A couple of weeks ago we were invited to a preview of the half term activities planned for the Imperial War Museum North. If I’m perfectly honest, I nearly binned the invite as I read “Imperial War Museum” and thought “that’ll be another London event then!”. Yes, up until that point, I didn’t realise we had an Imperial War Museum in Manchester too. I know better now…
Neither of the geek-kids are old enough to be at school yet, so I don’t need to worry about entertaining them during half term, but next year I will, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to check out a possible holiday activity. The half term activities at the Imperial War Museum North are all themed around the Ministry of Food, exploring the themes of rationing and growing your own food. I was a little worried that the geekdaughter, aged 4, might be a little young for both the museum and the activities, but you never know until you try do you? So we set off for an adventure…
My satnav found the museum with no trouble at all (it’s in The Quays in Manchester), and there was plenty of parking available (parking costs £4). Museum entry is free, although they are grateful for any donations made. It’s a wonderful modern building, with interesting exhibits, displayed in interesting ways. We particularly enjoyed the interactive displays, which were varied and kept the geekdaughter’s attention well. As expected, she was a little young for the majority of the static displays, and wanted to dash around from item to item very quickly, but she did seem to enjoy what she did see.
We caught a bit of one of the museum’s “What a performance” sessions, where a very convincing actor was describing life as a Tommy during World War One. Again the geekdaughter couldn’t really relate to this, and lost interest quickly, so we didn’t stay for long, which was a shame as I was finding it very interesting. We were warned that some of the performances could contain loud bangs, so if you have children who don’t like loud noises I would recommend checking with the museum staff which sessions would be most suitable for them.
After getting a feel for the museum we headed down to the craft session, where the geekdaughter had a go at making her own vegetable basket (although again she was a little young for the activity, and didn’t have the patience to keep at it for long). The dressing up area was a big hit though, and the colouring table as well. I was impressed that the museum had laid on a good selection of activities to suit all age ranges, so if you’re contemplating taking younger children with their older siblings I would say they will definitely not be bored.
Finally we got to experience a puppet performance, with one of the museum volunteers telling the story of Billy, a little boy who was evacuated from Salford during the Second World War. The use of puppets and props meant that all the children were kept (mostly) interested through the session. During the half term week there will be specially themed Jo Jingles sessions available for the younger children, which is certainly something both my kids would enjoy.
I found the museum extremely family-friendly. There are free, self-operated lockers to store bags, lifts to all floors, accessible ground floor toilets and baby changing facilities. The WaterShard Café offers children’s portions and lunch bags, and colouring sheets are always available. An indoor picnic area is also available at weekends and in the school holidays for visitors to bring their own refreshments. The Museum Shop offers a range of pocket money purchases including souvenirs and stationery items.
The Imperial War Museum North is open every day from 10am to 5pm. It was a good family outing for us, and I can imagine that when the kids are a little older it will be even better. You can find more about the Museum’s half term activities here.
Disclosure: We were provided with free parking and lunch for the geekdaughter.