After a fairly relaxed half-term holiday, I decided a day out would be in order. A little looking around online unearthed a great surprise: a live planetarium show for under 7s at the Peter Harrison Planetarium at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Brilliant.
Having grown up in South Florida near a planetarium and NASA, I remember the sense of wonder the Planetarium shows gave me as a child. This show, called Space Safari, is hosted by a real-life Astronomer called Tom and his animated friend Ted, a bear. I wasn’t expecting that we would have the privilege of an Astronomer, to be honest, as so many childrens’ offerings seem to be a little dumbed down. So this is especially good. Really, especially, intelligently good.
The Safari takes young children on a journey through our solar system looking for a “great big bear,” which we eventually learn is the constellation Orion. My nearly three-year old was a little frightened at first, but quickly removed fingers from eyelids after deeming the show “not scary.” It was a kind and gentle introduction to outer space, a little sing-songey (not enough to drive you bonkers). There’s plenty to see in the beautifully illuminated planetarium space with amazing footage of the ground on the Moon and Mars, solar atmospheres, and much else that science has found and ferried back to Earth for us. Plenty to learn for the older children of the 0-7 set and beautiful, natural visuals and a story to include and entrance the younger ones.
We had a look around the Observatory grounds and then shuffled back down the hill, through Greenwich Park, and spent the afternoon in the Royal Maritime Museum where we looked around, sat nice and quietly for the Chinese New Year storyteller, and saw some “old things.” All for free.
A quick 40-minute train and DLR journey (a bargain at around £5 round trip on a Saturday from our pad in East London–zones 3 and 4) and tickets to the show are very reasonable at £6.50 for adults and £4.50 for children 3+. A complete day out (including snacks and lollies) for about £20. Not bad.
The Space Safari runs on weekends and Tuesdays in term-time (Spring 2015). Booking online is probably essential. And do leave early as you must arrive 10 minutes before showtime and the Observatory is, of course, up a nice hill. The pre-schooler, the toddler and I walked / ran / hopped (no buggy) from the Cutty Sark DLR station to the Observatory in 15 minutes.