There's lots to engage children in the main museum!
There's lots to engage children in the main museum!
Xanthe the chef gets the food sorted..
Xanthe the chef gets the food sorted..
Anyone for some plastic bread?
Anyone for some plastic bread?

National Army Museum in Chelsea, London

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Kids in Museums volunteer Zoe Alzamora was excited to explore Play Base at the newly re-opened National Army Museum. They discovered a fantastic way to burn off energy and explore the museum.

As every parent knows – museums can be fantastic places for days out with children but there is often a fear that at some point during the day your children may pass the paintings and the pots and ‘take nothing in’.

The National Army Museum in Chelsea have come across the perfect solution. It’s called Play Base – it’s magic.

My children, 8, 6 and 3 were treated to a visit during its opening week. As we stepped into the large, khaki patterned room, the children’s eyes were all transfixed on the soft play assault course, invitingly positioned in the centre and walls of the room. 

The play features in Play Base are plentiful and charming – there are video telephones in various parts of the room to represent field communications – and the children delighted in having video phone conversations with parents and other children.  This quickly turned into army role-play for my children and their imaginations were then fired up for most of their play session.  

My son secured a Velcro ‘Commander badge’ to the little khaki tabard he’d put on. There was a catering area with various kinds of brightly coloured wooden ‘foods’, an area with cleaning equipment and uniforms and another set up as a post room. My eldest daughter, who is on the autistic spectrum, got very into having the different kinds of foods separated and laid out in an organised way. Our youngest surprised us by finding a climbing wall area and scaling it as high as she could go (It was only about a metre and a half high and over a thick foam soft play mat).

There’s also a baby area, connecting to a toilet and change area.

The main museum is worth a visit – when we visited it was sparkling new, still faintly smelling of fresh paint, re-opened by the Queen the previous week after a three-year refurbishment. There are 2,500 objects in five galleries. And now probably some amusing CCTV footage of our family hopping rather urgently through the corridors trying to find toilets.

The NAM has been curated to tread a careful line between showing the exciting artefacts and adrenaline-inducing equipment of war and reflecting on the loss of life and seriousness of the army’s work. We found the most interesting parts to be the interactive tank and medical equipment exhibits. The children loved trying on bearskin hats.  

There wasn’t a space to eat packed lunches – staff recommended sitting outside the museum – which just about worked for us with drizzle– but in bad weather, you’d be stuck.  Also, it would not work for school groups – it was near the main road.  

The shop had beautifully laid out custom merchandise. We soon realised that it was empty because it was expensive. The army tabards my children had been wearing in the Play Zone were £40 each. 

But the children were still buzzing when we left, it’s a special thing to have a child-friendly museum on the map.  

Admission free.

Play Base: 9.40am – 5.20pm (last admission 4.20pm)

£4.50 per child (1-8) and accompanying 1-2 adults for an hour session

https://www.nam.ac.uk/plan-visit

 

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