parents

A family day out that won't make you want to weep into your coffee.

Australian Museum
Thanks to our brand partner, Australian Museum

Family day out.

The words are enough to send a parent into the foetal position on the lounge, handing over their devices like lollies.

Unless. Unless. Unless…

Last weekend I took my two little kids, aged 3 and 5, somewhere that was easy to get to, interesting once we were in, and kept them happily busy for two hours – TWO HOURS – with minimal effort on my part.

Then, I had a coffee and a chat with my mum. And we all went home. They might have even learned something in the process.

It was the holy grail of the family day out – a stress-free success.

fun family day out
Hard to get Matilda away from the beautiful Bangarra Dance Theatre projection. Despite the call of dinosaurs… Image: Supplied.

I took them to the Australian Museum.

Stop rolling your eyes. It wasn’t like THAT.

If you have flashback terrors to being dragged around fusty museums in your childhood, it’s time to let them go. These days, museums are fun. Or at least, Sydney’s Australian Museum is. I can’t speak for all of them.

Many parents in Sydney especially know the Australian Museum for its dinosaurs. The dinosaur hall excites and terrifies my little boy in equal measure. He begs to go there, but once he’s there, he clings to my leg like a tiny ginger limpet, worried that the skeletons might suddenly start to shudder and roar. Which they do, sort of.

But if previously we spent all our time on the dino-floor, last weekend it took us much longer to get there than usual. Mostly because of the climbing wall.

fun family day out
“If you have flashback terrors to being dragged around fusty museums in your childhood, it’s time to let them go. These days, museums are fun. Or at least, Sydney’s Australian Museum is.” Image: Supplied.
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Yes. There’s a climbing wall.  In Trailblazers: Australia’s 50 greatest explorers, the new exhibition dedicated to both historic and modern-day adventurers, there’s a climbing wall. But that’s not all that kept my small people entertained. They liked the dress-up box, where you can try on clothes that make you look a little like a cross between Burke and Wills and The Crocodile Hunter, appropriately.

They liked the diving bell that would make anyone taller than 3ft insanely claustrophobic. And they liked the life size camel, and all the information about what completely strange and random things the olde worlde explorers took off into the desert with them – a solid wood fold-out writing desk, anyone?

fun family day out
Billy dressing up as an explorer. Image: Supplied.

The stuffed animals section has had a makeover, too. Wild Planet has specimens of every beastie you can imagine, much to the hilarity of my two kids, who are of the classy ‘pretend the lion is biting your finger’ school.

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But my favourite bit of the museum (until we get to the coffee) is the Search and Discover section, where mega-powerful microscopes encourage kids to look at their dirty fingernails in enormous detail, and you can spend some time fishing teeny-tiny stick insect eggs out of piles of their dry poo (with tweezers, what am I, an animal?). Like any slightly-guilty parent, I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that the things my children are doing in there look like fun, but are actually, honest-to-goodness, teaching them something. A win-win, and not something that can be said for Angry Birds.

fun family day out
“My favourite bit of the museum (until we get to the coffee) is the Search and Discover section, where mega-powerful microscopes encourage kids to look at their dirty fingernails in enormous detail.” Image: Supplied.

But, all this learning aside (SMUG MUM ALERT), I had an ulterior motive for the family trip to the museum. See, my mum is in town from England. A rare and special event. Now that we have two demanding little people following us around wherever we go, finding something we can do all together while still having some space to talk, too, is an unlikely task.

But the museum worked like the well-placed charm that it is. The kids were interested and busy, we were interested in each other and (stop, really) able to chat.

Especially when we got to the top and the cafe with its excellent views, kids’ lunches that come in dinosaur packs and LOTS of space to run around. Happy days.

The setting even encouraged me to get arty with the view.

And on the bus home, as the kids passed out on the back seat, my mum and I spoke about the museum trips of my childhood. It might be true that most things are not like they used to be – but sometimes an updated tradition is just exactly what you need on a Saturday morning.

The Australian Museum is open 9.30am until 5pm every day except Christmas Day. Click here for tickets to Trailblazers.

How do you make learning fun for your kids?

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