Phoebe, aged 3, takes control.
Phoebe, aged 3, takes control.
Practically invisible. Can you spot three children?
Practically invisible. Can you spot three children?
Xanthe, aged 8, at The Robot Zoo.
Xanthe, aged 8, at The Robot Zoo.

The Robot Zoo at Horniman Museum and Gardens

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If you can imagine a family-friendly exhibition that’s a cross between Las Vegas and a Dorling Kindersley book you’ll be some way to picturing the splendid Robot Zoo currently drawing in crowds at the Horniman Museum in South East London. Kids in Museums volunteer Zoe Alzamora visited with her young family and they were delighted with their visit.

First you are greeted by a towering mechanical giraffe but the stop may be brief with young children as there are so many appealing things to see further into the exhibition.

It’s highly stimulating stuff for kids. The electronic and mechanised beasts move enticingly and have brightly coloured lights glowing within them, and then within satisfyingly easy reach for children are levers and buttons and other things for the children to touch and pull and jab.  Some of the robots can be made to move in this way. Everything is very cleverly positioned.  There are wealth of freestanding interactive exhibits which are very much like fairground games, except of course the children can have as many turns as they like.  The squid race, mounted on the wall like a fairground derby was my children’s favourite.

It’s an exhibition with layers to it and children to take it all on face value as pure fun, learning through doing, for instance they will know after this exhibition that chameleons have long sticky tongues, because they will have fired the chameleon ‘gun’ to ‘catch’ insects.

The models themselves show aspects of the internal workings of the animals, sea creatures and insects without being scary for young children.  There’s a Wallace and Gromit quality to the models – I’m sure multiple googley eyes may not be the most realistic choice for the grasshopper – but they are cute.

After so much excitement the perfect ending could be a calm wander around the Horniman’s main collection of stuffed creatures dating from the Victorian era.  Or on a sunny day you must check out the grounds.  We had never been to the Horniman Museum before and were astonished to find how lovely the grounds are. There are spots for picnicking and a magnificent view over London.  It’s the kind of museum that has been so well developed that it constantly surprises you. We also had a blast with the outdoor musical chimes and the mini city farm.

My children, aged 3, 6 and 8 absolutely loved the whole day and are already asking, ‘When can we go again?’  It’s one not to miss.

Runs until 29th October 2017

Tickets cost £18.60 (Family ticket), Adult £7.70, Child £4.40.  Horniman members go free,

http://www.horniman.ac.uk/visit/upcoming-exhibitions/the-robot-zoo-101#image-2

 

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