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Child's Play - through the ages!
V&A Museum of Childhood (London)
Member Name: kingfisher111
V&A Museum of Childhood (London)
Date: 05/09/11, updated on 03/08/13 (141 review reads)
Advantages: lots to do and see, free admission
When it was the August bank holiday, we took our daughters to London to the theatre. This is never a cheap family trip out and after adding our train fares, we did not want to spend too much more money. What better thing to do then, than visit one of London's many free attractions? After googling 'free London attractions' I came across the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood which sounded a very appealing place to visit. I thought that there would be something for everyone at the museum - an opportunity for my husband and I to wallow in nostalgia as we spotted toys from our childhood, and a chance for my girls to pursue their love of toys!
The Museum is easily accessible from the Central Line and is only a stone's throw from Bethnal Green Tube station. It is open from 10:00 until 17:45 every day and admission is free. Inside is a large open area with staircases up to galleries housing various collections on both sides. At the far end of the building is a large café serving drinks, snacks and a few hot dishes. We made use of this when we got there with coffee and cake. It was reasonably priced but did not offer an extensive menu.
There are three main viewing galleries at the museum. The first we visited was the Moving Toys gallery which is divided into four sections - Pushes and Pulls, Springs and Cogs, Circuits and Motors and Look See. As with all the galleries the exhibits range from the very old to the very new. The girls liked this as they could spot toys they recognised as well as being fascinated by more antiquated ones. Most of the exhibits are behind glass but there are a few things for children to try out - especially two rocking horses that were a big hit with my daughters as well as all the other children who were visiting. Luckily most parents were very good at ensuring that their children took turns and did not hog the horses! There are lots of puppets, cars, mechanical toys, jack in the boxes, battery operated toys and many many more to enjoy.
The second area is the Creativity gallery which again is divided into different sections - Imagine, Be Inspired, Explore and Make it Happen. This area is all about imaginary play with lots of super hero toys, dressing up, dolls and so on. My daughters loved this area and liked seeing their familiar Barbie dolls alongside much older ones. There is an amazing Childhood Cube made by the late artist, Sarah Raphael in 2000 which is pretty much an intricate maze of all sorts of examples of creative play. It is quite large with lots of staircases reminding me a bit of the ladders in Snakes and Ladders and I could have spent ages looking at all the different components that made up the cube.
At one end of the Creativity gallery, there is a lovely area for children to have a go at making something for themselves. I assume these activities vary but on the day we were there, there was the opportunity to make a set of ears - either a cat's or a leopards. Cardboard cut out shapes, glue, pens, crayons, material pieces and plastic hair bands were all supplied for free. We had great fun making the ears which my daughters (and husband!) later enjoyed wearing to the theatre! I was very impressed that these were free but there were opportunities to make a donation which we did.
Thirdly there are the Childhood galleries that relate to the social context of childhood. The galleries are divided into different areas - Babies, Home, What We Wear, Who Will I Be?, How We Learn, Good Times and Families. These are brilliant to see how these toys have changed over time and how they also differ in different cultures. There was such a wealth of baby dolls and dolls houses that my daughters and I were in our element. Unsurprisingly, you cannot touch many of these but there is an interactive role play area focussing on different types of job.
Finally there is an exhibition area that chages every few months. We saw an exhibition of the work of Judith Kerr and particularly her famous creation of The Tiger Who Came to Tea. The girls loved being able to sit at the kitchen table and pretend to actually have tea with the tiger while Mummy took a photo. Unfortunately this exhibition finishes on 4th September (2011) and there is no indication that I can see of what is coming next.
There is also a gift shop on the ground area but I can't comment as I steered my daughters away from this! I also noticed that you can hold children's parties at the museum which I expect would be great fun!
Overall I think that the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood is a fabulous place to visit with the family and I think that there is something for people of all ages. The address is:
V&A Museum of Childhood
Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9PA
and you can find out lots more by visiting the website at:
Summary: A great day out!