Families are welcome at The MERL and there’s lots for you to do! Exciting galleries, fun hands-on learning experiences and a packed programme of events and activities inspired by the museum collections and garden. Whether you pop in for a quick visit or spend all day exploring, The MERL can entertain, engage and educate the whole family, from children of all ages to grandparents!


COVID UPDATES: Please see the Visit Us page for information about visiting and details of the measures in place to help keep everyone safe.

Discover the Galleries

Visit the MERL galleries and explore life in the countryside past and present. Enjoy the fun hands-on activities and interactives throughout the galleries. Free trails suitable for children of all ages are available, and you can buy family activity packs in gift shop.

You can download copies of our Rats and Dairy spotter sheet and trail:

Rats and Dairy spotter sheet  |  Rats and Dairy Trail

Explore the Garden

The garden is a safe, enclosed environment for your children to play in and explore. Pick up a copy of a garden trail, including a woodland brass rubbing trail, and head outside!

You can download copies of our garden trails:

The MERL Little Mice Garden trail  |  The MERL Garden Tree trail

There’s also a wooden play-on tractor and a coop that is home to two chickens!

When we were closed during COVID lockdowns, the local wildlife made itself at home in the garden, including woodpeckers (can you spot the evidence?!) and foxes. Please look out for the signage regarding areas you should not enter, whilst the foxes get used to us being around again!

You are welcome to bring a picnic. There’s a lovely big lawn and plenty of picnic benches.

Enjoy the MERL café

The café stocks a range of hot and cold drinks, delicious cakes, sandwiches, snacks and Jude’s ice-creams. As well as indoor seating, there are plenty of tables on the patio or picnic benches on the lawn, which are now equipped with parasols.

After School Visits

Did you know that the MERL galleries, garden, shop and cafe are open until 5pm, so there’s time for an after-school visit? We’re offering 20% off in the café from 3-5pm until Christmas, so why not pop in for a snack or a treat!  Enjoy some quiet time in the galleries or the kids can let off steam in the garden! You can also buy a family activity pack full of suggested activities to do in the museum or at home.

Maybe you can walk from a local school, but if not, you’ll find easy parking in our free car park at the front of the museum!

Family Events

We run an exciting programme of events for families with children of all ages inspired by the themes of our collections.


For details of activities for all the family during the holidays, check out our What’s On page.

This half term, you’ll find details of our new ‘Rats and Dairy Trail’ and Autumn family activity packs available to buy from the MERL shop, and our Frugal Frivolities family event.

We look forward to seeing you!


Friday Fledglings is an outdoor learning session for pre-schoolers in our fantastic urban garden. Run by Charlotte, a local teacher and Level 3 Forest Leader the sessions focus on outdoor play and exploration of the natural environment involving story-telling, craft activities and singing.

We are delighted that from September 2021, Friday Fledglings sessions are back on site! For the time being, to help keep everyone safe, numbers are limited and booking is required.

For details of forthcoming sessions, visit our What’s On page.

If you’re unable to attend on a Friday morning, why not try out our Fledglings activity packs, available any time from The MERL gift shop?

Online Activities for families

At home? Too far to travel to The MERL? Enjoyed your visit and want to carry exploring? You can find lots of online activities for families here!

Families love The MERL

We are delighted to announce that we have won the award for **Best Museum** for families in the 2021 Little Ankle Biters Berkshire Awards!

Thank you to all our visitors who voted for us and for your ongoing support.

Little Ankle biters Berkshire 2021 awards logo with red winner bannerLittle Ankle biters Berkshire 2019 awards logo with red winner banner