Today we got to meet our hero, Captain Barnacles.
For those of you who are not acquainted with this friendly polar bear, he is captain of the crew, brainchild of author Meomi and star of the CBeebies hit… you guessed it, Octonauts! This motley crew are guardians of the ocean and saviour to sea creatures in need (they are busy little things), purging the oceans of rubbish, mending broken fins and teaching lessons about teamwork, kindness, inclusiveness and just about everything else while they’re at it. They are also phenomenally popular with the under 5s brigade. So now I have set the scene, on to our review…
It’s a nice feeling isn’t it, at the end of a fun-filled day (you’ve tired them out, they’ll sleep well tonight), when you click them into their car seats with a snack and just sit for 20 magical, calm seconds before turning on the ignition?
But I have to be honest with you, I had already started thinking about this review. There was a LOT of good stuff going on at Sea Life today and I’ll get back to that shortly, but sometimes it is good to address the white elephant, or in this case Octonaut in the room first. The children we took with us today were huge fans and I have to admit to riling up their expectations a little. Ultimately though, personally, I was slightly underwhelmed, by what I perceived as a lack of Octonauts (I’m not sure what I was expecting, my childhood self was hoping for an Octopod I think, for you newbies that’s where they live and work!).
Anyway despite my reservations I needn’t have worried. When I asked our child guests what I should write. They said ‘about everything. Everything was good (this is high praise). I didn’t know real Octonauts were so big’.
So there are six small Octonaut-themed activities situated around the centre, which the kids happily tinkered with. Peso’s camouflage puzzle was popular, and they were curious about Dashi’s (we love Dashi) morse code activity but honestly we struggled with some of the others (keep reading you will see this didn’t really matter). What they were keen on was sticking their sticker on their Octonauts sheet. Then at half past the hour one of the Octonauts, in our case good old Captain Barnacles, came out and met the children; Kwazi was due later, I think he must have been out saving sea creatures (wink, wink).
Captain Barnacles was clearly a hit. But I guess here is the thing, to children the magical sea creatures are as much part of the Octonauts experience as the Octonauts themselves, and at age one and nearly four they were all engaged in the adventure. I couldn’t believe how attentively they listened to the information about the octopus, and how long they spent gazing at the sea horses.
They loved the sharks, turtle, clownfish, eels, snails, starfish and they were so knowledgeable (thank you Octonauts). They loved sticking their heads inside the glass bubbles and were even brave enough to touch a starfish, and get a badge for it thank you very much. Kids (like adults I suppose) love talking about stuff they know lots about. Secondly children don’t expect a lot (or should I say their expectations are not the same as adults). To catch a glimpse of one of their favourite characters was enough, and surprisingly magical to the smalls in our group. And don’t forget the soft play… they enjoyed it so much we had to drag them out.
It’s difficult to review children’s activities. I sometimes wish I could take a child of every age from 1 to 16, because no one age is like another is it? The attention span of young children is not the longest and so unfortunately we didn’t stay long enough to see some of the feeding time events which I’m sure they would have loved. I think had we had older kids among us we may have made more of this. But then the older kids probably wouldn’t have loved the Octonauts quite so much, so it balances out really. Perhaps it’s just the adults who want to tick off every box while the kids just get on with doing what they think is the most fun (and more power to them). Some of that might be to do with money, as Sealife is a bit more spendy than our usual recommendations, but we do do a lot on cheap or free days out so we can get away with the occasional splurge.
Ultimately my expectations of Sealife were exceeded. I can’t finish without saying it was pretty busy, but that’s only to be expected for a summer holidays. The Octonauts were a welcome addition but I wouldn’t necessarily say go just to see them. If you can, look for a deal (there are lots around), as it can be expensive, but for a treat day out, I would say this one was a success.
Rainy City Kids attended courtesy of Sea Life Manchester