Our Dynamic Jethro turns three! Two months ago…
July 19, 2011

I imagine that it has been remiss of me as a father to publish a blog about fatherhood and my son, without marking the passing of my son’s third birthday.

I didn’t forget it was his birthday, I just didn’t write anything about it.

We considered taking him to the reknowned Edinburgh Zoo, but it was a miserable rainy day, and walking about looking at soggy animals would not improve matters. Instead we decided to visit Our Dynamic Earth.

Our Dynamic Earth is a museum, but it’s also an interactive show. The website describes it as the “Mother Earth of all adventures,” but the website doesn’t really do the place justice. It is quite an incredible experience.

Or rather, it is designed to be an extraordinary experience, but the design-team didn’t really consider carefully what a three-year-old might think of certain bits of it.

Near the beginning of the journey through the place, we entered a “time machine” that took us back to the beginning of time to witness the Big Bang. We stepped out of the time machine onto the deck of a space ship and watched as matter coalesced, stars and galaxies were formed, and I’m not sure what else because Jethro totally freaked out.

“No no want to go to space!”

We were forced to take the emergency evacuation route into the Precambrian Period, where the gently bubbling primordial soup was much more to Jethro’s liking.

You see, if you put a kid who is three into an environment that looks convincingly like a spaceship bridge, play loud convincing spaceshippy sound effects, and darken the room and flash lights convincingly, you can convince a three year old that all that stuff is real. You can probably do it with much less effort. Three-year-olds will believe anything.

Now, if you had just stepped into what seemed like an elevator (something you are quite familiar with), and suddenly found yourself in deep space at the beginning of time, wouldn’t you freak out? Damn right you would.

As a result of this initial rattling, Jethro was wary of any display that had potential to be overwhelmingly immersive. That was a lot of the place. It is a really awesome place. It is immersive. It immerses you in the wonders of the natural world. It uses unique environments and multimedia effects.

At least, this is how it appeared to me as we gave each dramatic exhibition a wide berth.

Jethro greatly enjoyed the exhibits that posed no noisy or flashing threats. He loved the bubbling mud, the seismometer measuring his own stomping-induced earthquakes, jungle wildlife and full-scale dinosaurs.

We will be going back, but I think I’ll wait until Jethro is at least eight to make sure I don’t miss half the show.