The Small Small is 2, I thought. What can we do together as a family to mark this key milestone in her small life? I know! A Glorious Family Excursion!
The opportunity to get wet!
So from personal experience, here’s 13 top tips to help you have a great day out.
The first step of preparation for a trip to The Deep is to get all family members on board.
For me, this involved a slow drip-feed introduction of the concept to Dadonthenetherdege over several weeks, as he alas suffers less from the blissful amnesia I clearly enjoy in between our Glorious Family Excursions.
(I can’t say we got to the point where he thought it was his original idea – the pinnacle of spousal management techniques – but he did come to a point of weary resignation. Win!)
It’s also a good idea to engage the Smalls, as they all hate any form of surprise. Fortunately ‘Fish’ is one of the few animals the Small Small can consistently identify – so this process was more successful than I originally anticipated. So we started talking about fish, reading Tiddler, and watching Nemo.
I momentarily considered an oceanic craft project but sat down with a cup of tea until the urge went away.
“Shall we go and see the fishies?” I asked encouragingly. “FISH!” Responded the small small, rather in the manner of Cat from Red Dwarf.
Maximum Mummy points! I thought. (I never learn).
Ok, the next top tip for a successful trip to The Deep is to brace for the price. On the day it’s £12.50 for an adult, and £10.50 for a kid.
The good news is that if you pre-book online you can save a couple of quid, under 3s are FREE, there’s a deal which means you get to go back within the year for FREE, too.
Free is always fab, but just be aware it’s a helluva trek from Sheffield for what amounts to four hours entertainment, and four (quite big) tanks of fish you basically just get to see from multiple angles. (Including a lift).
Just saying – mostly because my chances of persuading Dadonthenetheredge to return within the next 12 months are remote to “Ha ha ha you must be bloody kidding me.”
Get there early
If you want to avoid queue, like most folk do, or want to avoid people – like I do – then get there just before opening time! By the time we went in the queue was pretty long.
This did of course involve leaving Sheffield on time, which with two excited Smalls to corral, a recalcitrant husband to chivvy, and a picnic to pack (see 5), was no mean feat.
Take in car entertainment
I’m sure it’s possible to get to The Deep by public transport but I’m buggered if I know how. (My kids are hard enough to manage strapped down in a car, let alone toddling all over a train harassing innocent travellers and colouring in the upholstery).
After attempting Eye Spy with the world’s worst loser (Big Small), someone who only knows the colour yellow (Small Small), and someone who can only communicate in transit to comment adversely (and occasionally non-verbally) on other road users (Dadonthenetheredge), I moved valiantly on to a sing-song. My ingenuity ran short at the 85th verse of Wheels on the bus (what DO amoebas do on the bus, anyway?), whereupon I gave up all pretense of good parenting and just gave the children electronic devices.
Don’t do this.
There was apparently not enough screen time left, and the children had to be surgically separated from Peppa Pig and Furbie-wotsit at the other end – a process I’m given to understand from the screaming was quite painful.
Take a picnic
On busy days the food bits fill up fast, but there’s a whole room set aside for picnic-ers. You do have to drag a picnic round the whole bloody place, mind. But this problem can be easily solved by no 11.
My kids arrived at The Deep expecting to see fish.
There were two minor problems with this.
The first (and possibly least relevant to anyone else) is that Dadonthenetheredge’s priority upon arriving anywhere, is to find the cafe and drink tea.
No one else wants to do this, because we are excited and want to get on with the action. But Dadonthenetheredge is our designated driver, by virtue of the fact my physical coordination, observation skills and general decision making render it inadvisable for me to be in charge of a 2 tonne lump of metal moving at 80 mph and containing everyone I love.
We therefore have very little choice about the designated driver thing, and apparently the tea thing, which is the price in gratitude we are required to pay for his driving services. (I’m considering turning him in for a new model with the non-tea-fuelled energy of a 21 year old – or investing in a chauffeur. Or thermos. Probably a thermos.)
The second and far more general issue in terms of expectation setting, is that there aren’t any bloody fish for the first 2,000 metre meander into the bowels of The Deep facility.
