We visited the Discover Story Centre in Stratford last month. I’d read about it in Little London, a really useful book for any parents who live in or near London, and was curious to visit. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’d never heard about anything like it. Little London describes it as ‘a magical place for young kids, gently exploring their imaginations and encouraging them into a lifetime’s love of reading.’
What’s at Discover Story Centre?
There are two floors to the Centre plus an outside play area, and indoor and outdoor cafe. We started downstairs. F was intrigued by the story of friendly alien Hootah and his collection of stories, and a lovely ‘Story Builder’ came and told more of Hootah’s story and how Freddie could draw some pictures to help him learn more. Then we explored the rest of the floor. There was an imagination tree where you could draw and hang up craftwork, giant trees to climb through, wibbly mirrors and lights, a quieter reading area and and a steam ship to pretend to sail. F zoomed from one bit to another, never spending more than a few minutes before running excitedly somewhere else. Making our way upstairs, we found Hootah’s observatron (like a spaceship) with many buttons to press and a crow’s nest to clamber on. Outside in the Story Garden, there’s more to climb and adventure on, including sliding down a monster’s tongue, captaining a pirate ship and playing large musical instruments.
Exhibitions and events at Discover Story Centre
After lunch in the roomy indoor cafe, with lots of books to read of course, we ventured down to the exhibition area and waited for our storytelling session. More for the adults is a fab small exhibition to read of the work behind some of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s stories and images. The storytelling session was magical. We were treated to a story on ‘Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book’ while sitting in Charlie Cook’s living room. Our Story Builder then revealed a secret doorway to a secret world of Julia Donaldson characters, where we could spend another 45 minutes or so exploring this immersive experience. We both loved this, though F was getting quite tired by now and a little erratic! Most of the favourites are here – the Gruffalo, the Snail and the Whale, Room on the Broom, Zog, a Squash and a Squeeze, Monkey Puzzle, Highway Rat and the Tiddler.
Discover Story Centre Review
The highlight of our visit was definitely the immersive storytelling session. I loved this, and it was obvious all the other families did too! It was a really clever way to play make believe with children, and get them using their imaginations more. However, I felt a little let down by the rest of the Centre, sorry! Maybe we visited on a busy day, but there wasn’t much interaction from Story Builders, which I think would have helped hugely. My son just thought it was another indoor play centre, and the making stories/using your imagination was a little lost on him. I can see that school visits would benefit immensely from a structured visit though. The outdoor play area felt a little run down, and no different from any other playground.
I visited on a weekday but there was still a queue to get in. I had luckily booked tickets for the storytelling show, and I would recommend you do this, as it’s definitely the best part of the centre. Try to visit on a Friday as it’s the only day the second floor is open. I don’t know why this is, but it seems a shame to miss out on a large section of the Centre, and for £6.50 per person it’s not cheap.
Getting to Discover Story Centre
It’s really easy to get to from Stratford station. Just a five minute walk across the main road, and you are there! If you are driving, I would think the easiest place to park is Westfield, though I would think it’s easier to take public transport because it’s right on the main road.