Earlier this month, Little T and I visited one of my favorite museums in London, the British Museum. I’ve visited several times before through the years, including most recently this past October to see the Sunken Cities exhibition, but this was my first time bringing Little T who is now 3 1/2 years old. We ended up having a great day out, spending over three hours at the museum, including breaks for lunch and a snack. In this post, I’ll be sharing a quick look at our experience following two of the British Museum’s activity trails through the Africa and Ancient Egypt galleries.
Museum Explorer Activity Trail
Founded in 1753, the British Museum houses a vast collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living cultures, spanning two million years of human history. With so much to see, their free Museum Explorer activity trails are a great way to narrow down the focus and explore some of the museum’s galleries with young children.
During the week, these free booklets are available to pick up at the Information Desk in the Great Court. Over the weekend and school holidays, you can find these materials, along with backpacks filled with activities, at the Families Desk (other side of the court from the Information Desk). You can also browse or print the free activity trails in advance, or have a look at the family-friendly facilities and free workshops available at the museum, by visiting the British Museum Family Visits page.
We received two Museum Explorers activity trails: the “Colour and Shape” trail for ages 3 to 5 that takes you through the Africa gallery, and the “Ancient Egypt” trail, that is aimed at children ages 6+ but was also recommended for my preschool-age son. Other activity trails available include: Ancient Greece, Ancient Britain, Creatures, Celebration and Communication.
We started off exploring the Africa gallery for the “Colour and Shape” trail. The gallery is located on the lower ground floor, and you access it using the stairs in front of the Easter Island statue in Room 24. The museum’s collection includes archaeological and contemporary material from across the African continent, a wide range of sculptures, brass heads, textiles, weaponry, headdresses and more.
We followed the trail around the gallery, on a treasure hunt for colorful statues, detailed brass plaques and vibrant patterned textiles.
And we looked out for different shapes of pots and knives, pointing out various decorations and details.
Ancient Egypt Gallery
We then took the elevator up to the third floor to the Ancient Egypt gallery – the largest collection of Egyptian objects outside of Egypt. We headed straight into the “Egyptian death and afterlife” part of the collection, where you’ll find coffins, mummies and items designed to be buried with the deceased. Little T was absolutely fascinated with the people who were “wrapped up” and spoke about the mummies for the rest of the day!
At this point, we were going outside of the sequence of the activity trail as we browsed the objects on display along the way. Little T was also captivated by the mummified animals, which were left at temples as presents to the gods. There was a mummified kitten, a baboon, a crocodile, falcons and bulls in the collection. We have two cats at home, so Little T was particularly interested in learning about the mummified cats and cat statues.
Overall, it was a great day out at the museum and we enjoyed following both activity trails, learning a lot along the way in both galleries. The mummies were a highlight for Little T, and he enjoyed looking out for certain items and answering questions about color, shape or other details. The activity trails were a great way to keep him engaged as we explored, and I look forward to doing more of the Museum Explorer trails on future visits.
Address: Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG
Opening Hours: 10am – 5.30pm daily; On Fridays most galleries are open until 8.30pm (except Good Friday). The museum is open daily, closed only on 24, 25 and 26 December and 1 January.
Closest Tube Stations: Tottenham Court Road [Central and Northern lines], Holborn [Central and Piccadilly lines], Russell Square [Piccadilly line]
Tickets: Free admission to museum. Some exhibitions require ticket purchase.
Good to Know:
- Free Museum Explorer trails are available from the Information Desk during the week. Over the weekend and school holidays, you can pick up these trails from the Families Desk, along with backpacks full of activities to use in the galleries.
- Have a look at the British Museum Family Visits page for free events, workshops and drop-in sessions that are organised throughout the year – including Little Feet drop-in creative sessions for Under 5s during the week.
- There is a Young Friends programme (at last check, membership is £25 a year) that includes special events such as sleepovers to explore the museum after dark.
- Accessible toilets and baby changing facilities are available throughout the museum.
- You can leave fold-up pushchairs in the cloakroom free of charge.
- The Ford Centre for Young Visitors, located on the lower ground floor, is an area for families to picnic during weekends and during school holidays.
- There are two feeding rooms, if you’d like privacy while breastfeeding. One is located adjacent to the baby changing space on the east side of the Great Court and another in the Ford Centre for Young Visitors (only open during weekends and school holidays)
- There are several dining options – the Court Café that serves sandwiches, salads, baked goods, hot and cold drinks and kid’s picnic boxes (sandwich, apple, small water and a treat); the Great Court Restaurant; and the family-friendly Gallery Café (ground floor, through Room 12), where kids eat free with purchase of an adult main meal.
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