My nine-year-old son is learning all about World War Two at the moment at school and when we were recently invited to spend a day exploring Bletchley Park I thought it would be a great way of bringing his school work to life. The site is located not far from Milton Keynes, in Buckinghamshire and offers a really good, educational day out for families. Children under 12 gain free entry and I personally think that those in Key Stage Two and above will get most out of the experience. General admission tickets also give you access for a whole year.
Exploring Bletchley Park takes you back in time as this site was home to an extraordinary group of men and women who worked tirelessly during World War Two to crack encrypted codes used by both Germany, Japan and others, during the war. There are lots of things to see on a visit and plenty of interactive displays to keep children entertained as you wander around the site.
My son was gifted a Top Secret Mission Pack, which are available for £1 from the Admissions Desk on entry. The pack includes a map of Bletchley Park, pencil, an identity card for children to personalise, various activities as well as six different missions to complete as you explore the different areas.
There’s also an option to borrow a free multimedia guide (my son decided we wouldn’t go with that option) and you can book onto a free one-hour guided walking tour if you so wish. During school holidays there are also special family tours available which are interactive and designed specifically with families in mind. Worth noting if you are planning a visit in half term.
There are exhibitions within the main Visitor Centre, along with toilets, a coffee shop and shop. Right from the start of our time exploring Bletchley Park I could see my son would love all of the interactive displays.
These also help to slow him down and get him to actually read the available information! Anyone with kids will appreciate this particular challenge.
This area also gives information on code-breaking during World War One and there’s a fascinating Secrecy and Security exhibition, again with lots of interactive displays to enjoy. This particular area focusses on online safety today, and as my son answered the questions it showed me that he’s taking on board what he’s learning both at home and school.
The National Radio Cente provided us with the chance to see how radio communications have progressed over the years. Again, we had the opportunity to try out lots of interactive displays. My OH got rather excited when he spotted one of his own relatives on one of the information boards, along with a video of him. New family history information which got him straight on the phone to share with his sister.
Inside the Block B Museum, we found out all about Alan Turing and the various different cypher machines used during World War Two, along with variations of the Enigma machine itself.
There’s a D-Day exhibition which is suitable for those aged 8 years and over, which has opened at Bletchley Park this year. Unfortunately, my son isn’t great at dealing with the unknown when it comes to cinematic experiences and refused to go inside. So I can’t comment on this new attraction sadly.
He did, however, love exploring the various huts around the site, all offering an insight into what life was like for those living and working at Bletchley Park during the war.
The interactive dice game showed my son just how difficult it was to break the Enigma code in a way that was easy for children to understand.
He was then blown away when we visited Hut 11A and saw the Bombe machines. We learned how Turing and the other code breakers devised the machine to break the codes. It’s fascinating and leaves you totally in awe of them all.
The mansion itself hosts an interesting exhibition where you can listen to veterans telling their own stories.
A lovely interactive exhibition called The Illustration Game can be found in Hut 12, which includes archive sketches and games for children to play.
We all had a thoroughly enjoyable day exploring Bletchley Park and all it has to offer. It’s the sort of place that you can revisit and learn something new on each occasion. Fascinating sums it up the best.
If you’re planning a visit over half term then there are a range of family-themed activities you might enjoy
Have you spent time exploring Bletchley Park?
disclosure: we were given complimentary day passes and an activity pack in exchange for an honest review