I’ve written about Techniquest before on Cardiff Mummy Says, but today I want to focus on their toddler days, because they’re such good fun and really worth a visit.
The monthly toddler days usually take place on the first Friday of the month during term time, from 9.30am-4.30pm. As well as giving pre-schoolers access to over 100 hands-on science exhibitions without big kids getting in their way, young visitors can take part in craft activities, have their face painted and enjoy storytime and a mini-disco. Entry for under 4s is free, with adults and over 4s costing £5.70 (Gift Aid price) instead of the usual £8. You can book online for discounted advance tickets costing £5.50. (Prices updated July 2018.)
Each Techniquest toddler day has a different theme – the one featured in this review, for example, focused on Space, but previously we’ve been there for everything from pirates, the seaside and food to seasonally-themed days for Halloween, Christmas and so on.
A word of warning based on nearly five years of taking my children to toddler day, though – it’s busy and it’s chaotic. Especially if you have more than one child with you. But it’s brilliant fun and a great way of introducing children to science in an exciting, hands-on way. It’s amazing how much they can learn and understand at such a young age.
It’s really child-friendly too. There’s a buggy park, and the main floor is accessible for buggies, with a lift between the two levels. However, if you’re taking a toddler and a baby, a sling or baby carrier can make life a whole lot easier if you’re not having to navigate a buggy through the crowds when chasing after your more mobile child/children.
We headed there this morning after dropping Little Miss E to school. My children know the place well as we’ve invested in annual membership for the last few years, which is really great value if you’re planning on going regularly. Despite our frequent visits, they never get bored of Techniquest (and neither do I). It’s lovely to see how their level of understanding changes as they get older, and to see them begin to explore new activities that they’d previously not paid much attention to.
This morning, Little Man O, my four-year-old middle child, and Toddler Boy I, his 21-month-old younger brother, headed straight for the dark area on the first floor, which features a range of exhibits exploring light, shadows and projections.
They especially love the lightening simulator and watching the lightening follow their hands as they move it around the glass cylinder. The projector room, which captures a temporary impression of your shadow on the white screen behind you, is always good fun. We love trying to jump when the camera goes off, so that our shadows are captured mid-air.
The water play area is a real favourite for all three of my children. Some days when we visit Techniquest they can spend an hour or more here. Waterproof aprons are provided on toddler days, although I always pack a spare change of clothing too. Little Man is obsessed with the exhibit that shows you how much water different household appliances use, mostly because you have to get the water into the appliances by squirting it up into the air.
Elsewhere on the first floor, the hot air balloon which will only launch when you press a button long enough to raise the air temperature is always popular with my children, as are the colony of ants carrying their leaves on the bridge over the water to their nest. When Miss E was younger, this was her absolute favourite and she’d spend ages watching them, completely mesmerised.
Little Man has recently become fascinated with the exhibits about the human body. There’s one where you have to put the different internal organs in their rightful places, and another giant jigsaw-type structure showing the different internal layers of the body.
Some days when we visit Techniquest, we never even make it upstairs, while other days we only visit the upstairs. Today, we managed a bit of both, but definitely spent longer on the second floor.
A lot of the exhibits here focus on sound. I absolutely love the giant keyboard you play with your feet. If there are not many kids about, I’m first on there, doing my best Tom Hanks from Big impression. Both my boys love this one too, as well as the electronic drum kit. How long before they’re demanding a drum kit at home, I wonder?
Toddler Boy was baffled by the locked pirate’s chest today – but thankfully his big brother has known for a while now how to open it, so we could see the treasure inside.
If you are confused by any of the exhibitions, the staff are so helpful and enthusiastic. I’m not the most scientifically minded person and I’ve been grateful to them for explaining in simple terms the answers to some of my children’s more complex questions.
When Little Miss E used to come to toddler day, she’d always want to do the arts and crafts activities and we still have a number of her creations at home. Little Man isn’t so interested, however, and Toddler seems a bit oblivious to it at the moment, but today as always the tables were busy with little ones making things.
The mini discos and storytime sessions are worth booking into when you arrive. They’re included in the entry fee but fill up quickly. We didn’t make the disco today, but it’s usually 15 minutes or so of pop songs with bubbles and balloons. Storytime is always lovely, taking place in a large inflatable tent-like structure, with cushions and soft toys all over the floor. Today, we listened to The Gruffalo and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, before singing Old Macdonald Had A Farm and The Grand Old Duke of York.
There is a café serving hot drinks, sandwiches and a few hot snacks, but we always take a packed lunch, which we ate in the lunch room. Usually used by school groups, this is located to the right of the reception desk, down the corridor past the toilets. It can be a bit of a squeeze as there’s not much space between the tables, which makes it difficult if you have a buggy, but it’s brilliant for days when it’s too cold or wet for a picnic outdoors, and keeps the cost of a day out down.
We had to leave at 12.15pm as Little Man goes to pre-school every afternoon, but we could have easily stayed a few more hours. In fact, when we visit in the school holidays and at weekends, we generally do – and the wrist bands you’re given on arrival allow you to come and go as you please that day, meaning you can head out to lunch or explore the bay.
Have you taken your little ones to toddler day at Techniquest? What are your favourite exhibits? Do let me know in the comments section below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy
For more ideas of family-friendly days in and around Cardiff, visit the Cardiff section of my blog.