The Easter holidays are almost upon us and that means two weeks of finding ways to entertain the kids. Living near to Manchester means we are fortunate enough to have several free museums nearby as well as some really great value days out. Yesterday, the boys and I headed into town to visit the Blitzed Brits exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North. With interactive displays, real life stories of evacuees and revolting recipes to create with rationed food, it’s a really fun way to teach children about World War Two.
The Blitzed Brits exhibition is only a small part of what the Imperial War Museum North has to offer visitors, yet if you look around the exhibition properly and take in all the information on display, just that section can easily while away 2-3 hours.
At the entrance we found booklets for the children to complete as they followed the timeline around the walls and through a family kitchen, an underground station, a tunnel, a blacked out room and more…
Using these booklets ensured that the boys were actually taking information in rather than just skimming over it and immediately forgetting what they’d read. Each page asks questions on a different aspect of the Blitz and the answers can be found at or around one of the 9 ‘Survival Stations’ situated throughout the Blitzed Brits section.
They discovered that Manchester had been bombed during the war and I was able to tell them that their great grandma remembers a bomb dropping not far from her house, the impact of it causing the front door lock to blow clean off! Relating what they were learning to the experiences of a real person in their lives was a great way to make what they were learning seem like less of a made up story to them and more like the real life event it actually was.
Once we’d read about the bombs the boys went on to discover what people did to avoid them. From hiding under the reinforced kitchen table to gathering in air raid shelters and tube stations, they learned that you weren’t guaranteed a good night’s sleep during the blitz – if the sirens were sounding you had to head for safety! One titbit of information that seemed to stick with Rowan was the tale of a lady hiding her baby in a bin to protect it from the bombs. We talked about how frightened the baby might have been and how the lady must have been very worried about her baby’s safety. We then decided we’re pretty grateful that there is no war now, because our plastic bins wouldn’t be much use.
We moved through to the kitchen and created some quite revolting recipes using the interactive displays. The boys spent an age in here making the yuckiest dishes they could. Baked hedgehog for dinner, anyone?
We spent a good while listening to and reading about the evacuee children. I think the boys took quite an interest in this because it related to people of their own age, and they thought it was awful that families were parted like this, even though I assured them that the intentions behind it were good! Rowan listened twice to Mary Moore recalling how she and her school friends were evacuated, and we looked at the images and video clips of the children being sent to the countryside.
Once the train journey was over, the boys followed a flow chart on the floor to see where they would end up staying as evacuee children – but not all of the households looked welcoming! They dressed up in clothes that would have been typically worn during the blitz and learned about all the different jobs people did during the war.
I learned that men over 40 couldn’t sign up and thought that seemed like a very young age at which to have the cut off, but we read about ‘Dad’s Army’ and all the other roles people played on the Home Front – which could be just as dangerous as being on the front line.
As you can see, we all had a thoroughly enjoyable, informative and educational time at the Imperial War Museum’s Blitzed Brits exhibition and I cannot recommend it enough. Both boys enjoyed their visit and they are aged 5 and 8, so i would recommend it for any primary school aged child (and older!).
The Blitzed Brits exhibition is open at Imperial War Museum North in Manchester until 10th April and is free entry for all. It’s a brilliant way to spend a long morning or afternoon during the Easter holidays and you might just learn a thing or two yourself!
The boys came away from here eager to learn more about the Second World War, and so I have ordered a Blitz Replica Pack from their online shop and have downloaded The Blitz resource pack from the Twinkl website ready to work on a little project at home.