We love to welcome families to The MERL and there are lots of things for you to do! Discover 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, a day out at The MERL can entertain, engage and educate the whole family, from toddlers to grandparents!

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 our gift shop.

Or check out our colouring sheets designed by Emily Gillmor, inspired by The MERL’s Our Country Lives gallery and our Festival of Britain wall-hanging.

You can print these to colour at home too! Festival of Britain wall-hanging colouring sheets

Explore the garden

The MERL garden is a safe, enclosed environment for children to play in and explore. Our garden trails are designed to help families explore the garden. Pick up a copy, including a woodland brass rubbing trail, tree trail and head outside!

There’s also a shepherd’s hut full of knitted toys, a wooden play-on tractor and a coop that is home to two chickens!

You are very welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy it on our lawn or one of our 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 and soup. 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? Enjoy some quiet time in the galleries, or the kids can let off steam in the garden!

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 to discover events and activities on offer over the school holidays.

Please check out our opening times.


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. (Runs Reading Borough Council term time only)

Numbers are currently limited and booking is required.

For details of forthcoming sessions, visit our What’s On page, or read our interview with Charlotte about Fledglings and what the sessions involve.

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.

Families love The MERL

We’re delighted to be a finalist in the Berkshire Red Kite Awards. If The MERL is your favourite museum, we’d love it if you could vote for us in the ‘Museums’ category by 20th October. Find out more and vote.

The MERL won the award for Best Museum for families in the 2019, 2021 and 2022 Little Ankle Biters Berkshire Awards!

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