Today I visited Down House, the home of Charles Darwin. It was an amazing visit. Before I went I was a little worried that it was going to be a bit boring for the kids, and that the youngest (a mere 16 months old) was going to be real trouble.
However it was fantastic. The house had a room upstairs converted for kids to play with stuff, including replicas of the sorts of toys rich middle class Victorian kids would have played with. The little one really liked the toy bugs, running about in the garden and trying to play with the exhibits (a number of which were OK for touching). The case of South American birds on the upstairs landing also went down well with both of them.
My older kid really got into the whole Darwin thing and was fascinated by the Children’s trail which had him answering questions and making lists of things he’d seen and drawing stuff. On the way out we went past a Horse Chestnut tree and we picked up some conkers to play with later on. One of them even got dissected to see where the plant inside it was and what it looked like.
For me the awesome part was the study, the very room where Darwin pondered the theory of evolution and how to ensure that the critics wouldn’t pound it into obscurity. He wrote On the Origin of Species sitting in that room. I’d love a study like that one, although perhaps with some computing power, and a little less of the dissection of animals…
Very inspirational, and I recommend a visit if you are in the South East of England (it is inside the M25, but practically in Kent).