It might not sound it on paper, but Bletchley Park, Home of the Codebreakers, is a brilliant day out for children. It’s quite near my parents’ house so we visited in the holidays and both Alfie and Kitty had a whale of a time. We started at the Visitor Centre, where exhibitions tell the story of Bletchley and its importance during World War Two. Alfie, 7, is really into codes and spies at the moment, so he was in his element in the museum, which is jam-packed full of facts and figures, and every possible cipher machine you could imagine. We were all entranced by the demonstration of the replica Bombe codebreaking machine and the Home Front exhibition, detailing how people lived in the 1940s, sparked lots of questions to Grandma and Tadcu (Welsh for grandpa) about their childhoods. The day’s activity was a ‘Morse Code collage’, so the children learned their names in Morse code and spelled them out using scraps of coloured paper and materials, plus they got to tap them out on a Morse code machine, which they loved. There was also a trail which was excellent – aimed at slightly older children I’d say as Alf struggled with some of the questions – and plenty of colouring/word searches/crosswords available in the museum.
Kitty did get a bit restless, so she was dispatched to the adventure playground with the grandparents – it’s a good one with climbing frames, slide, giant chess and plenty of picnic tables (although we took a picnic, the children polished it off in the car on the way, so we ended up having lunch in the Hut 4 Cafe which was excellent). Meanwhile Alfie and I went into the main house to see the exhibition on the making of The Imitation Game and explored Huts 11 and 8, where we found lots of hands on stuff for kids (including trying to find the daily Enigma settings) and Alan Turing’s office. We were there for most of the day and I still didn’t feel we’d seen everything. There’s so much information to take in, I’d recommend getting a multimedia guide, which offers a family version with games and puzzles, to make sure you don’t miss anything. It’s a beautiful setting and on a sunny day the walk round the lake would be lovely, although it was rather chilly on our visit. Finally, and most importantly for small people, the gift shop is ace – Alfie chose a codebreaking puzzle book and Kitty a 1940s dress up sticker book, both of which kept them entertained for a couple of hours when we got back.
Bletchley Park, Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK3 6EB. Open 9.30am to 5pm. Tickets £17.25 per adult, children under 12 go free.
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