Ashley March

Digital Editor (Learning)

12 May 2020

Family fun: Top things to do at home

Ever had a peek at our online resources for families? We’re rather proud of them. To give a taste of what’s on offer, we asked the lovely people in our Learning department to pick their favourites - or give new ones a go!

Ashley March, Digital Editor (Learning): Alright – this article was my idea. I just really want you to know about our Great Fire Minecraft Experience. It allows you to roam the streets of London freely before, during and after the blaze of 1666, seeing familiar landmarks brought to life via the bestselling computer game of all time.

If you're not familiar with Minecraft, it's a video game that allows anyone to build their own worlds out of blocks – very much like digital Lego – and adventure through them. Its blend of exploration, imagination, immersion and creativity has proven particularly popular with young people (it's recommended for ages 7+), but it has a dedicated following both young and old, of experienced gamers and novices.

Back in 2016, for the 350-year anniversary of the Great Fire, we worked with an inspiring team of Minecraft experts to craft three maps in which you can uncover the causes of the event, help fight the fire and even try your hand at rebuilding London. Adults will surely get a thrill from taking a digital stroll by the Thames seeing familiar landmarks, while children will enjoy venturing down Pudding Lane for themselves and being a part of the story as it unfolds.

It may not be the easiest activity to set up – you'll have to follow the installation instructions carefully – but this will reward patient players with hours of fun learning and an experience like no other.

Amy Eastwood, Memories of London Programme Manager: I tried ‘Puppetry Training Academy’, a series of four videos which teach you a little bit about puppetry, how to make your own puppet and then how to animate it. The videos are really clearly presented and give you step by step instructions.

A paper puppet just under a metre tall stands beside a fireplace in someone's house.

Amy's puppet

Easily home-made!

It’s fascinating to learn a little more about puppetry and its foundations before moving on to creating your own puppet. Making your own puppet really is very simple and you do feel as though you have achieved something. Once you have made your puppet the videos show how you can work together as a team to make the puppet move and to give it personality and a character.

I learnt a great deal about puppetry and how to tell a story. It was really interesting to see how you should focus the audiences’ attention and how small mannerisms can bring the puppet to life. I was pleased to see the suggestion to create puppets based on historical figures in the last video.

It’s pitched at aged 7+ and I think this is about right. However I think adults could also enjoy creating and animating these puppets. As it requires ideally three people to operate the puppet it could make a great family activity, working together.

What is particularly effective about this activity is its longevity; it lasts much longer than the videos. I can imagine that a family may really enjoy creating a story about their puppet and filming it.

I also love the fact that you can share your creations with us at the Museum of London. If you do film your performances, please share them with us!

Jemma Perkins, Learning Coordinator (Schools): My children used the museum's poetry resource for students aged 11+. As they didn't have access to museum objects, they took inspiration from what they could find – my daughter from what she saw looking out of her window, and my son from the museum's 3D prehistoric objects resource.

Rather than give you a full review, you can read their creations instead:

'Lampost', by Tess

I stand tall, unnoticed
And yet I’ve been here
All these years
Watching.

I started in Paris,
Lighting up pebbled streets.
Every morning fresh pastry could be smelt
And laughter-crowded markets lived under me
The dresses and coats and hats all colours of the rainbow
The city which thrived on smiles.

Not soon after came London,
Its foggy dark streets
Where children called out for their mothers
And the wheezing factories breathed smoke into my face
So I choked.
My light dimmed as the pollution crowded my senses
This city had lost hope.

However, I kept going
I saw London change
From happiness to terror.
Children with suitcases and masks
Children who felt nothing but fear
Children who would scream and grab onto me
But were carted on a train and fell silent.
These were children whose childhood had been snatched away
Then I was switched off
The city had gone black.

But it wasn’t the end,
the lights turned on as people rejoiced
Parties filled the streets
Happiness came once again.

Now I am old and weary,
but I still stand over London.
This city has seen horrors unimaginable
But has grown and thrived too.
The city that has been a sanctuary to millions
The city that I call home.

'Mammoth Tooth', by Sandy

Mammoth Tooth, behind the glass,
Forget you not, forget you there,
Possibly just one trip,
Forget you not, forget you there.

Rough and jagged, the sea sprays the cliff,
No one dares approach,
Sodden fur, you roam the streets,
Yet the streets are never there.

Through the gap you see it all,
In pride, might, no glory,
Everyone had known the awe,
But still no ones story.

Rising water on the ground,
All would soon be gone,
The pain no more, relief galore,
No time was upon.

