Imaginosity is Ireland’s only interactive museum for children under 9 years of age. It’s really more of a large play centre than a museum, with an emphasis on imaginative role play and a daily schedule of activities such as parachute play, story time and crafts.
So this is another place that’s been on my radar since we moved to Dublin but just didn’t get to until earlier this year. There are a few reasons for this. The location is fairly out of the way for us and booking ahead is strongly advised as at busy times visitors may be turned away. I’m generally wary of pre-booking things that are a trek to reach because that is just an open invitation for a toddler to do their worst as you try to wrangle them out of the house on time. In the end, I opted just to book online on the day of our visit so I could be sure we didn’t make a wasted trip.
The website states that during busy periods (weekends, Bank Holidays etc) timed entry is in operation. We visited on a Friday in January but the online booking is biased towards the busy period as it forces users to select entry in two-hour intervals. So I could book 11.30am – 1.30pm or 1.30 – 3.30pm rather than choosing a two-hour spot commencing at the time of my own choosing. I was stressing about arriving on time for our slot, worrying that if we arrived late we’d either be refused entry or just lose out on time. We did arrive 15 minutes late and it was no problem and we weren’t under any pressure to leave after two hours. Maybe I’m being picky here but I wish that the online booking was sophisticated enough to service peak and off-peak bookings. I should note that telephone booking is also available so perhaps that is more flexible.
Okay, rant about the booking process over. What’s actually inside? Three floors of interactive, educational exhibits, that’s what. Level 1 is themed around a typical town centre with child-sized library, market, bank, diner, surgery and garage. Level 2 has a puppet room, theatre, art studio, construction site and dolls house. Level 3 is mostly the roof garden which was closed when we visited in January. Connecting all floors is The Climber, a formidable looking structure aimed at children aged 3 and up – and therefore desperately alluring to daredevil under 3’s like Pea.
The garage was hugely popular with all the kids. In particular, the life-size stationary yellow car (I’m pretty sure it’s actually Bumblebee in fact). This was a bit unfortunate for us, as Pea loves vehicles of all persuasions with a passion bordering on violent. He wanted to get in the car but another kid was already there so we immediately had a meltdown situation. I distracted him with a collection of toy cars and a ramp nearby. This worked for all of about 2 minutes when another child had the cheek to approach the ramp and play with one of the many cars. Pea screamed at her, she burst into tears and was swiftly extracted by her guardian. I scolded Pea possibly a bit too sharply and earned myself a concerned look from a member of staff. Not a good start.
With a bit of coaxing, Pea let himself be drawn away from the cars to explore the rest of the tiny town. We had some success pushing mini shopping trolleys around in the supermarket and eating plastic cakes in the diner. The only thing that really came close to entertaining him as much as the garage was the Town Table, because there were trains. Apparently Level 1 also has a butchers and a water play area which we didn’t see.
We found Level 2 considerably quieter and calmer but the exhibits on this level didn’t have the same appeal for Pea as Level 1. He did rather enjoy the construction zone and some of the sensory pieces but he kept gravitating back towards Level 1. It’s hard to compete with Bumblebee. When he started begging for snacks we retreated to the cafe. Level 1 is visible and accessible from the cafe, and just after our order arrived Pea legged it back to Bumblebee, so that was that. After a bit more playing around in the garage zone, we called it a day and schlepped home.
All of this is sounding very negative but I can’t really fault anything about the exhibits at Imaginosity or the staff, who were generally lovely. It’s just unfortunate that I have a kid who loses his shit over planes, trains and automobiles. We’ll definitely make a return visit once the outdoor play areas have reopened. Now that I know the set up I’ll have a better idea of how to manage Pea’s triggers and won’t stress out about the time slots.
Imaginosity is at The Plaza, Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford. Open daily, see website for full opening hours. Admission is €8 adults and children over 3, €6 for toddlers. Facilities include cafe, gift shop, baby changing and lift access and buggy parking. Buggies cannot be taken into the play areas but baby carriers can be borrowed at reception.