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Tips for visiting London’s Natural History Museum with young children

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That may be all you need to know—or mention to your young children before you set out for London’s Natural History Museum. And if there’s an interest, there will not be disappointment.

Sure, you may go other places where dino-skeletal displays are present and even pleasing, but strolling a cat walk at eye-level with some of these magnificent beasts—both bony and fleshed-out—in dusky lighting with sound effects is one very memorable way to enter into the realm of terrible lizards.

I admit, it could be a little daunting to some, but our kids at 1 year, 4 years, and 6 years soldiered on through the displays in delighted wonderment (I suggest showing this photo as a test if your not sure how your child will react). Whether they had the patience to learn about the baby hatchlings or backward knee functions of prehistoric beasts (my eldest), or stand slack-jawed marveling at the claws and teeth of tyrannic terrors (middle kid), or just shout and point at the funny looking “toddlerasauruses” and explore the interactive displays (the tot), they all seemed to enjoy the dinosaur exhibit—for well over an hour.

The one scary part my two younger children were happy to move through quickly was naturally the delight of my eldest child: The life-size animatronic T-Rex. Roaring, snorting, looking about the onlookers in a dark and steamy jungle-scene, he was impressive. After moving on and seeing my husband engaged with the younger kids at other displays, my big girl and I had to go back to watch more of the T-Rex show (she was enthralled).

Of course, there is a lot more than just dinosaurs to see at London’s Museum of Natural History. The building itself is beautiful and made an impression on the kids as well (we’re from the West Coast, you know). And I have to say the Creepy Crawlies exhibit is another kid favorite you might want to budget an hour for. This life-size model kitchen featuring interactive displays with all manner of household insects to discover and learn about was a lot of fun for the kids… though it left me scratching and yearning for my next shower, if not a bug bomb or two. In this photo, we were learning about the life cycle of fleas.

More words to the wise:

Strollers or pushchairs: Use the Exhibition Road entrance for stroller-friendly access to the museum. When entering the dinosaur exhibit, look for the small glass elevator to gain access to the catwalk above. There is no step-free access to the Earth Lab, but otherwise you will have elevators / lifts at your disposal even if you do need to ask for help finding them.

The baby care room (or nursery) near the Central Hall Café is a true inspiration. Multiple (I’m thinking 5?) diaper changing stations are arranged with plentiful counter space and room for stroller parking, plus a curtained nursing / feeding area with three cushioned chairs and footrest is off to the side—all pleasantly heated  and toasty even on a blustery London day. A family-size restroom is also available within this area, and regular toilets are also available just outside.

Visitors under 7 years can take advantage of a FREE Explorer Backpack when their parents check one out near the entrance of the Central Hall (must have valid I.D.). Included are kid-size binoculars and explorer’s hat, an activity booklet, magnifying glass, drawing kit, recording sheets and clipboard, plus clues to help complete a challenge.

School-age children ages 5 to 11 years can purchase self-led discovery guides with challenges and discussion topics for £1 each, also at the visitor’s information desk in the Central Hall.

More information http://www.nhm.ac.uk/index.html.

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Ask Shelly : Best twin stroller for travel to Europe?
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Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks

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