MAD Museum Stratford-upon-Avon Bubbablueandme

Playdate at the MAD Museum, Stratford-upon-Avon

We loved our first experience of the MAD Museum in Stratford-upon-Avon, a mechanical art and design museum that’s better than we expected.

We don’t do many playdates, purely because N’s had nursery during the week.  At weekends when we’re free, most people are doing family things.  We have managed to do a few playdates at friends’ houses and ours, and at parks – all the better because none of us have to do any cleaning (apart from maybe the car if we’re sharing lifts).

But just before N started school, we had a few days off work and nursery so he could have some time off before starting.  And so we could make the most of fun times during the week before they could be no more. One playdate we’d arranged with his best friend from his day nursery.  They were always pretty inseparable at nursery, but were going to different schools.  But only being 5 minutes drive away, hopefully they’ll be able to stay friends.

We’d proposed going to Stratford-upon-Avon because there’s great outside play areas at the park, walks by the river and plenty of places for lunch.  Typically, the weather didn’t look like it was going to play ball and it was dark, dreary and a bit wet on waking.

A quick text message conversation and search online later, and we’d decided we’d still head out but try going to the Mechanical Art and Design Museum (MAD) instead. None of us had been before, but it looked quite interesting for children of all ages.

The boys loved being in the car together.  N was so excited to see where his friend S lived, I think he’d invited himself over to play pretty quickly on arrival to pick them up.  We found somewhere to park and walk down the main street amongst the tourists.

Having two 4 year old boys with us took some time.  Stratford has some lovely independent shops, and I knew the shop with Peter Rabbit soft toys in would stop them to have a look.  We listened to them comparing notes on which Peter Rabbit N had, and what the other animals were called before we managed to draw them away….until they then spotted superheroes in the window of a comic/sci-fi shop.

Window shopping for Peter Rabbit and Gruffalo

A giant bear was spotted down in a courtyard so that meant time to stop for a hug.  I don’t think N would have done it on his own, but it’s funny to see how the boys interacted and would do what each other told them.

hugging the giant teddy bear

The MAD Museum

Finally we reached the MAD Museum.  It’s a pretty small place, just the one room, and upstairs above shops which seems a bit strange going in.  We had a lovely welcome from the staff at the entrance, and immediately we could see exciting things to explore.

MAD Museum Stratford-upon-Avon Bubbablueandme

The best way to describe the MAD Museum is think marble runs of every different sort and size.  Add in weird engineering and mechanics with an artistic flair and that pretty much describes it.

MAD Museum - moving wooden designs

As well as the trains going round overhead, there was so much to see.    The big draw was definitely the ‘marble’ run made from kitchen accessories.  We spent ages watching that until the boys started arguing over whose foot should be on the go pedal.

The kitchenator - MAD Museum

Another big draw was the musical water glasses on the dresser….played via an old fashioned typewriter.  I even managed twinkle twinkle little star.

playing the glass dresser - MAD Museum

And we’re not going to forget the secret chest in a hurry.  The boys watched that one for ages, although the first couple of times did make N jump quite a bit.

The Truth chest - MAD Museum

Some of the designs were a little quirky, but so much time must have gone into creating them.  It’s a great little museum, perfect for wiling away a couple of hours.  There are toilets there, and kids under 5 get in free, but otherwise what you see is what you get.  Nothing fancy.  The only downside is the noise, so if you’ve got sensitive children or hearing problems, the mechanics going on might be a problem.

MAD Museum - writing in sand
I loved this one. One wheel wiped it smooth, the next did the letters
laser colour pattern - MAD Museum
Cool disco patterns
marble run - MAD Museum
the sandwich eater - MAD Museum
The sandwich eater. We thought it was a bit creepy, but the boys loved it
Mechanical flower bear - MAD Museum
building a marble run - MAD museum
Make your own marble run
MAD museum shadow and design

Enjoying outdoor spaces in Stratford

Afterwards we had a bit of time before lunch and the sun had come out, so we headed down to the gardens by the theatre and river for a drink and a bit of a run around.

walking round the hedges at Stratford river gardens

Us mums were able to sit and chat, keeping an eye on the boys who were enjoying walking round the flowers and hedges, then running between them.  N did get a bit narky because he wanted to be on one side on his own, but once they discovered the water fountain they were friends again.  Easy life being children.

no more photos mummy
No more photos, Mummy
playing in the water fountain Stratford

We just wanted sandwiches for lunch and whenever we’re out it’s always hard to know what restaurants or cafes would cater for children.  I hate places where they only sell hot foot for children, but a child’s portion for sandwiches is beyond them.  We found the Anne Hathaway tea rooms which is a quite old fashioned place. It’s over several floors so we headed upstairs, past the delicious looking cakes and  found a table.

They sell a good choice of sandwiches, paninis, soup and various light meals.  The boys wanted the same sandwich so they asked if we wanted to split an adult portion which was perfect size wise.  It was really good to have that option because there’s no way they’d have eaten a larger portion.

