If you are a parent to a young child you probably know it as the ‘Dinosaur museum’. But beyond the Stegosauraus skeleton and terrifying TRex, there is much to discover at London’s natural history museum. We do a deep dive into the best things to see at the Natural History Museum for kids other than the dinosaurs!
From the weird and wonderful to the plain bizarre, these are the perfect finds for sparking young imaginations. The museum’s collections are divided up into different coloured zones and cover everything from extinct molluscs to human biology.
The Giant Sequoia (Green Zone)
In prize position in the eaves of the Hintze Hall looking down on the crowds in the main hall is the Giant Sequoia. A slab of a 1300 year old tree which was felled in 1891 at a height of 101metres tall. On restoration the tree reveals its natural growth rings which grow under the bark and allow experts to date the tree.
Children will be amazed by the sheer size of the thing and its astonishing age which has seen it live through empires, wars, plagues and countless advancements in science and technology.
Guy The Gorilla – A celebrity from the Jungle
He may have been from the jungle but the reality for Guy the Gorilla was that he spent most of his life in Primrose Hill. Or London Zoo to be precise, This gentle giant rose to stardom as the main crowd puller at the London Zoo where he resided from 1947 until his death in 1978.
The museum may be awash with stuffed animals (a polar bear, Panda and alligator to name a few) but none are so impressive or confronting as the knowing almost empathetic expression of Guy the Gorilla who continues to draw crowds up on the right hand side of the Treasure galleries (Green Zone).
Get all shook up in the Earthquake Simulator (Red Zone)
Since the age of each 3 each of my children has been obsessed with natural disasters. None more so than volcanoes and earthquakes, meaning we have spent a fair few hours in the Red Zone of the museum, dedicated to seismic shenanigans. The most interactive part is the famous earthquake simulator which re-enacts the tremors felt in the 1995 Kobe, Japan earthquake.
The Simulator is a recreated supermarket with TVs showing CCTV footage from Kobe and set against an eerie soundscape which gives way to roars and a shaking floor.
It’s pretty terrifying stuff for small children but they seem to love it!
Ostro Stone – A Giant of a gem (Green Zone)
Up in the minerals gallery is a showstopper of a specimen. The Ostro Stone is a flawless blue topaz gemstone. Weighing 2 kilograms and measuring 15cm long by 10.5 cm wide it is the largest of its kind. It is also an impressive 3981 carats.
Displayed in its own stand alone case, visitors are able to walk around the gemstone and marvel at it sparkles in the bright sunshine that illuminates the mineral gallery. Even if you don’t usually care for bling, prepare to be wowed.
A piece of Mars
Continue through the hall and you will come to The Vault. Here you will find a piece of Mars. Or at least a piece of a Martian Meteorite that was seen falling to Earth in 1911 in Egypt. the stone is debris from a comet collision on Mars about 11 million year ago.
There are still a lot of unknowns about the mysterious red planet. However the clay minerals in this meteorite prove that that water once existed on Mars meaning that life may be sustainable there.
Pickled Giraffe’s Head (Orange Zone)
If you do manage to make it past the blue zone dinosaurs gallery on the ground floor you will be greeted by the Zen architecture of the Darwin Centre and the giant Cocoon. This area at the back of the museum is bright, modern and quiet and houses a gallery of preserved specimens that will captivate children.
These important specimens include a giant squid, creepy crawlies and none other than a giraffe’s head suspended in time in a jar of formaldehyde. Macabre but fascinating, you will have to judge how you child will react to this section.
For more pickled curios why not check out The Hunterian Museum?
The Barbary Lion Skulls
In 1937 workmen digging in the moat of the Tower of London were met with a surprising discovery – the skulls of two lions dating back between 700 and 800 years. These magnificent barbary lions served as gatekeepers to the tower and ar the oldest lion remains found since the extinction of wild lions during the last ice age.
You would struggle to find a preschooler in the Uk who isn’t a fan of CBeebies’ ‘Andy and his prehistoric Adventures’. The TV hit is actually filmed at te museum and children will find the grand staircases and gallery halls instantly recognisable. They will also be delighted to find Andy’s time travelling clock on display, albeit rather inconspicuously on the ground floor cafe entrance.
Take a ride through a metal earth sculpture (Red Zone)
It’s unlikely you will miss the impressive Earth Hall on your visit especially if you enter through the Exhibition Road entrance. The hall is huge with an eerie soundscape and rich lighting highlighting the enormous metal earth sculpture. Children with find this one unforgettable escalator ride, leading them up to the interactive exhibits of the volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery.
What about dippy the diplodocus?
Dino star dippy, the 26 metre long cast of a diplodocus skeleton is unfortunately back on tour following his brief return to the museum in 2022. In his place towering above the Hintze Hall is an equally impressive blue whale skeleton until further notice.
The Natural History Museum – Need to Know:
Combine with: The Science Museum More Ideas here
Planning a visit with a certain exhibit in mind? Check with the museum’s website for closures