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Top 20 UK Family Friendly Museums Announced

Kids in Museums logoFrom the tip of Scotland to the Southwest of England, the 20 museums making it to the Guardian Family Friendly Award longlist all share one thing – they go that extra mile to welcome families. Here’s who they are and what the experts – visitors – said about them:

Abbey House Museum, Leeds

‘My mum particularly enjoyed the working penny slot machines. My 20-month-old daughter loved the dressing up room and the recreated 19th century street. And we all enjoyed the display of toys through the ages.’

‘Cool! It felt like we were in Victorian times.’

‘Instead of reading about the past we went into the past.’


‘My three year old spent a lot of time in the pretend airport where you can fly an aeroplane, hang around the airport terminal, sell tickets, be a customs officer. The prehistoric area has caves and fancy dress dinosaur costumes. Then there’s the interactive water and air balloon exhibits.’

‘It’s brilliantly interactive and makes science really interesting.’

Corinium Museum - longlisted for Guardian Family Friendly Award 2011
Corinium Museum

Corinium Museum, Cirencester

‘My three-year-old granddaughter loves Mrs Getty’s grave and the AV screens dotted all over the museum. It has everything from pre-history through Roman, Anglo Saxon and Medieval, right through to the present day.’

‘I loved the activities especially the mosaics and the bit when you had to find out about what the Romans had to eat and drink. It was amazing that they didn’t have tomatoes and chocolate and it was really fascinating that they didn’t have the type of dough we use to make chocolate éclairs. I also liked the dressing up and feeling how heavy the shield was.’


Crich Tramway Village in Derbyshire

Crich Tramway Village, Derbyshire

‘The staff answer all our questions in a way we can understand. There are always different trams to ride on and different people to talk with and ask questions. In the tearooms they do really nice children’s meals which come in really nice boxes that look like a car or a princess carriage. Sometimes mum and dad let me get one of the backpacks that has loads of stuff in it like binoculars, coloured pencils, sheets with things to look for on, all sorts of things.’

Geffrye Museum, London

‘I love the use they make of the building, an old almshouse. You just keep walking through 400 years of history and the rooms gradually change. My favourite part was when we got to the 1930s, which was an exact copy of my Auntie Violet’s front room.’

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Norfolk

‘It brings history to life for the whole family, from the smallest of children who can have a tractor ride, see the piglets or stroke the Suffolk punch horse, to their grandparents who can listen and share stories of how things were done in the old days.’

‘We all love the huge spaces which allow children to run and shout, the adventure playground, the indoor displays such as the schoolroom and workhouse, and the activities of a working farm such as cooking or ploughing or sheep shearing.’

Hands on History, Hull

‘The Victorian playroom is very hands on. The changing house through the ages was very engaging; you could tell from all the fingerprints on the glass that it’s popular with kids.’

‘A great little museum that kids can get involved in.’

Haslemere Educational Museum, Essex

‘My children particularly love the Egyptian mummy, making the dinosaurs roar in the Ages of the Earth gallery, and enjoy watching the bees working in their hive.’

‘Brilliant toys to play with, great space to run around in, really friendly staff and animals to look at. Better for our two and a half year old than the Natural History Museum.’

Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore

‘We were all greeted, the children were given stickers and a kid’s activity pack including colouring, a torch and our granddaughter’s favourite – weaving. The children were able to see farm animals close up, talk to the museum staff, dress up in old fashioned clothes, grind their own corn to produce flour, ride on an old bus, watch craftsmen make various things.’

‘The site is long and transport is provided on a period style bus with friendly driver. Hens, ducks and chicks were running around. We found two sleeping together in a horse shed. Great fun.’

Horniman Museum, London

‘I go with my four-month-old baby. As I go past the totem pole and in to the beautiful grounds, I feel so lucky I can introduce her to all the wonderful curiosities that lie within – the walrus, medieval torture chair, the magical aquarium.’

