The 7 best hands-on science museums for kids in the UK

The 7 best hands-on science museums for kids in the UK

Love a bit of hands-on learning, with lots of button-pressing and crazy experiments thrown in? Here are 7 brilliant science museums around the UK, perfect for a fun (and educational) family day out…

by Misti Traya

I don’t know about the children in your life, but those in mine are forever asking “why?” Why are the clouds white? Why does the moon shine at night? Why do I get goosebumps? Why do rainbows appear? Why did the dinosaurs die? Why must I eat green vegetables? Which leaves me wondering, why must you always ask why?!

Of course, I know why. It’s because they want to understand the natural world around them and how it works. Like Ada Twist, one of our favourite storybook heroines, they have to ask why. This is how they learn. 

One of the best ways to understand science is by seeing it in action. Experiments are excellent teaching tools. They are also really fun. Want to know about acids and bases? Make a miniature volcano with bicarbonate of soda. Curious about Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion (For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction)? Build a balloon car

Or if you don’t fancy making a mess at home, take the kids to a science museum. These days, there are lots of museums that cater to children and all their many questions. We are lucky to have lots in the U.K. Here are seven of the best. 

1) We the Curious – Bristol

Their mission is “to create a culture of curiosity” and they achieve just that. Across two floors, thave lots of interactive stations. Some of the activities include dressing up like bees to collect pollen or weighing and dissecting brains. There is also a water area, animation stations, a tinker zone, and a superb planetarium (above) – their Summer Stargazing show is meant to be amazing. Staff are always available to chat to help you get more out of their displays. Don’t forget to pack lunch as they have a picnic room. Of course, there is a cafe.  

Visit We The Curious here.

2) Discovery Centre –  Leeds

On Wednesdays during the school holidays there are free family-friendly activities offered between 10am and noon, from marvellous minerals to magnetic toys and games. Take a museum store tour to see objects and treasures from the natural world, from toucans to meteorites. Meanwhile, at Leeds Industrial Museum, you can view the Queens of Industry exhibit from now until September. Come here to learn a bit about factory life and the ladies who were the face of it. Visit the Discovery Centre here.

3) Science + Industry Museum – Manchester

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There are 25 hands-on exhibits that will teach your children while they play. Young builders and budding engineers will enjoy the soft play experiment area. See how textiles were made. Create a tornado. Learn how energy gets converted. For the technologically inclined, there is a Treasure Hunters app to use during your visit.

Visit the Science + Industry Museum here.

4) Oxford University Museum of Natural History – Oxford

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Family Friendly Sundays here are just fab. They are completely free and there is no need to book. Their fossil collection would impress the Flintstones. Be sure to see the dinosaurs and the dodo, as well as The Red Lady of Paviland. Stroke stuffed animals in the zoology department. Personally, I’m fond of the polar bear. Unlike lots of museums, this one actively encourages the touching of objects.    

Visit the Oxford Museum of Natural History here.

5) Techniquest – Cardiff

 This is a really fun, REALLY interactive museum, down by Cardiff Bay. If you don’t know what to do with your 7-11 year olds this August, sign them up for summer camp. Let them build rockets and robots and perform experiments. Or book tickets for a science or planetarium show. The whole family will enjoy it.  

Visit Techniquest here.

6) Magna Science Adventure Centre – Yorkshire

This museum breaks its topics down by the five elements: earth, wind, air, fire, water. They also offer lots of workshops that cover too many topics to list, everything from circuits to the celestial. Book tickets for Borris & Norris’ Magic Laboratory if you fancy a magical science show. Visit Magna here.

7) Science Museum – London

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Where to begin? This is one of my favourite places in London and has been since before my child was born. The Wonderlab really is wonderful. The chemistry bar allows you to exorcise your inner scientist and the science shows are informative and exciting in equal measure. They have lots of events planned for this summer, but one stand out is the Apollo 11 Family Festival on 20-21 July, part of their ‘Summer of Space’ season. Go! You know you want to dress like an astronaut.  Visit the Science Museum here.

Science museums are great places to learn through play: they nurture curiosity and encourage critical thinking whilst kids have tons of fun with the family. Think of it as a great day out – especially on rainy days – in the holidays, and a science primer before school starts.    

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18th Feb 2021 Isabelle

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