Family Days Out – Edinburgh Science Festival

Keeping a five year old princess and her pal entertained is no mean feat. I mean, buy it’s not up there with understanding Einstein’s Theory of Relativity but it can be tough going, ask particularly on a rainy day in the Easter school holidays.  Cue a day trip to the City Art Centre which becomes a science playground during the Edinburgh Science Festival. Six floors, seven hours, and over twenty different workshops, shows and interactive events to partake in, we were set for a jam packed day. Top on our agenda were the Splat-Tastic and Jungle Safari workshops which we’d pre-booked ahead of our visit to ensure we weren’t disappointed.

Jungle Safari first and our intrepid explorers donned the requisite camouflage safari kit and off they went, leaving me and my accompanying friend free to have coffee for a whole 40 minutes – a luxury these days. If only we’d known that we couldn’t join the kids on their safari, we’d not have had that first cafe stop on arrival where we’d practically had to glue the kids to their seats given they were bouncing off the walls with excitement and anticipation of the day ahead.


In honesty a little part of me was disappointed that I couldn’t join in the safari, yet relieved at the same time (well, there might have been actual snakes.) The two jungle buddies joined back up with us after their mini safari exclaiming that it was great but declaring as only five year olds can that they didn’t know what their favourite part about it was.  We established there were dolphin noises, lots of listening in and not a snake in sight. Phew!

With our slime making session scheduled for the afternoon we were free to roam and drop into any other session taking our fancy.  Nina and the Neurons was less than inspiring unfortunately with the ‘Ninas’ needing to up the ante on their enthusiasm and engagement of the kids who were really interested in learning about their senses but disappointed when they were asked if they wanted to colour in instead.  A quick word in the ear from one mummy (I’ll let you guess who) and the Nina’s decided that a Sneeze Workshop was in order.  With an instrument shaped like an inverted nostril and a bundle of brightly coloured feathers to act as the irritants in the nasal canal, there was much sneezing and indeed giggling to be had. Result at last.


All Nina’d out, the pull of standing in pod and being surrounded by a giant bubble in the rather damp World of Bubbles was too much to resist.  I did however let the little one go first and only when she had her turn did I step in. Such a simple idea really sparked a whole lot of intrigue in the nippers and so further time was spent with elbows in bubbly water, with no dishes to speak off, but plenty of weird and wonderful shaped giant bubbles floating above our heads.


The draw of the ‘moving stairs ‘(escalators) took us to the next floor and our next creative stop – this time Shadowgrams Photolab.  This was my favourite of all activities.  Choosing from a range of junk objects, creating a mini masterpiece on a glass board and then exposing the pattern onto photographic paper in the dark room was a bit hit with us.  One Monster Truck, one Flower Garden later and a stint in the dark room and our two little ones were happy as Larry with their Photolab experience.  Their outputs were pretty impressive too.


The Rampaging Chariots Race was the next stop for our two eager beavers, both keen to get in on the action and drive a readymade robot round an obstacle course with a tilting bridge as its final challenge. We had to wait patiently for this one as it was proving to be popular, but it was worth it to watch my daughter stick her tongue out ever so slightly as her father does when he is concentrating and daintily but confidently guide her robot round the race course to victory.

The afternoon sessions quelled any feelings of post lunch lethargy we might have had, starting with the amazingly clever and hugely scientific Chain Reactor.  We watched in wonder as a puff of donut shaped air triggered the pouring of liquid through a filter and set off a series of knock-on chemical reactions and pretty nifty effects culminating in a joyous clang of a billiard ball on a cymbal and rapturous applause from the audience. So good, we watched it a second time, and still guffawed at the corny gags the mad scientist in charge of the reactor doled out just for us big kids.

Next up, and last for us on the days billing was Splat-Tastic. The making and testing of our very own slime was made more appealing by the option of creating disco ball slime.  With the complicated and tricky addition of a good sprinkling of glitter, the gooey slime took on a whole new form of girly sparkliness. The goggles and latex gloves provided a bit of a challenge for my daughter who simply wanted to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in. Equally my mishearing of the initial introduction to ‘learning about polymers’ meant I was fairly confused when an hour later there was still no mention of Olly Murs and his relation to gooey disco ball slime, but neither mishap stopped us from finishing our day on a high with a good old splatting of the large target board with our very own slime creations.


