A rainy day trip to see the dinosaurs

What to do with two small boys on a wet day in the final, borrowed, hours of maternity leave? As I brought Hector and Alfred downstairs from their lunch time nap, I heard myself – in an attempt to divert post-nap rage – announce that we were going to see the dinosaurs.

Twenty minutes later (and in the best of moods) we were in an Uber – during a fare hike of course – to the Natural History Museum.

As the rain beat against the car windows I prayed that there were in fact still dinosaurs in existence at the museum. It’s been years since I set foot inside but I had vague recollections of a darkened room with the kind of enormous moving dinosaur model that would get a toddler suitably terrified.

I had vague recollections of a darkened room with the kind of enormous moving dinosaur model that would get a toddler suitably terrified.

I’d forgotten quite how exciting big, unfamiliar spaces are to children. Hector hurtled around the Hintze Hall beckoning me to admire the enormous 292- bone diplodocus skeleton, which has taken centre stage here since 1979, and a glass box containing a coelacanth, a preserved fish with huge staring eyes, which was believed to have died out yet reappeared off the coast of South Africa in 1938.

I was too nervous to ask a member of staff if there was still a dedicated dinosaur exhibition – there would almost certainly be tears, and possibly an irreversible melt down, if it transpired we’d travelled to South Kensington under false pretences.

But when I saw an advert for a dinosaur-themed children’s menu outside the restaurant, I guessed we were probably in luck.

Nothing like dinosaurs to work up an appetite...
Nothing like dinosaurs to work up an appetite…

The metal stairs up to the dinosaur exhibition are exciting in themselves if you’re two and rarely allowed off the leash. Throw in the enormous dinosaur skeletons, which hang from the rafters, and you’re in toddler paradise.

Hector didn’t hear me. He was too busy dragging me to the exit.

Just as I was beginning to wonder how many skeletons Hector would see before he stopped pointing and saying, “wow, amazing”, we walked from the vertical walk-way into a low lit corridor where the muffled sound of a roaring T-Rex could be heard.

Brilliant. After all these years the dinosaur model is still going strong.

Given the size of the crowd and his diminuitive height, Hector didn’t immediately spy the T-Rex through the balustrades. But his reaction when he did was priceless. “No, Mummy, no, no I don’t like that!” he wailed. “Want to go home. Want to go home. That’s too scary for me.”

I insisted, of course, that the dinosaur was actually very friendly (there was no way I was going to admit it wasn’t real – it could be a useful thing to have up my sleeve) but Hector didn’t hear me. He was too busy dragging me to the exit.

As we arrived in the lower part of the exhibition, where the dinosaurs are once again just skeletons, Hector’s shoulders dropped. “I love dinosaurs,” he said, puffing out his chest. “That big dinosaur was really friendly.”

“Do you want to go back and see it again,” I asked.

He shook his head, a look of terror flashing across his face. “No thanks, Mummy. It’s ok.”

Owing to the fact that the final glass exhibit cases are filled with toys from the gift shop, there was, however, one place we did have to visit before we went home.

Hector shunned the large model dinosaurs (thank goodness, they cost a fortune) and instead chose a bouncy ball with a small, friendly looking dinosaur safely encased inside it.

More toddler-friendly rainy day outings

Science Museum

Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD

The Garden is an interactive gallery in the basement with construction, water, light and sound. Children are free to explore floating and sinking, shadows and reflections, music, giant building blocks and much more while developing the skills of observing, predicting, testing and drawing conclusions. Suitable from 18 months. Entry free.

Sensational Butterflies 

Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD

Last year the Sensational Butterflies exhibit at the Natural History Museum was chosen as the location for Prince George’s official first birthday portrait. It’s on again this summer (for the seventh time)… toddlers love the experience of hundreds of butterflies and moths fluttering above their heads. Suitable for all ages. Entry from £3.90. Book here 

London Transport Museum 

Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB

There’s an under-fives play area decorated with Steven Appleby illustrations plus young visitors can sit in the driver’s cab of a red bus and guide a Northern Line simulator through tunnels and up to platforms (you’ll want to have a go first, obviously). Enjoyable from around 18 months. Kids go free, adults £16 (although your ticket lasts all year). Book here

  • For even more toddler friendly London days out read this Time Out article


[wysija_form id=”1″]
More from Anna Tyzack
Shouldn’t it be called World Baby Feeding Week? ;-)
Happy World Breastfeeding Week 2016! There’s nothing better than a full, sleeping...
Read More
0 replies on “A rainy day trip to see the dinosaurs”