Stepping into Small Worlds at The Story Museum in Oxford is like entering a magical storybook world crafted especially for the very young.
The Story Museum in Oxford has been undergoing some huge redevelopments. I was due to visit and have a sneaky early peak but that was just as lockdown came into force. Months later, they’re slowly reopening in phases with lots of safety measures in place and I finally made it!
I was really exciting when I heard that their Small Worlds gallery had opened, I kept leaving it until the last minute and tickets would get booked out so my first tip is to plan ahead.
Meet Aladdin who was our amazing Story Guide for the session. Small Worlds is a mix between a storybook gallery and interactive play designed for preschoolers. The session starts off with Once Upon A Time as all good stories should. I think that normally you would be able to clamber up on the absolutely huge and inviting bed but understandably there are lots of safety measures in place. Instead each family group had their own blanket and spot on the floor. A captivating storyteller Aladdin spun his yarn and connected with both kids and adults.
After storytime, each family group was given their story cart with with accessories to enjoy each zone. It’s very well organised with each family in one story zone at a time and when it’s time to move on, Aladdin sings a little song to get everyone to santise their hands (handy bottle in your cart) and you move to the next station.
There are five story-themed zones where you can go on a Bear Hunt, discover Traction Man’s under-sink world, relax in the Night Safe, ride on the Story Bus and enjoy Winnie and Wilbur’s miniature theatre.
Each time we delved into our little wooden card we would find a selection of things to use on our mini adventure. For ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ we had a bear mask, binoculars and various sensory bottles with items to shake from water to snow and used these while I read the book to my son. We also enacted parts of the story through the swishy swashy grass and ended up in the deep dark cave.
Small Words has been designed for pre school children and I think they’ve got it absolutely spot on for this age. It’s not only visually engaging (a little like being on a stage set) with amazing attention to detail but they’ve been so creative about making it as interactive as possible while keeping you safe. The accessories in the story carts are cleaned between sessions the books have all been laminated. They have suggested nursery rhymes you can sing, themed stories and even spells to catch in the Winnie and the Witch section. It’s a great way to really spend time and connect with your little one.
I was rather tempted to curl up on a giant cushion and have a snooze. A Small World session at The Story Museum last around 1 hour and 15 mins which is just right for this age group. Long enough to take part in everything and explore, short enough to keep their attention for the whole time.
The central courtyard at The Story Museum has a cafe which I would have loved to venture into if I’d had a little more time. Worth remembering that’s there’s an outdoor family friendly cafe in central Oxford which is not always easy to find.
So what are you waiting for?