Review: Discover Childrens' Story Centre, Stratford

Children over 2 & Adults - £6.50
1 year olds - £1
Under 1s enter for free
Family of 4 - £22
Extra charges apply for exhibitions and storytelling sessions (usually £1pp)

To book head here

Opening hours can be found here
Before is start this review I’m going to say BOOK THE EXHIBITIONS IN ADVANCED! We were disappointed when we didn’t pre-book and missed out on the ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ exhibition. There’s a buggy park and a place to store your bags and belongings at your own risk.

Story World
Story world – the play zone, is spread over two floors. There’s no one clear theme throughout the entire play area – that doesn’t take away from the amount of fun my sun had though! EDIT: I actually went to their website after our visit and after a bit of searching found out that visitors had to join “resident space alien, Hootah, on a story collecting mission. On his planet, Squiggly Diggly, everyone has run out of imagination. And that means no stories!” It’s down to the visitors to help him by using their imagination to create those new stories.

The ground floor theme seemed to centre around sailing – sand, sea, ships and caves included. There was even a castle to play in – complete with a hidden dragon and a few costumes and puppets to play with. I don’t think my son had a particular favourite play area in this section – he was pretty content playing with everything.

I was baffled by the second floor theme – I think it had something to do with being up in the sky as there were some huge clouds, an even bigger rocket and a multi-level slide. Oh, and an ice cream play station (a wooden stall with four ice creams) which my son really loved (random right?).

Both floors had quite a few books for all ages to enjoy and creative stations with Sellotape, wooden spoons and various bits of card and paper – this didn’t keep my son entertained for long as he was much more interested in exploring the other areas. I also found that there were a lot of materials on the floor and nobody was around to pick them up which could be a bit hazardous.

Adventure playground
On warmer days visitors can also make use of the outside wooded play area where you’ll find wooden structures to hide under and climb on, slides and a play house. We didn’t stay outside too long as it started to rain but it was a nice, clean and well designed area (there was ample space in between the structures for children to comfortably run through).

The bottom floor is where the exhibition space is – we didn’t get a chance to explore this space.

Storytelling session
This was my favourite part of Discovery Centre. Our Storytime session was based around the book ‘Emily Brown and the Thing’ about a little girl called Emily and her grey rabbit who are having trouble sleeping because of strange noises. Told from the perspective of the rabbit and with the help of us visitors we soon discovered what the noise was and eventually how to stop it.

The room was perfectly decorated to suit the story and included props that helped move the story along and a nice comfy blanket and plenty of pillows to keep comfortable on. Unlike a lot of story sessions it wasn’t just a bunch of restless children sat staring at somebody reading a book – the reader moved around the room and used had plenty of tricks up her sleeve to keep the children fully immersed from start to end. Children were encouraged to speak up and get involved with the session too. After leaving the session my son couldn’t stop talking about Emily and I was equally impressed.

The storytelling session was an additional £1pp. You can book in for the storytelling sessions here Oh and be warned that you have to take your shoes off before entering the storytelling room – one of the Dads in the session had some rather rude socks on that made me giggle. His partner, not so much! She looked mortified.

The onsite café fell flat for me. The lighting had a slight ‘hospital-feel’ to it and the tables weren’t very clean. They have a small selection of light snacks (cakes, crisps and chocolates), soft drinks, juices and a selection of sandwiches and pastas that can be heated. My son had a cheese sandwich but is was very dry and could have done with more butter. The food didn’t seem to expensive and it’s worth noting that its one of the main means of funding for the centre so you’re not allowed to bring your own food into the café. You are however allowed to eat in the outside area.

As someone who has always been a bit of a bookworm I loved the shop! Obviously, they sold a variety of books but I liked that there were lots of book-themed toys and games too… And puppets.. and novelty stationary items. I don’t remember the prices being too over the top either.

Our Verdict
I can imagine that during the half term or summer holidays the entire venue can get pretty packed and the venue itself isn’t huge BUT they’ve packed enough in the space to keep little ones entertained for more than a few hours. The centre is worth a visit for the storytelling sessions alone! Will we be returning? Definitely, in the summer so we can make use of the garden space and see the next storytelling sessions and hopefully catch a glimpse of the basement exhibit.

You can find the IGTV video of our visit here

The closest station is Stratford but be warned that if you’re coming from the underground and need step-free access then use the lift inside the station and not the one outside of the station by the steps that lead to Westfield shopping centre as I was stood for 15-20 minutes waiting for space to become available on the lift but every time it got to our level it was already full to the brim so I ended up having to guide my son down the stairs with one hand and bump my heavy pram down a ridiculous amount of stairs with the other.

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