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Parenting Reviews — 06 March 2012

Independent Review: Sunday was one of those rare days when we had a 1-on-1 day. As an equation the 1-on-1 reads like this: 1 child + 1 parent (for one day only) = no sibling squabbling + no sighing as Mummy gets a bit sidetracked and wanders into a clothes shop. Ferne and I, or the Groovy Girls collective, as we called ourselves, decided to head to Stratford and the Discover Children’s Story Centre.

Ferne at the Discover Children's Story Centre

Boy, has Stratford changed! I went to Discover a year ago with Noah and the whole area was one big building site – now it’s looking very shiny and impressive – on its starting blocks for the Olympics* and already drawing in tons of shoppers through the Westfield Centre.

As I said, I don’t mind a ‘shop’. Unfortunately (or not) the weather was a bit chillier than we had expected and so when en-route Ferne said she was cold it seemed only sensible to pop into Westfield and buy a cardi.

Shopping bag in hand we wandered off down the High Street to Discover – Ferne, now sporting a lemon cardi – leading the way and rushing in through the automatic doors. Entry money handed over – a very reasonable £9 for the both of us (that includes a gift aid donation) – and we were off.
Ferne at the Discover Children's Story Centre
On the ground floor we found the story trail with its Lollipopter – a crazy flying contraption that takes the kids off on their journey of imagination. As well as a steering wheel the Lollipopter has a collection of flags which you can hoist up the mast. Kids can chose a flag which best sums up the kind of journey they want to follow in the Discover centre. Ferne chose a flag that said ‘Find your dreams at the end of the rainbow.’

Next there’s a craft area where kids and parents can make spoon puppets and dingly dopper head bands. There are also some nifty story machines where children can record themselves telling a story and then hear it played back. A cave, a rickety wooden bridge like the one in The Three Billy Goats Gruff, a magical tent, a big bubble and slide, noisy polka dots to jump on, fancy dress clothes and puppets.

Outside there is a slide shaped like a monster’s tongue, a space craft, a pirate ship and an area to play musical instruments and listen to stories. If the weather’s good there is plenty of picnic space.
Discover Children's Story Centre
Sunday was the last day of The Big Write so we were lucky enough to get to hear a couple of stories being read by professional storytellers. We joined in with The Cat in the Hat (a family favourite) holding up books, plates and goldfish as we heard them mentioned in the story. Ferne also took part in a sleepover and lay down on pillows and soft blankets as one of the Discover team told the story of Hugless Douglas. The pièce de résistance being an appearance by Douglas himself who was certainly not hugless – the poor bear was mobbed!

Downstairs was Monsterville a kooky kids-sized village created by illustrators Ed Vere, Neal Layton and Sarah McIntyre. The cafe sold fried bogeys and the bandstand had a groovy DJ (she was invited to be an honorary member of the Groovy Girls collective) playing the Monster Mash.

Sadly the monsters were all leaving that day and so that particular exhibition has now closed. However, from 1st April there will be a new supersonic exhibition called Superheroes where kids can go on a mission, try on superhero clothes and take part in some crazy science experiments in order to defeat the evil mastermind.

Hugless Douglas at the Discover Children's Story Centre

Not-so Hugless Douglas getting pawed at Discover Children's Story Centre

Discover is such a fun place not only for kids but for parents too. Whether you’re sitting down having a snuggle with a book or pretending the troll is about to jump out from behind the trip-trap-trip bridge it allows you to explore a child’s imagination. Ferne’s Lollipopter flag flew high and proud for us that day.

Discover Children’s Centre, 383-387 High Street, Stratford, London E15 4QZ

*Had a nice chat with one of the marshals at Westfield. He told me that if you want a really good view of the Olympic Park to head to John Lewis’ cafe (top floor). I’ll pop along soon and check it out.


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