Now that the school holidays are over, it’s safe to venture out with your pre-schoolers again. Let’s face it, 3-5 year olds have an unpredictable nuttiness about them, without the attention spans or engagement levels of young school goers. This can narrow down the field of activities you might consider for them, or limit the amount of travel time they can handle but hey, they’ve got to learn sometime, right? Before long, they’ll be going on school excursions and pity the poor teacher who is responsible for herding those cats.
A great family photo opportunity outside the Maritime Museum
So, long story, short, I’ve wanted to go to the Maritime Museum for ages and the special exhibition, Voyage to the Deep, has been on my radar all summer. With just over a week to go before it closes (19 February), I bit the bullet and decided it was time to introduce my four-year-old to a museum.
For a $45 family ticket (two adults and up to 3 children aged 4 - 15), you can visit this special exhibition and most of the museum (except the boats and subs in dock) but I certainly wasn’t being too ambitious. I knew that my son could probably only handle the one exhibition and a visit to the gift shop and I was right.
Still, the good news is, Voyage to the Deep (An Epic Kids Adventure) met my expectations and we spent a fun, interactive hour in the special exhibitions hall, immersed in an ‘underwater’ adventure. Think a cross between The Octonauts and Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a picture of what to expect, might start to emerge in your mind.
Journey inside a recreation of the fantastical Nautilus submarine
When you enter the hall, it’s like walking onto the set of a kids fantasy movie, or a cartoon. The exhibition is designed to be a fully interactive experience for children, based on the adventures of Verne’s fictional hero, Captain Nemo and his submarine, Nautilus. I can see early primary kids loving this and getting the most out of all the marine specimens in the Cabinet of Curiosities but I can only speak from my personal experience with an under 5, who enjoyed the excitement of the exhibition, at its most basic sensory level.
These little adventurers loved trying to catch scary sea creatures on the blue screen
There are periscopes to look through, propellers and steering wheels to turn, and cool computer animations everywhere, including a blue screen which projects images of the creatures of the deep. My little one, and a friend he picked up along the way, delighted at the chance to reach out and ‘touch’ sharks, whales and other terrifying underwater beasties. There is also an amazing dress up chest where you can pretend to be a vampire squid (that's one for the Octonauts fans), or Captain Nemo himself, with an oversized, old-fashioned diving helmet. There's even a terrific escape hatch slide and submarine viewing tower, to inspire the most avid adventurers.
Inside the submersible is a world of interactive learning and fun
From an adult's perspective, I felt like I was genuinely escaping reality for just a little while and afforded the opportunity to become a kid again. I couldn't help but have a go at everything, including the underwater pipe organ. Row, Row, Row Your Boat never sounded so good!
Museums like the Maritime, at Pyrmont Wharf, are doing an excellent job in making exhibitions relevant, appealing and technologically savvy for children. I can only hope that this first visit will be one of many for my son and that he develops a genuine love for history, science and learning.
So, if you’ve not yet had the chance to visit the Maritime Museum this summer, book online and take advantage of this fantastic exhibition while you still can. It’s a winner for curious pre-schoolers and I wouldn't be at all surprised if big sisters, brothers, mums and dads discover their sea legs too.