Sunday, 26 February 2012

Skinny Hippo, Abingdon

We recently booked a birthday trip to Skinny Hippo in Abingdon for Charlotte and a couple of her friends to do some painting. Skinny Hippo is a craft and gift shop in the centre of Abingdon you can go along any time for drop in painting/deco patch/bead making, or book with them a party. Depending on the age of the party there is the choice of painting, deco patch, silly signs, felt making, tiaras, bead jewellery and more. They have just started a build-a-bear workshop too which a couple of older girls were doing while we were there.

At 4 years old we thought the girls would be better suited to painting. They chose their models to paint and happily sat there quietly for a good 20mins concentrating on what they were doing. The paints they were given were very good quality acrylics which went on so well and left a good finish. Once finished we browsed the shop while the shop keeper dried and varnished our models. The finished products looked really good and Charlotte has loved showing it off to everyone.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Pendon Museum, Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire

My brother and I used to go to Pendon Museum when we were little, and at 4 we thought Charlotte would be just the right age to take. My brother has very fond memories of Pendon, he loved it so much he wanted to volunteer.

Pendon has recreated in miniature rural scenes and transport from the 1920's and 30's, since opening in 1954 the museum has always been a work in progress so each time you visit there could be another little house/person/animal recreated perfectly. The attention to detail is amazing.

The first room displays the Madder Valley Railway, which due to its fragile state only runs on a few days each year. There are boards explaining the use of buildings, and a display showing what the buildings are made of (manila envelopes it seems). The next room has the Dartmoor Scene with a stunning Brunel timber viaduct and mainline station. Seeing the trains go past and the people sat in the little carriages is lovely. Even better if you are fortunate enough to be there when they turn the lights out and see the carriages and station lit up.

The last room is the Vale Scene, a typical English countryside scene with farms and cottages and a train puffing through, all recreated with precision detail. Charlotte did laugh when the giant popped up from the middle of the display to get the train going again!
A lot of the displays are raised up and even with a step-stool (on loan from the entrance desk) we had to lift Charlotte up for a few things (she is 1m, displays are 1.4m). There was quite a bit of history we could teach Charlotte about, how buses have changed, and trains, how we get our water out of taps instead of a man with a horse and cart. But I think being a girl some of the train things were a bit lost on her.
Pendon does offer a good value hour or so hour slowly wondering around the displays, its all indoors and run by volunteers so great for damp days and something for all the family. There is one set of stairs if taking a pushchair, a small tea room, didn't notice any babychanging facilites in the toilets.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford

I can't believe I haven't yet reviewed the museum we are always going to. We love going to the Natural History Museum. I remember taking my niece and nephew for the first time a few years ago, the look on their faces when they first walked in and were faced with the dinosaurs was brilliant.

The museum is well known for its dinosaurs and also the Dodo but there is so much more. You can have a quick walk round and just pick out certain bits with stuffed animals to touch, rocks to feel, a herd of animal skeletons to look at. Or you can look in a bit more detail at all the display cases and interesting facts.
A lot of people don't seem to venture upstairs, but upstairs are live bugs to look at and also a great place to look down on the skeletons and also look up to the ceiling (which is undergoing some repairs) at the amazing detail on the pillars. Little known fact: in the 1970's when doing some repair work they found a rhino skeleton on the roof.
Upstairs also contains some local history about fossils and excavations.

Currently there are 2 whats exhibitions tunning, one oak is a really fascinating life story of a tree with a cross section of the tree to look at with dates on and also a wonderful carving to look at. This exhibition runs until 27th March 2012. Another is Ghost Forest, this has been running a while and when first opened was a bit of a talking point with huge tree stumps placed on plinths on the grass out the front of the museum. Ghost Forest runs until July 2012.
Every Sunday the museum gives out explorer backpacks for family friendly fun exploring the museum.

Behind the Natural History Museum is the Pitts Rivers Museum... which is just as excellent and deserves its own review very soon.

We can easily spend from half an hour to a couple of hours going round the museum, there are toilets but no cafe. So in the summer take a picnic to University Parks or you could visit the cafes of Little Clarendon Street or the city centre. There is no car park at the museum. Admission is free.