There’s nothing like a day out discovering something new, and it’s even better when there’s something educational about it too. At the end of the Christmas holidays, we needed to get out of the house and stay away from the OH who had tonsillitis, so I suggested a visit to Think Tank in Birmingham. It was manic rush because at 8.15am I suggested it, booked tickets, checked train times, got showered and dressed, had breakfast, and then caught the train. We managed it and were on the train at 9.10 with 2 minutes to spare.
The last time we’d attempted to visit Think Tank Birmingham was during a rainy half term. We arrived to find a 2 hour queue that wasn’t moving, so this time with it being a holiday, I’d booked advance tickets. It didn’t make any difference because there was just a normal queue of a few people ahead of us, and we didn’t get to jump ahead of anyone like you can when the queues are large. The queue did take some time because people got to decide on planetarium shows and were taking their time, but it didn’t take long to get through once we were at the front.
Think Tank is a science museum across several floors, and includes an outdoor science garden. It wasn’t too busy in the morning when we arrived although started getting busier around lunchtime. Everything is interactive so there’s plenty to do for children of all ages. Somethings were too old for N, but he enjoyed choosing what to look at. You definitely need to spend all day there if you want any hope of seeing everything, but you’d be better off doing several visits to really take it all in.
One of N’s favourite parts was doing different jobs in the City area. This is an area for role play – with different buildings, shops and jobs to take part in. He enjoyed being a dentist, working on reception in the doctor’s surgery and taking an x-ray of me, fixing a road, as well as creating his own films in the film studio.
The water play area was a big draw and it didn’t worry him that he was amongst lots of toddlers.
We explored the human body areas – N spent a lot of time at the heart display and the lungs, as well as bizarrely watching the process of a baby from foetus to baby.
We’d only managed 1 floor before it was time for our Planetarium session. There were several through the day to choose from, although we saw the planet safari version. It was a little odd, all about how animals could look on different planets. N seemed to enjoy it and wasn’t scared, although he did think it was all a little far-fetched. I think a straight planetarium show about the different planets and stars might have been better for children.
Lunch was at the café on the ground floor. It’s not large, but we found seats easily (there’s a picnic area elsewhere for people who’ve brought food with them). The food was usual fare, some hot options, sandwiches, and children’s lunchbox (5 items for under £5). It’s nice to sit beside the exhibits while you eat and it certainly gives you a topic of conversation.
N wanted to look in and around the steam train after lunch, so we did that, learning how to stoke the engine and set the train on its way. All the engines and large machinery are on the ground floor and it’s great to see some of them working.
We worked our way back up the floors – it was fun looking at heat maps and where heat is around the house. We also looked at properties of different materials. Think Tank is great at bringing these things to life for children, even if they can’t take it all in scientifically, I think it’s still great for them to start thinking about different things and to ask questions.
We were lucky that the weather brightened up so as we were leaving we were able to go into the science garden. This is just an outdoor exploratory play area with lots of science, movement based activities. N wheeled a wheelchair on different surfaces, tried to winch himself up and down on a chair, attempted to move the hamster wheel, and we spent lots of time working out how to move different balls around a giant ‘marble’ run structure. We did have to wait for him to have a go on several items outside, it’s obviously a popular area that everyone enjoys.
Only a 5-10 minute walk from Moor Street Station, Think Tank is easy to get to if you don’t want to drive into Birmingham. We really enjoyed our day there, and there would still be enough we’ve not seen to warrant another visit. Plus while it obviously gets busy, choose a quieter time and it’ll be so much quieter than The Science Museum in London.
Have you visited Think Tank before, or do you enjoy other Science museums?
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