Amazing. There’s no other word for it.
We’ve just come back from The Amazing Family Science Weekend at Butlins and it was just as described. There are two more events this year, at Minehead and Skegness this summer, so read on and find out if your kids would like the chance to model with Aardman, watch Gastronaut Stefan Gates and the Brainiac team, codebreak with a real Enigma machine and a whole lot more. And if you’re thinking ‘I’d never go to Butlins’ … you’re missing out on a packed educational weekend for 6-14 year olds that is an enormous amount of fun for everyone, with opportunities that you wouldn’t find elsewhere, and definitely not all in one place in one weekend.
We arrived on the Friday afternoon, and took advantage of a quiet-ish start to the weekend to have some time in the pool before checking into our room.
We stayed in the Wave Hotel, in an apartment. There are mainly hotel rooms in the Wave Hotel and a few apartments that are great for larger families or if you want more space for buggies etc.
There are three hotels and a choice of apartments too, so you can pick accommodation to match you budget.
After a swim, we went for dinner. A lot of people are surprised we go to Butlins, and that we go back year after year. It’s a great place for families, and it’s a holiday where I actually get a break. Part of that is because we book the catered option. All the kids love the buffet breakfast, and there are all sorts of places to choose to eat in the evening – just tell the reception team that you’d like ‘dining out’ vouchers if you have paid for your meals. Turners restaurant, from TV chef Brian Turner, is the pick of the places to eat. It does cost more – you can top up your prepaid meal allowance – but it is well worth it. Everywhere else we ate came in within budget, and we had a fab selection from family faves like pizza, American specials at The Diner, and ice cream by the bucket load!
So … Saturday morning and it was on with the science.
The first event we took part in was a Drawing Workshop with Horrible Science’s Tony De Saulles. It was fantastic as he talked everyone in the audience through step by step instructions on how to replicate some of his drawings. We all managed to come up with several drawings that we were happy with, and the workshop worked well for kids and adults alike.
The weekend is aimed at children aged 6-14, and I would say that the activities were pitched just right.
The Science Museum had lots of different stands and we visited them all, twice! There were a number of workshops you had to book, but also plenty of stands to just turn up and take part. We made lip balms, discovered our own DNA, made giant bubbles and watched a tug of war event that demonstrated friction! There was a bubble show, a show from the Brainiacs, and one from TV Gastronaut Stefan Gates.
Everyone had fun making lip balms:
Our last activity on Saturday was a modelling Workshop with an Aardman Animations modeller. It was great to sit down by this stage as we felt like we’d taken part in every activity we could!
On the Sunday we took part in a codebreaking with the team from Bletchly Park – and a genuine enigma machine, as used by Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly in a recent film. We walked on custard (!) and programmed a BBC Microbit, then took part in a programming quiz.
A highlight for the boys was the exhibition from the Museum of Computing History. They programmed in Basic, and explored in a very hands on way the development of computers over the last 40 years, right up to trying out the Oculus Rift.
If you’ve read on so far, you might have some questions:
Is it good for all ages? The just seven year old, the ten year old and the fourteen year old were all engaged by the whole event. I think little ones would be better visiting when there was less science and more of the usual Butlins shows.
Am I being paid to write this? Nope – I booked and paid for the holiday myself and was so excited when I came home I wanted to share it with everyone else.
You can still book for the Amazing Family Science weekend at Minehead and Skegness this summer. If you have children aged 6-14, whether they are boys or girls, they will have a fab time and learn lots! And even with all the science, Butlins is still great for rides, shows, and plenty of ice cream by the sea.