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By Rachel McCluskey on

Explore, Build, Move, Pretend

We're visited by huge numbers of families every year, and many of our youngest visitors are also our most enthusiastic.

Here in the design team, we’ve been busy working with the learning department to create a new purpose-built play area for the under-sixes.  Our aim is to provide an exciting and interactive space for children to learn about the world of railways and our collection through play.

The new play area will be made up of four different zones: Explore, Build, Move and Pretend.  Each will have its own activities, plus free space to play.

The Explore Zone is a totally new addition to our play space.  It is aimed specifically at babies and children up to two years, who can sit within a soft play pod and enjoy activities based on touch, sound and movement.

The Build Zone concentrates on construction.  Little builders can dress up in hi-visibility vests and hard hats, and use their skills to construct our exciting new Stephenson’s Rocket model from large foam pieces.

Interactive Rocket model
Interactive Rocket model

In the Move Zone children can try building track layouts – already a favourite activity in the current under-sixes area.  We will have new equipment including a low level table-top track and wall-mounted track.  We will also have plenty of accessories including stations, level crossings, turntables, engine sheds and bridges to really let the imagination run wild.

Wall-mounted track
Wall-mounted track

The Pretend Zone is an area for role play activities. Children can pretend to be station masters, guards, ticket collectors and passengers. The miniature station and various props will encourage engagement with other children and parents/carers. We even have pretend tickets based on real ones from our collection.

Our job in the design department has been to make all these ideas come to life in a fun and colourful way. Using primary colours and appealing graphics and images, we hope to create a space which is visually stimulating, and busy with activities. The graphic design has been inspired by wooden railway sets, as can be seen in an acrostic graphic we have designed for one of the walls. It spells ‘train’ and includes information about railways presented in a clear and simple way. It is also three-dimensional, with buttons to press for train noises and guard announcements, which we’re sure will be popular!

Our acrostic interactive wall
Our acrostic interactive wall

The new zones will be in place in the New Year, so please drop in to test out our activities.

Click here to discover what other family activities are available at our museum


This is a guest post by designer Rachel McCluskey.

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