The panini I had was delicious, the fruit smoothies were fresh and zingy.  The drinks for children weren’t great, because it was basically juices which are pricy (no squash option).   But the cakes were gorgeous. N had ice cream, while my huge chocolate fudge cake with cream was divine.

It was a lovely lunch with a comedy toilet palaver and panic to get back to the car in time (never quick with 4 year olds in tow), to top off our visit.

N got his wish to have a look at his friend S’s house as well when we dropped them off, so they could have another quick play.  Oh the excitement at all different toys, another garden to check out…and a bungalow!

Do you tend to go out for playdates or stay in?

Why not take a look at these similar posts for days out in the area:

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  1. When my children were younger play dates were as much for me & my sanity as they were for the kids! The MAD looks like an amazing place to visit – if I’m ever in Stratford-Upon-Avon I’ll definitely be checking it out.

  2. definitely I do play date with my son. I’ve been doing play dates with my son for years now I understand that the one on one parent time is extremely needed.

  3. We have never made a thing of playdates.I have from the girls previous school come round with her boys every holiday but other than that I don’t bother.They see friends at school and that seems enough for them.

    1. Tbh, it’s rarely N who asks. His best friends from each nursery usually suggest them, but I love getting together with those 2 parents as well, so it works out well for both of us. I think also, being an only child it’s good for him to know that friendships aren’t just at school, they’re outside as well. Otherwise he’d just closet himself on the farm and never see anyone other than his family.

  4. What a lovely day out for you all, much better than having a playdate at home (I always dread the mess!). The MAD museum sounds fab xxx

  5. Oh great post, my brother and his wife live really near Stratford so ill have to remember this post when we go visit them! The mad museum sounds like something I would love but I’m into that stuff!

  6. It sounds like everyone had a really good day. I love the MAD museum, it looks like a really interesting place to take children. I like a place to visit that is a bit unusual

  7. Looks like a really interesting place for the kids to visit, lots of new things for them to see! I can imagine what it would be to take lamb. He would be saying “what’s that?” the whole way round! X

    1. You can pretend not to hear him because it’s pretty loud, but it must be mad for them to see so much stuff in such a small space. Certainly lots going on

  8. Looks like a nice day out especially heading into this time of year, I have to say that marble run looks great, could keep mine entertained for a while

  9. I love Stratford On Avon but had never heard of this place before – it looks like great fun. We used to tend to stay in pretty much for playdates – but that was mainly because I had no money when Grace was really small! It sounds like you had great fun. Thanks for linking to #PoCoLo x

  10. Stratford is one of my favourite places in the UK, the little shops are gorgeous. Especially love the Christmas shop that opens all year! Had no idea there was a Peter Rabbit themed shop though, must definitely go back! Great photos of the museum too, interactive museums are the way forward for sure and children love being able to engage with the exhibitions properly. Looks like you had a great time !:)

    1. I love Stratford too. Not much in the way of shops although there are some nice ones. But it’s just nice to amble, nice tea shops. The Peter Rabbit place is along from the Christmas shop. It’s all soft toys and licenced gifts – so Peter Rabbit, Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson characters, Paddington etc. Loads of children’s favourites. A lovely shop

  11. A museum is such a good educational option for a rainy day other that a soft play centre. I prefer to go out for playdates as it gives both adults and children something to look forward to. On times when I’ve planned to stay in, we ended up venturing out! haha 🙂 x

  12. Ah looks like lots of fun! i work in an engineering firm so can appreciate what a great play date this was and how much they learned. all kids should be introduced to these worlds! we just had our first official play date during the week and we all loved it, especially mammy with the tea and cake!

    1. Cake is pretty much essential to a playdate for the adults at least. It’s great when you can take them out for an educational thing but they don’t realise that they’re learning

  13. The MAD museum looks amazing. My two boys would love it, so think it is worth a trip. As for playdates, as I have two boys, they usually have each other but maybe I should look at inviting someone else to come too.

    1. I guess just take it from them. N wouldn’t be fussed a lot of the time (he mostly wouldn’t think of asking people to play), until it’s mentioned and then he never stops asking until it’s organised.

  14. I’m not very good with playdates because I don’t know many people with children who are the same age but I feel that I do need to get out there more and make more effort. That museum looks fantastic. And the two boys clearly had fun. Hope yo manage a few more playdates 🙂

    1. I never see anyone outside work, so it’s a great way for me to catch up with people too. Thankfully so far, I’m either friends with already, or get on really well with his friends mums, so it’s nice to meet more potential friends

  15. I am a sucker for museums, but I love how different this one is. Kids normally don’t like traditional history museums, so it’s nice that this offers something different.

  16. This looks like great fun. I don’t have kids yet but I’m sure I can have fun as an adult with my other half! LOL! Cute pictures too. Now I’m craving cake!

  17. We went to the MAD museum earlier this year. It is small but it was good because there was something to appeal to all of us, whether we were kids or adults. It’s the kind of museum I like. Glad the play date went well. My son was best friends with another boy at nursery who went to a different school but they’re still best of friends 6 years later!

    1. That’s good to hear. Hopefully N and S will continue to catch up. They might end up at holiday club together so hopefully that’ll keep the friendship going.

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