Well, it was just perfect! We arrived as it opened so it was pretty quiet. The first thing that caught Harry's eye was a digger that you could use to lift up coloured balls and a working pedestrian crossing which fascinated him. We went straight to the Kids' City on the ground floor, and we were completely taken aback by how much fun it was. It was a mini town for kids to run around and play in, complete with a health centre where you could weigh pretend babies, a dentist with chair and light, a car garage with all the equipment, a cafe where you could serve food and lots of other things. It is designed for families to explore together, and was almost overwhelming in the opportunities for role play!
To one side was a quiet area with books and cushions, and a section for learning about growing plants and insects which was perfect for Mia to sit in and play. There was also a huge water table with boats and rivers to float them along, jets of water and different ways of moving the water around. Mia didn't find out about this though, we kept her well out of the way.
|Playing at the water table|
|Car table in Kids' City|
We even braved a show at the Planetarium (included in the cost of the ticket). There were several different shows running through the day, and we chose one aimed at young children. It was led by a presenter and it didn't matter that some of the children were a bit noisy. I'm not sure how much Harry really took in, but he did sit quietly and seemed to be following what was going on. It lasted about 20 minutes and comprised of a brief look at some of the stars and planets, and then a telling of the story behind the Great Bear constellation.
We tried to sit Harry down for story time but he wasn't really up for it as it was aimed at children slightly older than him, but from what we saw it was very well presented. There were also crafts later on in the day as it was a weekend, although we didn't stay late enough to take part. We had a quick look round the exhibits upstairs but it was a bit over his head so went up to the top floor where there were some tables for us to eat our sandwiches.
Sitting up there we were looking down into the large gallery below with lots of full size planes, trains, cars and so on, so next we went down to have a look around. There was lots to see, with many noisy engines running and a real enormous steam train. We found a small display showing how robots are used to build cars fascinating, and I caught Harry recreating it back at home using his fingers! He was full of questions about what the engines were and what they were for.
I've saved Harry's absolute favourite part until last. Back on the ground floor was a display about recycling, which included a couple of mock-ups showing how cans and bottles are recycled. Nearby was a conveyer belt carrying various bits of rubbish which you had to identify and place into the correct slots for recycling. Well I think that Harry could have spent all day here, collecting the rubbish from the conveyor belt and running over to the slots. He was also pretty good at remembering what had to go where.
On the way in I spotted that free Parent Packs are available to borrow to take around the galleries, aimed at children aged 3-8. I took one to do with trains for Harry, and I thought it was a great idea although most of the activities involved sitting down quietly and playing games or doing puzzles, and we didn't really have the opportunity as we needed to keep moving to keep Mia happy. I know that Harry would have enjoyed the games if we'd had chance to use it properly.
We didn't time our visit as well as we could have, as there is a fantastic looking new outdoor area which opens in a couple of weeks in time. But I'm sure that we'll be back! All in all, if you have a toddler or pre-schooler then I think that Think Tank is brilliant. Perhaps most of the science will go over their heads, but it's a brilliant place for them to learn through play. We didn't spend a whole day there, but that was to do with the baby getting fed up, Harry could have stayed for a lot longer.
Think Tank costs £12.25 for an Adult and £8.40 for a Child (over 3) and Concessions. We used our good old Tesco Clubcard vouchers.