When I was seven years old I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. Things were simpler in those days, museums and heritage attractions weren’t really made for children. The Young Archaeologist Club were regarded as quite radical and I cant really even remember having an eye spy or quiz sheet to do around a heritage attraction or a museum, ever!
Thank goodness things have changed and nowadays kids come first. This year English Heritage have put children at the very front of their activities and have appointed Thea and enthusiastic history obsessed eight year old to be their Children’s Executive Officer. Her job is to put the fun back into history for children. Luckily Thea has some help as English Heritage commissioned a poll of over 1,000 children to draw up a list of the top history inspired wishes.
These are the top ten:
- Discover hidden treasure
- Be a King or Queen for the day
- Sit on a throne
- Fire a cannon
- Build a fort
- Sword fight with your friends
- Battle pirates
- Conquer a castle
- Put on a suit of armour
- Fire an arrow in the air
I was completely and utterly jealous of my kids, who got invited along to Eltham Palace to have a go at Knight School training with Thea. They had an absolutely fabulous time, not only enjoying Eltham Palace which is a fab day out anyway, but learning all about how to be a knight.
Eltham Palace makes for a great day out with the children partly because its such an usual and amazing place; part Henry VIII palace, part art deco mansion with quirky rooms build especially for Mah-Jongg the lemur and a WWII bomb shelter in the basement. There is a lot to explore and discuss, a fantastic kids trail and plenty of dressing up opportunities. If you go on a nice day you can also explore the lovely gardens and enjoy some delicious food whilst the children play in the playground. I actually cant really think of much better as it does have something for everyone.
However, the wonder of Eltham Palace really did pale into all insignificance compared with Knight School training. This was one of the highlights of our summer. The children got to have a little go at competitive jousting and then some sword fighting, including an actual melee. There weren’t too many tears- the worse being when Ned actually tripped over his sword and landed face first on the ground, so frankly that doesn’t count. I thought this impressive in itself. What was more impressive though was the amount of information that the children absorbed because they were enjoying themselves, along with how inspired they have been to find out more. They loved being given their own medieval names for example and have been wearing their name badges with pride ever since; step forward for your dinner Eudo the Brave, Sukie the Clever and Simone the Vigiliant… (how I’ve loved this too!)
I have to admit I think that seeing Ned at Knights School must have been one of the cutest things i’ve ever seen. Have a look:
Have-a-go jousting and medieval kids activities are on offer at all of these events:http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/kidstakeover/joust-with-a-knight/
Plus hands on medieval activities / sword fighting / knights schools at these places:
Beeston Castle and Woodland Park
Eltham Palace and Gardens
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens