Museums reviewed by parents: The Foundling Museum
It sounds like the most heartrending thing you could take your child to see: a collection of photos and memorabilia commemorating the lives of the children taken in by London’s Foundling Hospital – the UK’s first children’s charity established in 1741 – when their own parents were no longer able to care for them. There are copies of the clothes they wore, the beds they slept on and, most poignantly, tiny “tokens” – buttons, thimbles, charms or even just scraps of fabric left on the doorstep with the infants, the only thing in the world linking them to the mother who made the heartbreaking decision to give them up.
But in fact 21st-century kids interact overwhelmingly positively and enthusiastically at this spacious museum, tucked in next to famous Coram’s Fields with its playground, petting zoo and café – chances are your family has visited this famous play space without ever knowing it’s there. It’s a warm and vibrant tribute to the children and the extraordinarily forward-thinking philanthropists who went to great lengths to give them a bright new start.
Best for nursery and Reception kids
Boost your child's maths & English skills!
- Follow a weekly programme
- Maths & English resources
- Keeps your child's learning on track
Best for KS1 kids
Dotted around the walls of the museum are brightly coloured speech bubbles inviting young visitors to imagine life in the hospital. Adults might imagine these to be maudlin – “Pretend you are a foundling lying in bed in one of the dormitories. Who and what would you miss the most?” – but Oli, 10, and Ben, 8, leapt at the chance to do a bit of role-play and were eager to talk about how they would feel.
Best for KS2 kids
Older kids also visiting on the day we were there made a beeline for the museum’s top floor, devoted to Handel and scattered with comfy leather chairs with headphones to listen to his amazing music – did you know this remarkable composer gave performances of his staggering work Messiah every year until his death to raise vital funds for the hospital? He also composed a special anthem for a benefit concert held in 1749 to fund the completion of the chapel and paid for the first organ to be installed in it. Without his amazing efforts this museum probably would not even be here today.
Back at the very bottom of the stairs – and back in the 21st century – is a photobooth that kids will love. Dress up in period clothing and snap a selfie!
Half-term and holiday events for families
Hands-on learning workshops take place during the holidays, so check to see what's going on before you visit. Also available every day are two Hetty Feather kids’ trails (£1.50 each) and the Family Activity Trail (free) – ask at the front desk for your pack and pencil. Dress-up Corner and Family Book corner are also available every day.
Food and drink options
The museum is, of course, adjacent to Coram’s Fields with its famous refreshments kiosk – the perfect fresh-air stop after a couple of hours spent in the enthralling museum.
It’s also just round the corner from the Brunswick Centre with its huge array of restaurants including family-friendly Carluccio’s.
Getting there, prices and opening hours
There is also a Barclays Bike Hire rack near the museum, on the east side of the Brunswick Centre. Railings to lock bikes are available opposite the Museum entrance.
Admission prices: free for children up to 16. Adults: £7.50 (£8.25 including Gift Aid). Half-price admission for National Trust members.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 11am-5pm. Closed Mondays.
Pocket money shop purchases
Our boys snapped up rubbers, pencils and badges for just a few pounds – there are lots of back-to-school goodies to be had here, as well as Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather books, plus CDs, postcards and other souvenirs. .
Online treasures if you're too far to visit
Free visit packs have been developed for teachers and schools and are definitely worth downloading before your visit to help you make the most of it; choose from Famous People and the Foundling Hospital, The Victorian Foundling Hospital, Dickens and the Foundling Hospital and trails which focus on Handel, philanthropy and the arts.
You can also download the Hetty Feather activity booklet and a Hetty Feather circus activity.
Links to the National Curriculum
- KS1 and KS2: Victorian life
- KS1 and KS2: PSHE
Photography: Tokens, painting: © Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum
Photos of workshop and Museum: © The Foundling Museum
Museum reviews for parents: we need YOUR help!
TheSchoolRun is looking for families to visit museums and other educational venues around the country and 'review' them. Get in touch to have your say about the best family days out (with a learning twist!).