Whatever the age group, there was something to suit everyone at the City Art Centre. Next year we might be brave enough to take our youngest and let them loose amidst all that science and creativity. By then the five year olds will be seasoned pro’s and will show them exactly how it’s done.

The final word comes from one very tired little princess, who on the train ride home announced to all and sundry that her day out has been quite simply ‘Exsplastic!

How’s that for creativity?


Diabolical Baddies, Eccentric Professors and Boy Eating Monsters!

How’s that for a blog post title?

Whilst Diabolical Baddies, view Eccentric Professors and Boy Eating Monsters might not be the snappiest title for the event we attended this afternoon at the Edinburgh Science Festival, there was indeed something extremely intriguing about the workshop that immediately caught the imagination of my five year old. Assuming we’d both be safe from any lurking hungry monsters (being girls), we popped along to the Story Telling Centre for a spot of creating and inventing with author-illustrator John Fardell.


This workshop is aimed at children ages five plus, and promises interaction and involvement for budding inventors and big imaginations. The immediate draw for my little one was the opportunity to throw out some inspired ideas of her own in order to develop a monster and machine drawings fit for a story. As a have-a-go writer, the pull for me was hearing a published author bring to life the creative process he goes through when writing and illustrating his books. We were not disappointed.

The workshop was interactive from the off with plenty of audience participation in both the making of monster sounds to accompany the story John took us through, and lots of encouragement for the children to get up on stage (which the little princess loved) and draw their own images of their imagined monsters and inventions.

Over the course of the hour the eager participants developed a monster story which saw good monsters (Mr Hairy, Sandy and Timmy) come together to defeat the terrifying and evil Squadalump who lives in the depths of a tunnel below a live Volcano under the sea. Using fantastically invented Tall Blaster and Lego Blaster machines which flew, shrunk and turned into a motor bike, and using the powers of poison in their tails the friendly monsters claimed victory.


There was a palpable energy in the small auditorium as the little ones threw up their hands, desperate to be picked to call out their ideas and develop the images and the storyline live on stage. Nia was simply bursting with ideas, and it was truly delightful to see her animated and inspired. Wither her imagination fuelled she had sketched and coloured her own boy eating monster within minutes of us arriving home, who apparently goes by the name of Spikey Lightening and only eats boys on Tuesdays – phew.


It was great to see the intricate artwork, sketches and models John makes before reworking into his final versions.  John was a joy to listen to and his interaction and encouragement of the big ideas from the little ones was just brilliant. I now have one very inspired girl who tells me tomorrow she is developing a blueprint for a Super Duper Monster Crusher Machine!

A fantastic session all round, which gets a big thumbs up from my mini inventor. Now, where’s my sketch pad..?


Family Days Out: Edinburgh Science Festival 2012

A call for bloggers from the guys at Clicket to enter the Science Festival Bloggers Challenge couldn’t go unanswered. When I saw the team were looking for parent bloggers, seek bloggers, and and generally anyone who shares experiences using facebook, flickr, blipfoto and the like to blog about their experiences at the Edinburgh Science Festival, I whizzed off my “PICK ME” 100 word entry and I’m delighted to now find myself amongst some great company in a crew of six other super bloggers who have also signed up for the challenge.

The Edinburgh Science Festival runs from 31 March – 15th April 2012 here in our glorious Scottish capital, and as it’s on our doorstep it would frankly be rude not to partake it all that it has to offer. Coinciding wonderfully with the Easter holidays and my need to broaden the horizons of the little monster and the little princess and find alternative ways to spend our days as a family, the Science Festival offers us the perfect opportunity to do just that.

See what’s been happening this far at the festival and pop back again to find out how the little princess and I fair when we go to see Diabolical Baddies, Eccentric Professors and Boy Eating Monsters* at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

*We’ve decided to leave our own little monster at home tomorrow as we’re really not quite sure how he would fair against boy-eating monsters…. it could be dangerous!

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