The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has not one but two dedicated children’s galleries – Ahoy! for under 7’s and All Hands for ages 6-12. Although I’ve visited this museum before Pea was born, I don’t remember lots and I was eager to go back once he was old enough to benefit from the under 7’s gallery. I also love any excuses to visit Greenwich as it’s one of my favourite areas of London, and it’s where I got married! Very appropriate then that this was the last of our London outings before the move to Dublin and Pea’s Dad was available to join us too so it was a very special family day out.
We really wanted to make a day of this, so we took a Thames Clipper service from London Bridge City Pier to Greenwich. This takes a bit longer, but it’s so worth it as the river bus is such a chilled out way to travel in London and you get the benefit of cruising past some of London’s most notable landmarks on the way. Once we arrived in Greenwich, we stopped at the market for a much needed hot drink and snacks – it was a brutally cold day, and in such conditions I can’t think of a better thing to do than indulge yourself with some delicious Brazilian churros. Once we’d warmed up and sated our need for sugar we headed over to the museum.
Our first port of call was the Great Map where we released a newly-walking Pea on a mission to conquer land and sea. He had a whale of a time being chased across the oceans by his Dad. The Great Map is the gift that keeps on giving for parents, as it’s next to the coffee shop, so you can keep an eye on your little shipmates while you have a coffee.
One Pea had fully explored the map (and exhausted his Dad) we moved downstairs to the Ahoy! gallery to see what all the fuss was about. I was feeling cautiously optimistic about this one. I’ve taken Pea to some of the other play spaces at London museums but these haven’t been wholly successful. Much of this has simply been down to his age at the time – it is a challenge to design a play space or activity for under 5’s that caters for the full spectrum of that age. Ahoy! does a pretty good job of this, although Pea certainly got more value out of this now that he’s walking than he would have done as a crawler.
We first tried out the little rock pool area which was filled with plush sea creatures, buckets and nets. Pea was quite content in here and probably could have entertained himself for much longer but a large school group arrived soon after we did, and they were pretty boisterous so we elected to move Pea along to a quieter spot. That was a bit tricky, as the school group fanned out into all corners of the gallery like an army of cute excitable ants. Still, we found some respite in the mocked up ship’s cabin. We cooked up a stew in a huge pot and Pea attempted to loot some treasure from a trunk (the booty was glued down, probably just as well with our budding kleptomaniac).
Then we found the little fishmonger’s shop in the back of the gallery which was the big winner with Pea. He spent a good twenty minutes in here with his little apron on just scooping up mussels from the tray and tipping them back in again with that focus and determination that only a toddler has. Eventually, we moved him on as we were concerned he was preventing other children from enjoying it!
We spent about an hour and a half in here and could probably have spent longer but it was getting near to Pea’s naptime. Sure enough, once we left he fell asleep in his pram quite quickly giving us some time to investigate the rest of the museum. We had a quick look in the upstairs gallery for older kids, All Hands. It’s aimed at children from 6-12 years but I’d say it would be fine for younger kids too. It was virtually deserted when we popped in. From here, we went on to browse some of the other galleries. I was just scrutinising Nelson’s coat when Pea woke from his nap.
We spent the rest of the time at the Museum letting Pea waddle around and taking turns checking out some of the less baby friendly exhibits. We even got involved in testing out an interactive feature being developed for the museum. We stayed until closing time and felt that we’d thoroughly explored all the museum had to offer.
We had such a good time here that part of me regrets not taking Pea here sooner and fitting in a repeat visit before we moved. On the other hand, I think he was at just about the right age to really get the most out of this, especially the Ahoy! gallery. Whenever we are back in London for a visit we will be keen to come back to the Maritime Museum and see if our little sea dog has as much fun the second time around.
The National Maritime Museum is at Park Row, Greenwich SE10. Admission is free. Facilities include baby changing, lifts and cafe.