We often got asked for recommendation for kids activities from people visiting the city. Despite its reputation, we can assure you as locals that Amsterdam is actually a very kid-friendly place. There are plenty of public parks and playgrounds, family friendly attractions and restaurants. For those wanting to do something more educational, Amsterdam offers around 60 museums to choose from. Many have special exhibitions and activities for children.
Between visits with us, school trips and birthday parties (the children exhibitions are popular as birthday party venues), The Kid has been to more museums than Hubby and I combined, which makes her more qualified to rate them. I asked her to list her favourites, and here are her top choices:
1. Science Center NEMO
NEMO is a solid favourite with The Kid. We’ve been there many times, and she would gladly go again any day. It is a science museum aimed at kids, which features plenty of hands-on experience and things to try and build. They can also head to the lab and try their hands on proper (but fun) scientific experiments, which is also a must-do for The Kid at every visit. In the summer, the roof of the building is turned into a waterpark. The roof area is accessible for free, and when it’s sunny, becomes a popular place for people of all ages to soak up the sun.
Micropia is a new museum dedicated to invisible life forms, and is currently the only one in the world. No, not fairies and unicorns, but microorganisms. You might not be a science buff, but the exhibition is fascinating, and is engaging for just about anyone. Here you can view many microorganisms by actual microscopes, while others much smaller are presented in a digital and visually attractive way. You can scan your bodies to find out how many microbes you are carrying, and zoom in at each body parts to check out which microbes live there. You can also view a close up of the everyday germs that thrive on your toothbrush, cell-phone, kitchen sponge and everyday items in the house, as well as yeast and molds that helps producing food items.
There are no special exhibition for children, but they can hunt and collect microbe stamps, which later on can be viewed on a huge screen. Poop fans will be delighted to see a section dedicated to a full shelf of animal excrement and their decomposition.
It is part of Artis Zoo, you can either buy a ticket for both or separately. It’s only opened in October 2014 and not yet well known to tourists, so it makes for a good escape from the crowd as the lines are generally short (or non-existent), and you’ll find plenty of elbow room to browse around.
The Tropenmuseum is an ethnographic museum which explores non-Western cultures from around the world. As part of the museum, Tropenmuseum Junior is a special section with interactive activities and programmes for kids. The junior section is built around a permanent exhibit from a specific country that gives the children an immersive experience of the culture. For the last 2 years, the theme was Brazil, where the kids can walk around mini-Brazilian mangroves, forests and towns, listen to stories, learn to make Brazilian crafts, dress up and learn to do the samba, or pick up an instrument and take part in the band.
There will be new exhibition for Tropenmuseum Junior this spring.
4. Het Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum)
The museum of Netherlands Maritime glory, past and present, its main attractions for children are the replica of East Indiaman ship and The Tale of The Whale exhibition.
The Amsterdam is a replica of 17th century merchant ship. Visitors can come aboard and discover how sailors lived and worked in the Golden Age. Take a peek at the sailors’ sleeping quarters, the captain’s cabin as well as the galley and imagine you’re on a pirate ship.
The Tale of the Whale explores the theme of whaling. It exhibits a life-sized walk-in whale. Visitors can walk inside its belly, sniff to learn what a whale smells like, hear its heartbeat and feel its skin.
The museum is within walking distance from NEMO.
5. Amsterdam Museum
Used to be called Amsterdam’s Historical Museum, it is my favourite museum in town. Housed in a former city orphanage, the museum tells the ever evolving story about Amsterdam and the people who lived and are living in it, from orphans to rich families. From all city museums with historical collections, the subject matter is the most relate-able to kids, because they include the stories of ordinary children and families.
The museum hosts a special family tour and for children 4 years and up, they can take part in the The Little Orphanage adventure, where they are immersed in the world of the 17th century orphanage. They can explore the orphanages rooms, try the bed bunks, pretend to be one of the orphans, and help one of the orphan boys solving a mystery to find his parents. Younger children who can’t read yet are given task to find hidden animals throughout the orphanage.
Amsterdam Museum is tucked on a side street on the busy Kalverstraat shopping street, an easy detour if you happen to be strolling around in the city.
Evidently, none of the Amsterdam’s big name museums made it to The Kid’s list, such as the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House (she’s never been to this one). Doesn’t mean they are not suitable for kids, but this particular kid prefers a more interactive experience, less hushed environment and she is interested in science and people, but not so much with art.