No, instead of fish you get a museum about the HISTORY of fish. My kids don’t care about the history of fish. Neither do I, to be honest, especially when trying to herd increasingly indignant Smalls in public places.
“Where da fish, mummy?” Asked the Small Small. FIVE BILLION TIMES.
The Big Small settled for sulking her way down, while the Small Small entertained herself by getting stuck in a terminal question loop, poking her fingers into the little neon floor lights, falling flat on her face, screaming, tripping up other Deep patrons and steadfastly refusing to hold anyone’s hand.
By the time we got down to the first ACTUAL tank of ACTUAL fish, she was over the whole thing.
She declined the opportunity to even glance in the direction of the tank, and went to play on some viewing steps. She proceeded to completely ignore the presence of all fish – and me telling her that we’ve got knob-wombling steps at home.
Don’t go with anyone actually interested in the history of fish
For. The. Love. Of. God.
Don’t watch Happy Feet before hand
So you know that scene in the film where Mumble wakes up in a tiny weird room where aliens stare at him and all the penguins are mindless zombies hypnotised by free fish, boredom and hopelessness?
Yeah, well, that.
Sharpen your elbows
There is an interactive section at The Deep where your children can get the sensory and educational experience of touching real sea-creatures! Amazing! What an opportunity!
The only problem is that the demo space is two metres long, and every single child within a 5 mile radius has assembled along it, flanked by their doting parents taking pictures.
If you want a look-in you are going to have to be *THAT* pushy parent, use your elbows, possibly covertly assault or otherwise sabotage a few small children, and say things like “Yes darling I’m sure it will be your turn soon” in a loud and passive-aggressive voice, in the hope other parents will move out of the bloody way.
This is going to kill part of whatever soul you have left.
When you do get to the front, of course, the attendant will immediately pack up the demo, or your child will suddenly recall a deathly fear of starfish, refuse to touch anything and scream like a freaking banshee.
10. Don’t mention the soft play!
In an effort to distract the Small Small from her beloved steps – I happened to point out the soft play zone at the very bottom of The Deep. Bad move. She promptly abandoned the steps and raced through the rest of the exhibit with a single minded focus she clearly doesn’t inherit from me – or I’d be a damn sight more successful at life than I actually am.
The soft play is tiny, and consists of a few crash-mat toys and building blocks. It was unfortunately also populated wall-to-wall by fished-out, museum-feral children – some of whom were 15 if they were a bloody day.
Not entirely unreasonably, the Small Small took exception to this arrangement, and decided to throw a massive planking tantrum.
At this point frankly I struggled not to join her.
Kidnap a disabled person
Fortuitously, we remembered to take with us as one of our party a person with mobility issues.
This turned out to be a stroke of genius, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you don’t know one, you may have to resort to nefarious means to secure them – but you do not want to leave home without one.
The Deep allows you to hire wheelchairs and mobility scooters, and the latter saved our bacon. Or fish. Definitely our day.
It proved the most popular of The Deep’s attractions (for my ungrateful prodgency, anyway) and even rated higher with the Small Small than STEPS. Imagine! We therefore managed to catch the children smiling while being given a ride, in between arguing over who’s turn it was, obvs.
These, of course, are the record we put up on Facebook of the birthday outing.
The scooter is also handy, btw, for transporting your picnic around. (See 5).
Remember the blindfolds
You will need these on entry and exit to avoid your Smalls seeing the absolutely ginormous gift shop that they’ve kindly made it impossible to circumnavigate.
It being a birthday celebration and the Small Small having taken zero sodding interest in anything else (besides the mobility scooter – see 11), we caved when she showed a passing fancy for a stuffed seal, and purchased an extra birthday present.
She has literally never touched it since.
Don’t take my kids
If it is not obvious to you by now, my top tip for a successful trip to The Deep this Summer Holiday is just not to take my kids with you.
I may have this tattooed on my own arm for next time I consider a Glorious Family Excursion.
Good luck out there.
Want more ideas of stuff to do this half term? Visit the wonderful Little Sheffield – www.littlesheffield.org.uk.
Want PROPER reviews of places to go and things to do? Go find Niomi over on Trips With A Tot – www.tripswithatot.com