Imagine the Wonderlab but with home-made touches, in a place that pushes the boundaries of children thinking and doing for themselves, based entirely on getting children interested in all things STEM. This is the Mega Maker Lab and it's a summer holiday must-do. Whether your kids are science stars, mad for maths, aspiring engineers or just have infinite imaginations, this lab is the perfect way to get those wheels turning and the creativity flowing.
Situated in zone 1 in a massive old fire station, you’re greeted by a huge deconstructed fire engine/rescue set-up as you arrive along with a little fire engine to play in.
You then walk through the ticket hall into a room the size of an aircraft hangar, which houses lots of different “zones” for the imagination to run wild. These include a section where you can recycle plastic and see it crushed down, a corner where you can build your own giant marble run on a play wall, an extensive Lego play and build area, a place where you could build flying machines using arts and craft materials and then stick them in an air tunnel, a wire sculpting zone and more.
Children can go around the venue in whatever order they like: where their imagination leads their bodies follow. We started with the wire sculpting area where you could choose to make any building in a cityscape - or reach for the skies and make hot air balloons, kites and other flying objects. After being handed wire thread and pliers we were off, creating furiously for around 90 minutes non-stop in the confident hands of two fantastic wire-artists who were on site to inspire and develop the children.
We then moved to the giant marble run section - where a box of hundreds of would-be tunnels and funnels was available to assemble on the wall in our chosen order. Cue a lot of discussions about how and where we wanted our marbles to run and a heated building session to make it happen.
With some champion marbles under our belt we headed to the plastic recycling area - where children select plastic items that they wish to break down and a willing parent (aka ME) had to mount a pedal-bike to activate the cogs of the “crushing” machine adjacent to it. A work out for the thighs as well as the mind ensued!
Food facilities on-site are packaged snacks and teas and coffee and there aren’t really family-friendly eateries by the site, so I’d suggest bringing a picnic along or snacks to tide you over for your visit. We ended up in a local pub that, shall we say, will not be getting the Kidadl star of approval for its family-fare.
We returned for an afternoon Lego robot-making session with Build the Change, which involved children working in small teams to assemble motorised robots before a race was set up for them all which got everyone in a building frenzy and caused much excitement.
That, coupled with a visit to the Lego zone to build structures for the cityscape with my older kids, while my toddler and husband were knee-deep in crafting a flying machine for the wind-tunnel, marked the end of a fantastic day. We didn’t get to join one of the many story sessions or some of the laser activities as time had flown, but we will definitely be back for more!