Days Out England Uncategorized

Manchester for Kids: the Football Mecca

Manchester for Kids -Football Museum
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Looking for things for kids in Manchester this half term? In the centre of metropolitan Manchester, the recently landscaped cathedral gardens enclose the Urbis building; home to the National Football Museum, the mecca. In this guest post Laura Keeler explored Manchester for kids by taking her footie mad crowd to a national football museum that manages to be both modern and nostalgic…

Manchester for kids
Manchester for kids. -scores behind the doors. Image by Laura Keeler

What to do in Manchester with kids? Try this:

Sitting proudly in an oasis of open space the National Football Museum stands out a mile between Manchester Cathedral and Chetham’s School of Music, The “shiny submarine,” as coined by one of my boys, is not to be missed in structure and in substance.

exterior Manchester football museum
Manchester’s ‘shiny submarine’. Image by Laura Keeler ‘

Football is life

Football has been the game of our lives. Afternoons spent at Burden Park, first with my Dad and brothers, and later on the terraces with my sister. The rumble of the terraces and chants that echo through the stands get under your skin, and the songs instantly take me back. The signed programmes, the smell of pasties and the roar of the crowd when the players walked onto the pitch; this was a place of hope.

Now with a family of boys, my own enthusiasm for the sport has dwindled but the boys have the same excitement and fire in their tummies and for me I get the same bug when I watch them play.

To take them to the National Football Museum on the first day of half term is the perfect way to share the football of our youth together. Perhaps some of the stories held inside might even inspire them?

A half term treat

Within minutes of arriving they all have their mitts (covered with white mitts) on the FA cup and the Premier league cup and huge smiles on their faces. Inspired already.

Holding the cup at the National Football Museum
Holding the cup. Image by Laura Keeler

A hands-on children’s museum

As we let others have their moment of trophy glory too, we admire this years’ women’s world cup kits before going up a level to be greeted by the most enthusiastic and helpful man. Stood over a table with artefacts of football through the ages, he explains how to use a clacker, lets them hold footballs and boots from as early as the 1940’s and even lets them try some of the items on.

To our second youngest, this is amazing. He tries on the football shirt Bobby Moore wore in the world cup and his face is beaming. Actively being part of exploring the history means that this 5-year old is taking it all in.  These items must have been picked up thousands of times since the museums opening, that’s thousands of little minds that may be filled with the hope that they too can wear an England shirt on the pitch.

With the lure of headsets to try on (and argue over,) they assume the role of commentator to listen to match highlights and share their thoughts, All the time I’m wondering how this place could be so calm with children running in and out, lifting up memorabilia, bouncing footballs and questioning. But the answer is, they are all immersed in the magic of it all.

We skip the next level to visit the activity pods on the top floor whilst it is early.

Boy proudly wearing the shirt
Proudly wearing the shirt – Image by Laura Keeler

Family fun on the activity floor

Oh wow. The activity floor. We scan our QR code tickets free as part of the admission for each game; including on the ball skills, spot the injury, pass master, shot stopper, (perfect for goalkeeper dreamers,) and the changing rooms over the years complete with smells. (Not one for those with a weak stomach!)

Spot the injury at the National Football Museum. Image by Laura Keeler
Spot the injury at the National Football Museum. Image by Laura Keeler

Penalty shoot out

Excitement rises to its peak during our penalty shoot-out. Passers-by could easily mistake our whoops of joy for the start of the FA cup final. Drum rolls, cheering and brotherly competitive spirit is flying high. This is a paid extra (£2 per child) but each child gets three shots at the goal and not only does it let you know if you scored but also at what speed and precision. I am itching to join in. 

penalty shoot out
Family things to do in Manchester- penalty shoot out

Toddler activities Manchester

When an excitable school group arrives upstairs we quickly return to the lower floor. Here we find club badge tracing, picture superimposing, MOTD (if you don’t understand this acronym ask a football fan to decode) commentating video, and spin the wheel to football success. And of course the favourite of any three year old; the funicular style lift that traverses the floors or just lets you have an exciting ride with panoramic views of Cathedral gardens. It is a beautiful day outside and usually I’d be keen to be getting back outdoors but honestly this museum is so geared up for children and adults alike it’s a place where everyone is happy.

Playing outside the National Football Museum
Playing outside the National Football Museum

Football facts and trivia

The staff are cheerful and helpful and full to the brim with football facts and trivia. I have learned more in this visit than I ever have about football but the offside rule still baffles me. Inspirational quotes adorn the walls and the art and pictures of footballers past and present keep me entertained too.

This visit really captures the attention of all us spanning from age 3 to …… well perhaps there are no limits! I imagine that even if you knew nothing of football you’d still walk out of the building more knowledgeable and inspired, and if you avoid the shop like we somehow did, then it’s such good value for money.

Absorbed in art; places for kids in Manchester
Absorbed in art; places for kids in Manchester.Image by Laura Keeler

Tip for visiting the National Football Museum -come back soon!

The best part of a visit to this museum is your ticket is valid for a year after the date of the first visit. So you can practice your football skills as frequently as you like!

No red cards or send off’s from us; this place was top of the league.

toddlers admire travelator
A travelator is one of the best toddler activities, Manchester. Image by Laura Keeler

More of Manchester for kids

If you have time to check out more of Manchester’s sport, or even do some yourself, here’s our recommendations for family sports fun in the city.

Or take a self guided tour of Manchester street art with your teens.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

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