‘We love visiting: the animals – as we call the natural history collection – where we usually make up stories about different animals; the bees, trying to find the queen bee; the musical instruments, brilliant for spotting and learning games; the music room for noisy fun.’

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Kilmartin House Museum, Argyll

‘In a unique setting surrounded by many monuments, cairns and rock art. The interactive map of the glen is a particular favourite. Children also enjoy grinding wheat and making rubbings of stone carvings. ‘ Jane Allan

‘Replicas for the kids to handle. Ancient monuments within walking distance. Lovely cafe and shop. Mulit sensory interpretation of the history and landscape. Outstanding.’

‘The kids love Toddler Town and I brought my cousin – a fashion student from Austria – who was very interested to see Heroes and Heroines.’

‘We made a sword and I saw a polar bear. And they were very nice people.’

‘I liked the Roman and Egyptian bit.’


Facepainting at The Lightbox in Woking Surrey

The Lightbox, Woking, Surrey

‘Enchanting. The building, curating, information and staff are fresh, innovative, enthusiastic and faultless. A rewarding and stimulating couple of hours entertainment and education – for both adults and children alike – within easy reach of London. A little know hidden gem.’

Manchester Art Gallery

‘I always love my time at the gallery and so do my mum and brother. These are the things we have enjoyed doing: wax work, clay-like stuff, engraving, sawdust pictures. My brother likes: the engraver, family tree and themed collages. My mum likes: body part casts and printing.’

‘My family and I have enjoyed many hours in the various rooms. We have danced, painted plates, built robots, constructed transportation devices, drawn all over the walls and much more.’

Mansfield Museum, Nottinghamshire

‘The galleries are interactive and they have a wide range of activities for families. The XplorActive environmental gallery is exceptional and the friendly character Eco Dude helps children learn how to preserve their local environment.’

Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket, Suffolk

‘You can travel back in time with displays about everyday life from the Victorians to a kitchen from the 1950’s. You can explore the world of agricultural machinery. There’s a working mill with a really clear display explaining all the different parts of grinding and processing grain to make it into flour. You can lose yourself in huts, buildings, gardens, looking at the animals – and go off into your own world because the site is vast.’

Sulgrave Manor, Banbury, Oxfordshire

‘The manor is the home of George Washington’s ancestors. It actually offers a tour especially for children which really impressed me. We all (adults included) learnt an awful lot. My son enjoyed turning the spit by the old fire, a job he would have done in the old days – and both children were fascinated to hear about the eleven Washington children who had to stand through the lengthy meals (two hours or more) each day.’

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

‘The dressing up stuff and games and animals in the natural history gallery are particularly child friendly. And the Spitfire has a Wow factor all of its own. There’s lots of space for the children to run around and the staff are always friendly and patient. And it amazes me that teenagers also love sitting in the tree and trying out the dressing up clothes.’

Thinktank, Birmingham Science Centre

‘My children, almost four and two, never fail to have an amazing time and, amidst all the fun, have picked up a serious amount of knowledge about robots, planets, dams, canals, starfish, shark teeth, telephones, running a kids cafe, operating a differ … they love it, so we do too.’

‘Both my children are under five and they just love Kid City at Thinktank. My three year old particularly likes to operate the digger arm. The rest of my family love it too. There are so many interactive things to do and no one ever tells you off for making too much noise.’

Woodhorn Museum and Archive, Northumberland

‘I liked the coal trail because mostly all the rooms had a noise in. I also liked it because I got to see what it was like back then. I got to crawl through a tunnel and experience what it was like. I liked the stables and farrier’s shop since I like horses so I liked that the best.’

What happens next in the Award?

A panel of leaders in the museum world, chaired by Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, will draw up a shortlist. This shortlist will be anonymously roadtested by families. It’s families who nominate the museums, and it’s families who decide the winner. The Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award – the biggest award in Britain – is the only award to be judged by visitors.

Find out more about the Guardian Family Friendly Museum Award at

Written by KidsInMuseums

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