I have a very dear friend Helen, she’s one of those friends, that when life takes over and we don’t speak for months, when we finally meet, it’s like we only saw each other yesterday. We make every effort to meet up when we can and the school holidays are always a good time but living an hours drive apart and both having young children of varying ages, it’s tricky to chose a venue that everyone will enjoy. Between us we have children aged 2-10, the forecast was good so we really wanted to spend some time outdoors and everyone loves a picnic, the cost needed to be reasonable with not too far to travel. The Look Out Discovery Centre in Bracknell, Berkshire was a perfect choice with an equal drive of 30 minutes for both of us and plenty to do for all age groups! The Discovery Centre is located at the edge of more than 1,000 hectares of woodland, there are paths and trails throughout suitable for cycling or strolling and outdoor playing areas for children up to 11 years old. All of the outdoor activities are free with just a small charge for parking, some of which can be refunded if you go into the Discovery Centre (£2 for up to four hours or £4 for all day- £2 refunded) itself.
We decided to start our day outside in the play areas, each are surrounded by fencing and are gated, with the whole area also enclosed with another fence and gates ensuring any little run-aways don’t get as far as the car-park! The play areas are designed for different age groups and kept all our children entertained for the first hour of our visit. My girls have always mothered the Boy and happily extended that care to Helen’s two (aged 2 and 4) which was really cute to watch. The boys went off hand in hand and explored together while the girls chased Helen’s rather headstrong 2 year old around, who thought she was big enough to go on the older children’s equipment! With the whole area shaded by trees, there wasn’t any need for suncream so we all got a good dose of vitamin D in the dappled shade!
After a quick snack, it was time to explore the woodland and take a stroll along the buggy-friendly pathways. We didn’t get far though, when the kids decided to build a bivouac, something mine have done before with the guidance of their dad. This time K took the role of foreman, delegating tasks and overseeing building technique. They built one and then chose a better spot to re-build it with an outdoor seating area included! It kept them amused for nearly two and a half hours while Helen and I had a good old gossip and catch-up- bliss!
After more snacks (we didn’t stop for one picnic, we had several!), we decided to check out the Discovery Centre itself. For a family of 4 (either 2 adults and 2 children or in my case, 1 adult and 3 children) it was £19.50 (children under 4 go free) and you get £2 back for parking if you bring your ticket stub, so really reasonable I felt. The centre itself is relatively open and so with a variety of age groups, all wanting to do different things, this made it easier to keep an eye on everyone! The younger ones loved the water activities where they could create dams and influence the movement of the water, while the older ones made leaf rubbings, conducted experiments with electricity and attempted puzzles.
All were fascinated by this ball being held in a stream of air:
They came together to play with a light-table, where they could move things around, play games and produce colour by touching the table-top screen:
The Boy thought this was hilarious when I did it, I had to drag him off to let others have a go!!
Another activity that interested all ages was the ‘Build it’ section. Children are encourage to work together to effectively build a house with lego-type bricks! There are plans to follow, different bricks and slate tiles as well as wheelbarrows, hard-hats and florescent jackets. The kids loved it and K was in her element once again,
bossing everyone around taking the role of ‘foreman’!
There were plenty of experiments and puzzles to have a go at, some of which us adults couldn’t work out so there really wasn’t an upper age limit for this place (unless you are a real science geek)! The kids could wonder around and just have a go at what ever they wanted, there were no queues and it was relatively quiet considering we are in the middle of the summer break right now. We did visit mid-week, so perhaps a weekend visit would be busier.
There was so much to do at the Look Out Discovery Centre that we ended up running out of time and didn’t manage to up to the Look Out tower. A bit of a shame but I’m sure we’ll be going back and it’s always good to be able to do something new when returning somewhere.
Where would you recommend visiting with a group of children of varying ages?