There are some key bits of advice to consider before taking on a ‘big outing’ with kids. Caroline Thain tells us what she knows…
Essentials are nappies, wipes, spare clothes, charged phone, bank card, cash – and Calpol, if you’re feeling heroic. Sanitary towels, ibuprofen and paracetamol take minimal space but are lifesaving. A headache is not guaranteed but it gets hot. Layering with a t-shirt and sweatshirt allows for personal climate change.
Arrive and leave early
Free historic attractions are a tourist pull. The queue can be long. But children get up early. Beating queues is not a problem because by half six, you have already done homework, emailed the minister of education, cleaned the kitchen (if wipes count) and had a cup of tea with an espresso chaser. Spend as much time as works then leave. Retaining your mental marbles is worth more than gloating on Facebook you went ‘for the whole day’.
Bring a bottle
A packed lunch is the best way to feed them. Take caffeine: a Coke bottle or insulated flask. Who wants to spend thirty quid on a free day out? Fill a rucksack with multipacks of mini biscuits, raisin boxes and apples. If they’re walking let them carry their own backpack.
I adore my Ergo baby carrier. Much better than buggy battles and suitable from newborn to four years. Mix it up with reins. My tot loves to walk but can’t do hours without tears. (Usually mine) Although there are lifts and prams make excellent handbags for all your paraphernalia.
Preparation is key in avoiding shop meltdowns. There are affordable pens, stickers and educational dinosaur books to suit all.
Must-see areas include the human being gallery with knobs and levers. The earth zone has a giant globe you can ride through on an escalator and most children love the planets. The animatronic T-Rex can be scary, so you can skip it through a special gate if necessary. The earthquake room has noise and movement – thrilling or frightening depending on age/preferences.
Make trips educational but learning must be meaningful. Looking at different animals and artefacts in a new environment is enough to stimulate younger children. This is unlikely to be their only visit. Do it all and what will you do next time? Keep it simple. Wow, the giraffe’s neck is so long! Blue whales are the biggest animals ever! Dinosaurs lived before people! Yes, Darling – even before Grandma.