What to do at Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield
We love a trip to Kelham Island Museum. Every time we go there for a few hours we end up spending longer there than expected! I love it because it’s somewhere I can enjoy and Eric likes it, too… something we can both get something out of. It’s definitely suitable for a wide range of ages. I enjoy the historical side and the workshops, Eric particularly likes the engines, the vehicles, the interactive bits and the indoor soft play area.
If you have a child 2-5 years, then don’t miss the Kelham Tots playgroup once a month!
Kelham Island Museum is a… “Sheffield industry and steelmaking history museum with interactive galleries and on-site craftsmen”. It has a cafe, interactive displays to play with, an indoor play area, dressing up, vehicles, old Mesters street and River Don Engine in Steam.
The museum cost £6.82 without gift aid for adults and under 16’s are free. Considering that you can spend a good few hours at the musuem and there is a play area, I think that’s good value for money. If you’re going to visit the museum a few times a year, it might be worth getting a Sheffield industrial museums annual pass.
There is a car park. The postcode for the museum is S3 8RY. The closest tram stop is Shalesmoor.
We have been to Kelham Island Museum many times over the last few years, and so I have updated this blog post with a mixture of photos taken from all the times we’ve been. 🙂
Video from 6th March 2017, at Kelham Island Museum:
Where to eat
We usually spent all day at the museum and used the picnic room and/or cafe. By all day, I mean 3 hours, at least. The cafe serves hot and cold drinks, light snacks, soups, sandwiches, etc., and some cakes. I usually go there for some hot drinks as a break from looking around the museum.
There is an indoor picnic room, either to the side next to the cafe if it is open, or upstairs above the cafe.
What is it like inside the museum?
The museum is spacious and can be quite dark in certain areas. It’s accessible throughout and has wide, open spaces. The old little Mesters Street is cobbled and has real, working on-site craftsmen.
There’s things to see like big machinery and work benches, working steam engines, cutlery and knives made in Sheffield, and interactive areas for children like dressing up, puzzles and pull-out drawers.
There is lots to explore if you really look in each area and you definitely get the most out of this museum if you really look at everything. It’s the sort of museum where you need to take your time to look at things, read information and talk about what you see. There is lots to touch if you really look for things, and it’s really interesting to learn all about the history of steel works in Sheffield.
The museum is quite big with different rooms and vast collections on three floors. The displays are of good quality and everything is always in working order, I’ve never been and left disappointed with things not available or exhibitions closed. It’s really well preserved.
Here are top 10 ways to really enjoy your family day out at Kelham Island museum…
1. See the River Don engine in steam.
This is fascinating for all ages! Be aware, it is quite loud! The River Don Engine is the most powerful working steam engine in Europe and is in steam at the museum at 12 and 2pm Monday to Thursday and 12, 2 and 4 on Sundays. Eric loved seeing the big parts moving and the noise it made. The river don engine.
In this area of the museum is where you can take a selfie for the #sheffield1916!
See our video to watch the engine in motion. And don’t forget to watch the Crossley Gas Engine too!
2. Play in the melting shop play area
There’s lots of fun to be had in this little but really good indoor play area. It’s tucked away, separate from the museum just next to the River Don Engine. Entry is included in museum entry (and kids go free).
There is a ball pit, slide, train, soft car bricks, colouring, building blocks and some puzzles. The play area has a very cute theme where everything is linked to Sheffield steelworks so there’s always an opportunity to learn through play.
Eric really likes this play area, especially the ball pit and slide, and the colouring table 🙂 I highly recommend the toddler group, too.
The slide is super fun, there are hands on games, building, playing and colouring to do.
3. See the stone garden and play with old tools in the old Crucible shop!
The crucible shop display includes some of the oldest crucible works remaining, with a furnace and tools to handle. Outside is the stone garden, very interesting with recycled historical Sheffield works.
4. Learn about the history of fairgrounds in the National Fairground Archive, see some giants and old vehicles in the transport gallery.
Here is where you can also see the open store and workshop. Eric loves looking down and having a look at all the old machinery, engines, mini train and ‘made in Sheffield’ lights. There’s lots to spot in the open store over the balcony.
He’s also a big fan of the vehicles in the transport gallery.
5. Enjoy stepping back in time at Little Mesters Street.
A 1916 Home, old shops and a medieval street to stroll around an explore. Take part with hands on, interactive and sensory collections which inspire children’s imaginations.
What we like to do in this area is dress up, pretend and play hide and seek.
You could also play hopscotch, see the open back yard with washing line equipment and materials, answer telephones and Peak through the windows of watchmakers to see how they used to live.
6. Take full advatange of the hands on pieces!
Kelham Island museum has some really cool interactive collections, work benches, puzzles, steel works, tools and engines if you look for them. Now Eric is nearly 4, he really loves the tool bench and the interactive puzzles.
There are tools to explore with, a play work bench and a real old work bench, big old steel works, role play in Little Mesters street, bomb shells, texture boards, drawers to open and much more.
7. Take part in a trail
…and find the answers around the museum. There are free fun trails to use with clipboards and pencils near the reception.
We tried the transport and tool trail. It was fun!
8. Enjoy the room and have a stroll around.
The museum is spacious which is great for curious toddlers. I’ve never found it to be ever busy on a normal opening day (not events), I’ve always found it to be an easy thing to do with a toddler especially when they’re in ‘I want to walk around on my own’ mode. You don’t have to worry about crowds.
9. Visit the cafe or take a packed lunch for the picnic room.
Take your own food to eat in the picnic room, or eat in the cafe to make more of your visit. Do half of the museum then have food, see the other half and then spend time in the play area. That way, you can easily spend all day there.
There are educational boards and lots of interesting historical information throughout the museum. I always learn something new when I go, whether it be just about a tool I never knew was made in Sheffield, or how a certain vehicle was made. I like to talk about what I see in the museum with Eric and as he grows up and understands more, there’s more opportunities to talk and learn each time we go.
For little ones, throughout the collections are educational questions on the boards and puzzles to solve. There are also books and leaflets to read throughout the museum for all ages, as well as trails. The galleries are interactive throughout, making it a fun way to learn about the history of Sheffield steelworks.
The outside collection of the museum is good to explore, don’t miss the Bessemer converter, used to make steel in 1974. Kelham Island Museum have festivals and events throughout the year which take advantange of the atmosphere. Check their website. The vintage fayres are quite impressive and the victorian Christmas market was something I really loved last year.
What do you think? I love interactive museums and this is a fantastic one to have right here in Sheffield. It makes a good day out for if you have visitors to Sheffield or need a day out to entertain a wide variety of ages. I hope this blog post gave you a better insight of what’s at the museum and how to really make the most of your visit there. Do let me know if you’ve been and what you think… send in some photos of you and your little one exploring the museum if you have some to share. 🙂
Thank you for reading and watching!