The National Dinosaur Museum is located at Gold Creek Village in Nicholls, 20 minutes north of the city. Gold Creek Village is a family attraction in itself, with Cockington Green Gardens, Canberra Reptile Zoo, Canberra Walk-In Aviary and George Harcourt Inn, also located in the same area. The National Dinosaur Museum is an interesting museum for primary school-aged children to learn about different species of dinosaurs, fossils and events that happened millions of years ago. When parents take their kids to the museum however, they may also have a younger siblings going too - but what is there to see and do for the little ones? I have taken my daughter as a 3 year old and a 4 year old to the museum and there have been parts that she has loved - and other parts that she has had no interest in. The following are her recommendations on where to find the fun stuff - for young kids!
Photo opportunities and fun out the front of the National Dinosaur Museum
Firstly, when you first drive into Gold Creek Village, the first thing you see near the entrance is the life-sized dinosaurs that are positioned around the front of the museum. Kids of all ages love running between them and sticking their heads into their mouths to get their photo taken! Some may be too life-like for young kids, so gauge their reaction to see how they feel. You may find yourself out the front of the museum for awhile as there are a lot of dinosaurs to discover and explore - for free. Many local families with small, dinosaur-loving kids just come to play around the dinosaurs at the front of the museum, without going inside. It is easy to see why...
After paying the admission fee, there is an area to the left dedicated for small children to play (to the right is the gift shop, however that is best left to the end as it will take awhile to get out of!) The toddler and preschooler area has tables set up with puzzles, dinosaur books, bean bags, colouring in, fossil rubbings and larger, skeleton models to fit together. There are large model dinosaur eggs that kids can stand in for a photo, next to a dinosaur baby who moves its head. If your young ones have an interest in dinosaurs, this small area will be their second highlight, as they can get "hands on" with things to do.
Stand in a dinosaur egg and get your photo taken, while the baby dinosaur bobs up and down
When you walk upstairs to the museum itself, it is a treasure trove to explore with lots of mechanical dinosaurs, fossils and exhibits to read and special areas where you can touch. The museum is set out in a loop, so visitors walk around and come back to the start. Many people, like myself, expected it to be larger than it is, however for young kids the main attraction are the dinosaurs that move their heads when you walk by. If your young child is easily scared, you may want to warn them of this before they walk around, as the sudden movements and roars can easily scare the little ones - and adults too! For this reason, they have made "Animatronic-free" mornings (Tuesdays between 10am - 11am during term time), where young kids can explore without the dinosaurs moving. See the National Dinosaur Facebook to find out when it will begin again during term time.
More dinosaurs are added each year to the exhibits. Source: National Dinosaur Museum Facebook
Lastly, the third aspect of the National Dinosaur Museum that young kids will love - is of course the gift shop. Back downstairs there is a large gift shop, with plenty of tiny little dinosaur-themed figurines, rulers, toys, socks, place mats, eggs and more. It is also an interesting place for older children and adults to walk around, with crystals, gems, minerals, real fossils and ornate jewellery to buy. I have personally found this gift shop a great place to buy kids birthday presents to put away for the future, as there are dinosaur-themed toys, gift items and products with their names on them, that you don't find anywhere else.
To be honest, the National Dinosaur Museum isn't designed for young children as there are a lot of panels to read upstairs, so you may find their interest is lost quite quickly in the museum itself - however every child is different. If your pre-schooler is dinosaur-mad, they will love every second and be happy to immerse themselves in all things "dinosaur". The gift shop however, is a winner for all ages - you may want to sneak back later on your own for a second look!
See here for the National Dinosaur Museum website.
The gift shop - not just for kids! Source: National Dinosaur Museum Facebook