The Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds does an incredible job of helping kids to understand how lucky they are to have vaccinations, antibiotics and even the basics, such as clean water. It’s a Victorian street complete with smells and printed cards (describing nasties like bed bugs), plus it highlights the horrors of cholera and there’s a chance to pick a character and see whether you survived or not. My 18-year-old daughter is adamant her love of science began there 10 years ago.illiam Museum, Cambridge
Although this is less of a hands-on museum, the skill and enthusiasm of the staff makes your visit. At the Fitzwilliam, which houses artefacts from across the ages (including an excellent Egyptian antiquities wing), one staff member quickly realised my six-year-old son was captivated by the ages of the paintings and by the maths of working out how old they were. Her suggestions of how to incorporate this into the rest of the visit were inspired, and my son left with a new understanding of BC/AD, as well as a desire to return. All the staff were wonderful with young children and had suggestions of what to look at next. I wish more museums were like this.
There’s a very thin line between “hands-on” and “dumbed-down” but at PHM there’s a perfect balance between fun and informative. The already-engaging exhibits are supported by the interactive features. As well as the expected touchscreens, you can try on costumes, role-play in a period Co-Op or play the Pank-a-Squith, a board game sold for funds by suffragettes. Younger visitors can borrow a backpack filled with tools and tasks to help them around and there’s a well-stocked craft table allowing for creations inspired by the exhibits.
I used to love going to the Ulster Museum as a kid, and I love taking my kids there now. It has an array of collections ranging from art, history, natural sciences and touring exhibitions; it is currently housing the Game of Thrones tapestry. The museum goes out of its way to engage kids in every way: there are interactive exhibits and a great art space on the top floor where kids can create and parents can get a sit down!
Half-term is punishment week at the Ripon Workhouse museum – with finger stocks, back straighteners and a punishment trail, there’s plenty to keep the family “entertained”. This small friendly museum does a great job of providing an insight into what life would have been like at the workhouse. On recent visits we have helped with a murder investigation, tested a dead body for arsenic poisoning and had a lesson from the scary headmaster in the school room