Guide to the Museum of East Anglian Life With Kids
The Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket might not be your first thought if you are looking for something to do in Suffolk with kids. However, this gem of a museum puts a lot of energy into catering for children. Every area and display in the Museum of East Anglian Life has children’s activities attached to it. Here are a few of our favourites:
1. Working and Domestic Life Sheds
These sheds are right next to the cafe (which is a bonus). While parents can learn more about the life of ordinary East Anglians through the ages, the kids can learn through imaginative play. One room was full of semi-traditional toys, and my children could spend all day here. Another room is an imitation Victorian classroom. Another is a play shop and another place from where it was difficult to move the children on.
Like most attractions in the UK, the Museum of East Anglian Life has a quaint cafe full of tasty treats. What I like about the cafe is that it has an outside space as well as an inside area. What I like most about the outdoor area is that they have made an effort to make sure the kids are being entertained while you enjoy a grown-up meal. They don’t have a big playground, but they do provide several pieces of small play equipment. These toys make this area perfect for parents with toddlers in particular.
3. Abbot’s Hall
The Abbot’s Hall seems to have something going on in every room for kids to find or do. On our most recent visit volunteers gave us a sticker for finding all the dogs in the house. We also loved the garden room, a room dedicated to gardening despite being an upstairs bedroom. Ted (age 4) enjoyed building flowers out of felt while we enjoyed the views of the actual walled-garden.
4. Walled Garden
The walled garden is one of the few areas without a specific thing for the kids to do. However, they loved walking around, spotting familiar vegetables, smelling beautiful flowers and bug-hunting. The flower and vegetable beds are exceptionally well maintained and a delight to stroll around.
5. Walks and Open Spaces
The museum is set in 75 acres, which means plenty of space for exploring and getting active. Close to the entrance you will find a secluded woodland walk and a charming lake, complete with bridge. Further afield, near the windpump, there is a riverside trail and woodland nature trail. In between the historic (and not so historic) buildings, there is plenty of open space to breathe in.
6. Bobby Building of Trade and Crafts and Mortlock Building
The Bobby Building has lots of fun stuff for the kids to discover. Here there is a weaving station and a printing press for them to try out. Upstairs you will find more traditional crafts with which to play.
Just next door is the Mortlock Building. This building houses, among other things, a stunning steam traction engine. More important to the kids was the imaginative play workshop. They loved the variety of toys on offer, and we spent quite some time “fixing” everything in sight.
7. Home Farm
Farm animals are always a winner. Even though we have plenty of animals at home, the kids spent a good half hour helping volunteers hand out vegetables. The most impressive animal we met was the magnificent horse. Suffolk is famous for its huge horses, and this one was right at home.
8. Eastbridge Windpump
I’m a sucker for any type of windmill or windpump. It was definitely in need of some repair when we first saw it in 2018, and I’m pleased to say restoration had started when we visited in summer 2019. I’m looking forward to returning to see the outcome.
The Museum of East Anglian Life runs a full programme of activities for children throughout the school holidays. The schedule for summer 2019 includes Toddler Time and Mud, Bugs and Baking on weekdays. At the weekend, the drop-in sessions include archery, archaeology and woodwork. All of these activity sessions are at specific times, some require pre-booking, and some have an extra cost attached. Check the website for more details.
Our day trip in the summer holidays happened to be on one of the few days there was no additional activity. However, they did have a Winnie the Pooh trail running every day, so we paid £1 to join that. The kids are big fans of a stamp collection trail, and this one was excellent. We received a booklet to put our stamps in and at every stamp station, there was a well-thought-through activity for the children to complete. At the first station, they made a pair of Winnie the Pooh ears which Ted wore for the rest of the day.
Museum of East Anglian Life Prices and Annual Pass
Disclosure is probably not necessary, but we have visited the museum a few times. On the first occasion, we paid for our tickets. Following that visit, we were gifted annual passes by a family member who volunteers there. I don’t believe she is aware I have a blog.
Having an annual pass has been fantastic for our family. The museum is spread out over a large area and has a lot going on but because we have a pass we don’t feel obliged to see every exhibit every time. If you live in Suffolk, I would highly recommend an annual pass. Another advantage is that they run different activities during each holiday, so your day will be different each time you visit.
There are different options available for annual passes. You can find details and prices on their website.
Parking for the Museum of East Anglian Life
The Museum of East Anglian Life does not have its own car park. Instead, there are several public car parks around Stowmarket which are relatively low cost. The Museum is just outside the town centre (near Asda) and within 5 minutes walk of the car parks. Union Street car park is the closest.