have done it differently? We should have set off in the early morning to make the most of the time and concentrated our time on the Science Museum and maybe Buckingham Palace/Hyde Park. However, you live and learn and so if this helps someone out in the future, the blog has helped!

UPDATE! We have been to London quite a few times since and you can read the following blog posts:

Discover Children’s Story Centre

London Attractions Guide

Continue reading London in a Day!