For adults, children’s museums may be just fun, but for children, they are a very important opportunity to learn, explore, discover, create, and develop their cognitive, sensory, and motor skills. After all, these museums are exclusively created for them, their needs, and their abilities. There aren’t just things to see, there are safe structures to climb, sections where they can be hands-on and paint or create objects according to their own fantasy and imagination. And they can learn about the world, other races, and customs. It’s of utmost importance that children can do all these things whilst they play.
For the parents or grandparents who accompany them, it’s an invaluable learning process too, to see how their kids react. They may even discover hidden talents and much more, spending real quality time with their children and definitely having fun whilst doing so.
Here are the best children’s museums around the world that cater to all the necessities of kids and adults alike. Why not, as an adult, see the world through a child’s eye again?
Far more than a museum, Unibacken, located on the water in Stockholm next to the Vasamuseet, is a cultural center for children with books at its heart. It takes young and old into the wonderful world of the finest Nordic children’s book writers, among them Astrid Lindgren, the creator of world famous character Pippi Longstocking. At the center is a 15-minute ride on the storybook train that took 2 years to complete. You meet all the characters of the Nordic story books: Madicken, Emil, and Katla the dragon in the scenery of Swedish summer streets. The talks are in 15 languages, if you speak Swedish, you will hear Astrid Lindgren’s own voice. On the second floor, you find Villa Villekulla, Pippi’s home, along with theater performances in other parts of the building. Food and drink is available in the restaurant and all the books are sold in the bookshop. You can reach Unibacken by all public transports, there are even three docks should you arrive with your own boat. Minimum age for admission without an accompanying adult is 15 years.
2. Toy Museum
The Toy Museum in Munich, located in the heart of the city, the Marienplatz, must be one of the cutest of its kind. The private collection shows 400 years of the development of toys and resembles a doll house itself. This is because it is housed in the tower of the Old Town Hall, with small rooms connected by a winding wooden staircase. Windows give out to the Marienplatz and part of the city, so visiting the museum not only provides education and information but a little sightseeing tour as well.
The separate rooms are dedicated to different themes. You’ll find tin toys, trains, astronauts, scenes from the Wild West, and a vast collection of Barbie dolls, which are the delight of little girls. Who doesn’t love a teddy bear? Did you know that the beloved cuddle toy originated in Germany? Learn the history of the teddy bear, his inventor, Margarete Steiff, and how President Roosevelt earned his nickname Teddy and owned a Steiff teddy bear himself.
Due to COVID restrictions, until April 8th, the museum is only open on weekends.
3. Museum Of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions in Zagreb will blow your mind and challenge you and your kid’s gray cells with games, competitions, and experiences that seem impossible, but are not, as you will find out.
Zagreb is the capital and largest city in Croatia, so you can combine a visit to this extraordinary museum with a tour of the lovely city of Zagreb. Over 70 exhibits will catch your attention in the illusions room, like kaleidoscopes, tricky rings, or the infamous head on the platter.
The smart games room is where your kids (and you) can test their skills with intricate games, play, compete, and learn. The museum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
4. Children’s Museum
With 472,900 square feet distributed over five floors, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the world’s largest children’s museum. Located in northwest Indianapolis, it is divided into two sections: Arts & Humanity and Natural Sciences. This is not only a place for learning and education for your kids but also a place where they can have hands-on fun. This includes indoor sports and games, practicing CPR on dolls, finger and water color painting, and the always-popular encounters with dinosaurs. The museum even provides home schooling programs.
Currently, face masks have to be worn indoors at all times by everybody age 2 and over.
5. Musée Des Enfants
The Musée des enfants in Brussels is a rarity among modern museums insofar as no computers or video games are displayed. Located in a beautiful mansion in Rue du Bourmester, it has reopened since January 29th and follows a new psychological and pedagogic approach to children’s education and learning. Instead of modern technology, they are surrounded by stage settings, wooden toys, and anything that stimulates vision and touch. Human interaction is more important than social media, that is why highly trained animators play such an important role.
This museum is designed for children ages 6–12 and their guardians.
6. Papalote Museo Del Niño
Located in the Bosque de Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, the Papalote Museum is the opposite to the Musée des enfants in Brussels in that technology plays a great part. The large museum focuses on learning, communicating, and working together through interactive expositions of science, technology, and art for children. The walls and ceilings of the museum were made by children and they certainly were creative. They can make their own radio program, watch movies on the largest digital IMAX screen in Mexico City, or shop in a kid-sized supermarket. Lots of fun and entertainment for young and old.
But, their historical heritage isn’t forgotten either. Next to all that technology, there is a Mayan garden where a pre-hispanic environment is recreated, including a Mayan pyramid that can be explored.
7. The Toy Museum
The delightful toy museum of Istanbul is located in the leafy suburb of Goztepe in the district of Kadikoy and easily reached by train from the center of Istanbul. Housed in one of the finest examples of a konak, a typical wooden house of the Ottoman Empire, the collection of over 4,000 toys was started by Turkish poet Sunay Akin and his wife. It’s four stories high and each room is like a stage set with different themes. There is an astronaut room with the constellations as its ceiling and a railway room with miniature trains and train seats. The collection of antique dolls is eye-catching, some are 200 years old, dressed in the finest silks and lace. Akin wanted to create a dream world for children, at the same time educating them about the history of toys and their own country and culture. To achieve this, there is also a doll of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and his wife.
In the courtyard is a cafe which serves sandwiches, Turkish sweets, and coffee, with a section furnished with kid-sized tables and chairs. Like many museums in Turkey, it is closed on Mondays. April 23rd is national children’s day in Turkey, a special occasion to visit this little jewel if you happen to be in Istanbul on that date.
8. The Strong National Museum Of Play
Rochester, New York
Located in Rochester in upstate New York, The Strong, as it is known, is devoted to the history and exploration of play. It consists of 100,000 square feet of dynamic, interactive exhibition space where children can play, live out their adventures, and learn. One such adventure is the Skyline Climb, beams and ropes suspended over the museum’s carousel atrium. Want to know about all 50 years of Sesame Street and meet the characters? Then enter through the green door of the permanent exhibition. These are just two examples of the many permanent and temporary exhibitions The Strong has to offer to visitors of all ages. There are even Sundays with events for kids with special needs.
A must when visiting the Strong is to step into the Dancing Wings of Butterflies Garden, adjacent to the main building. Walk through tropical gardens and along a waterfall. Surrounded by hundreds of free-flying butterflies, meet Watson, the garden’s resident panther chameleon.
9. Children’s Museum
The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is the ultimate hands-on museum for kids. Parents might come to Atlanta to enjoy themselves in one of the famous casinos, but in this museum, it’s definitely the kids’ turn to have fun.
What could be more fascinating than stepping into Storyland, a space where seven beloved children’s books have been transformed into a three dimensional play and learning environment? Or dress up as your favorite super hero and come to the museum on March 19th to learn how to save to world through the power of science on Science Day. It’s never been truer to say that learning is, really, child’s play!
For more unique museum experiences in the U.S. and internationally: