Museums reviewed by parents: Museum of Cardiff
Kate Morgan and her son Noah, age 11, take a look around the Museum of Cardiff to learn a bit more about this popular Welsh city.
The museum truly is a hidden gem (but hidden in plain sight!). Located in the centre of Cardiff and surrounded by busy shops, it is somehow easy to miss among all the hustle and bustle. Three other businesses operate within the same building: a Welsh souvenir shop, an information centre for tourists, and a cafe. Not many people know of the museum’s existence but once we discovered it, we couldn’t believe it had been under our noses for so long.
This is an ideal place for children of primary-school age to learn in a fun and safe environment. Although it seems small and crowded from the outside, it covers two floors and has spacious rooms filled with impressive exhibits. It's a great place to strengthen your Welsh and/or English language skills and there are also excellent aids throughout the museum for children and adults who are deaf, blind, or physically disabled.
Best for nursery and Reception kids
Younger children will love climbing on a replica of the famous animal wall that, in real life, surrounds Cardiff Castle. In the safety of the museum, they get the opportunity to clamber onto the creatures and hear animal sounds as they wake up the tigers and lions.
They will also enjoy the elaborate mechanical dollhouse that tells the story of how people lived in their homes from the 1890s to 2010.
Downstairs there is a variety of different outfits to try on and children can roleplay as evacuees or train drivers. A toy train track, a toy oven and an abundance of children’s books will keep little ones occupied for a long time!
Best for KS1 kids
Kids of this age will have a great time learning about developments in the transport industry as they roll a digital die to play a racing game with the option to be a boat, steam engine, or horse.
In another part of the room, a miniature display of Cardiff Docks in 1913 is spread out across a large table and the kids can hover their hands over different sensors to watch the little buildings light up. They can then read about what each building was once was used for.
Downstairs, kids are encouraged to play ‘history detectives’ and can decipher clues by using audio equipment, piecing together puzzles, using touch screen tablets, and looking at the images on the walls. These games will teach them all about life during WW2, steam engines, Victorian school rooms, and immigrants who sailed to Cardiff to trade.
Best for KS2 kids
Older children will also enjoy playing history detectives, and some of the challenges will be better suited to their level of development as the games can be quite tricky. The puzzles and fact-finding element will appeal to the investigative nature of any KS2 child.
There is a small movie screening area on the ground floor that will appeal to older children too. The movie that plays on repeat follows the lives of Cardiff locals who make their living from fishing or the steel industry. The ‘create your own city’ challenge requires children to use logic and strategies to build a safe and fun place to live. This includes the use of miniature buildings of varying sizes that fit together across a large table.
The interactive games are definitely the fun part of this museum experience, but don’t miss the interesting trivia about Cardiff throughout the building, especially the replica of the sonic screwdriver from the famous TV series, Dr. Who, often filmed in Cardiff.
Half-term and holiday events for families
The museum hosts art and craft days, usually costing around £1. It also has showings of popular children’s films on select days and offers other events and classes for toddlers.
For more information about museum events visit their website.
Food and drink options
There is a separately owned cafe, called Milk and Sugar, on the top floor of the building that is very family-friendly. The menu is small but reasonably priced, and the customer service is great. They are happy to cater to any fussy eater or make arrangements for those with dietary requirements. There is a kids area in the corner with toys and books, and a lovely view of the city centre from the window seats.
Getting there, prices and opening hours
The Old Library, The Hayes, Cardiff, CF10 1BH
The museum is open 10-4 pm every day and entry is free.
There is a comprehensive map and contact details on the website.
Pocket-money shop purchases
There is a large gift shop within the building with its own entrance. This offers quaint, Welsh-themed products mainly for the home, such as pillows and kitchenware. It doesn’t have a large supply of children’s items but is useful for finding gifts for loved ones.
Online treasures if you're too far to visit
Links to the National Curriculum
- Comprehension: listening and reading (KS1 and KS2)
- Discussing a sequence of events (KS1)
- History: significant historical events, people and places in their own locality (KS1)
- Knowledge and understanding of the world (Nursery and Reception)
- Creating and thinking critically (Nursery and Reception)
- Use language to imagine and recreate roles and experiences (Nursery and Reception)
Photography: © Museum of Cardiff
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