A ‘dino-mite’ exhibition for families
Truth be told, I was a bit apprehensive that my 3 year old would be too young to get much out of the new Dinosaur Babies exhibition at the National Museum, Cardiff. He’s not fanatical about them like many of his little chums, and would really prefer to play diggers than dino’s given the choice, but in an effort to support the learning he’s been doing on dinosaurs in nursery, I arranged a family visit anyway.
I need not have worried. Even after a bout of tears in the foyer on spotting a staff member wearing the world’s least scary dinosaur onesie, he was quickly distracted and won over by the variety of interactive exhibits on offer. The content of the exhibition is displayed using a range of tactile models, large images with captions, real and model skeletons, an animatronic dinosaur and traditional displays in cabinets with short easy-to-read descriptions. Many of the real ‘show-stopping’ skeleton exhibits are housed in low glass cases that can be viewed all the way around, making it accessible for little ones and easier for everyone to get a good view even at busy periods.
As a family we’re still pretty new to this type of educational, family experience and museums have moved on apace since our childhood, so I chuckled when my husband told our son not to touch one of the egg models which was screaming out for little fingers to pat and stroke it, but there were plenty of helpful staff around to reassure and encourage children to touch the exhibits – and even to ride on one of the dinosaurs!
Working as a team to dismantle and reassemble a large section of a leg bone, proved a popular activity with the little ones giving the grown-ups additional time to browse the nearby cabinets and learn about some of the most rare and exciting finds like ‘Baby Louie’ who had scientists confused until the first example of a new species of giant oviraptor was discovered as recently as 2007. The highlight for me though were the three real dinosaur eggs in which you can still clearly see the fragile bones of the unhatched animals inside.
The highlight for our little one (and most of the younger visitors there), was most definitely the opportunity to play ‘palaeontologist’ for the morning. Sporting his safety goggles, he whiled away at least half an hour digging in the large pit hunting for bones and eggs, then joining in with other children carefully brushing away the ‘earth’ to uncover their finds. The activity stations at the end of the exhibition area are perfect for very young children, and we spent a happy hour or so counting dinosaur eggs, practicing letter recognition with the magnetic letters and doing the large dinosaur jigsaw puzzles on the board.
The exhibition really lives up to the claim that it is ‘family friendly’ and it genuinely manages to achieve that tricky balance of appealing to all ages and levels of interest in the subject, so even if like me you have family members that can best be described as ‘can’t read, won’t read’ don’t be put off giving this exhibition a try. I would seriously consider going again with my nephews who are 10 and 7, and know that my son would be really excited to go again. Even better is the fact that it’s free for the under 4s (yet there is plenty that appeals to them), and with a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children up to 17) at only £17 it represents superb value for money.
Dinosaur Babies Exhibition, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
27 May–5 November 2017, 10am-4.45pm (last entry 4pm)
Cost £7 adults, £5 concessions, £3 children, £17/£13 families