Mammoth Tooth, Mammoth Tooth,
Forget you not, forget you there,
A fragment of your former shell,
Forget you not, forget you there

A photo of a recreated prehistoric roundhouse.

A roundhouse in the making

May contain quiz spoilers! Sorry.

Zoe Culley, Programme Manager (Family Learning): I tested my construction skills by trying the Roundhouse challenge quiz. In this online challenge, you are tasked with building a prehistoric roundhouse for your family. You are given questions to help you make decisions on the location of your house, building materials and layout. Once you have answered each question, you find out whether you made the correct choice.

I found it especially interesting when I made the wrong choice. It turns out building a roundhouse next to a river is not a wise course of action! You get an interesting explanation as to why you were right or wrong, which gives you a greater idea of what it was like to live in this time period. It also lets you revisit the question to discover the right action to take and why.

I learnt that people faced the threat of flooding from the River Thames, made the most of animal poo and were reliant on the movement of the sun. I enjoyed this activity as it gave me a bit of insight in to the thinking of prehistoric people. I think this challenge would also appeal to primary-school-aged children and their families due to its curriculum links.

A small hand reaches into a large green plastic tub filled completely with shredded paper, colourful plastic objects and a plastic cup.

Dig Down in practice!

Shredded paper: almost as good as real soil but less messy.

Cassandra Tavares, Programme Manager (Family Learning): Dig down is an easy sensory activity that can be done with materials already at home. Simply make your own 'archaeological dig' by hiding different objects in sand or shredded newspaper for your family to uncover.

What I like about this activity is that while it is messy, it is easily stored and can be repeated over and over again, unlike a lot of messy materials. This session can be changed each time it’s done by placing different items in the ‘dig’. This provides a new sense of discovery every time you play even though the activity might be familiar.

Children from ages one to five will love this activity. If you think your child might be tempted to eat the dig, you can use porridge oats, cereal, pasta, or rice as a substitute. You can also explore different textures by swapping out the paper for jelly, cooled custard, pudding, or cornstarch mixed with water.

You can make the activity more complicated for older children by hiding puzzle pieces to find and piece together. You could even make your own puzzles, just cut ‘artefacts’ from leaflets, magazines or newspapers, stick onto card, and cut them up.

Laura Turnage, Programme Manager (Secondary Schools): My favourite resource is our award-winning film London Now London Future. It focuses on the social, economic and environmental factors that are making London an unsustainable city to live in, and looks at both bottom-up and top-down solutions that make London better for the future without compromising on the needs of the present.

It's split into three separate stories and can be paused so you can have debates after each section. It starts with how London grew to become a world city, moves onto the factors that are making it an unsustainable place to live, and finally focuses on the innovative organisations making London a more sustainable city. It’s a great film to watch to spark discussions around your views on London, particularly for any young people who have been following the Extinction Rebellion campaign closely.

It was made in consultation with geography teachers and is aimed at KS3-5 students studying human geography, but it's great for any families with young people aged 11-18 years old who are interested in discussing the environment and the impacts of pollution on London. A supporting resource accompanies the film including activity ideas and showcasing 25 sustainable initiatives across London you might not know about.

What could you do to make London or your local area a more sustainable place to live in?

Four images are combined: two of a child playing the online game 'Move and Make' on a laptop, and two screenshots from the game, one showing a bright pink car and the other showing a historic house.

Colourful fun

For future designers, engineers and architects of all kinds.

Amy Eastwood, Memories of London Programme Manager: My four-year-old son tried out this activity. It let him build vehicles and buildings by pulling wheels, windows, rooves and doors into place. He could then choose what colour they were and compare them to the real versions. The vehicles range from cars, to tubes, to buses, and the buildings feature a Roman Warehouse through to the current Museum of London Docklands.

He had lots of fun playing with this game. He loved mixing up the cars and vehicles by putting things in the wrong place. He also enjoyed trying to make them look as accurate as the pictures. It’s great as it gives the learner control and enables them to personalise what they see.

He learnt a lot! He listened attentively to descriptions of the real vehicles/buildings and talked about a Roman Warehouse for most of the day!

At four my son enjoyed this game but I think it would probably be better-suited to 2-3 year-olds as it is quite simple. Also it requires Adobe Flash so we had to load it onto my Mac instead of my iPhone or iPad.

We've only shown you a few of our online resources here – there are plenty more great ideas and digital treasures for you to discover, including an interactive map of prehistoric objects uncovered across London, our classic Great Fire of London online game (broken into handy bite-size chapters) and a challenge to recreate London buildings our of old cardboard boxes.

You can find all of our online resources for families on our Fun learning at home page. Enjoy!