Despite the name, the V&A Museum of Childhood is a place for all ages. Located in Bethnal Green, the Museum of Childhood is a museum both for children and about adolescence. Founded in 1872 as the Bethnal Green Museum, its collection is the largest amount of childhood objects in the United Kingdom, featuring over 26,000 pieces of art, literature, clothing, toys, and more, including toys that date from 1300 BC and clothing from 1600 AD. More than galleries and collections, the Museum of Childhood offers visitors of all ages a chance to participate and the reminisce. We’ve identified ten things we think you should see and do in the V&A Museum of Childhood, and you can let us know your favorite collections and exhibits in the comments.
Not sure what you want to see when you get to the museum? Well the V&A has that problem solved. If you pick up one of the welcome cards from the information desk once you go in, it will have a piece of the collection on it. The card will tell you what the object is, where to find it, and give you some suggestions for how to experience it once you get there.
Think you need to go to the playground or the beach to give your child the chance to play in the sand? Well, the Museum of Childhood has you set by offering its very own sandpit on the second floor. It might be pretty small, but it’s a day at the beach for small children, complete with buckets, spades, and other toys that will give them plenty to do.
Babies and Childhood Clothes
As mentioned before, the oldest clothing item in the Museum of Childhood’s collection dates back to 1600. The babies and childhood clothes collections include vital clothing items from that century forward, allowing you to see how things like onesies (called “sleepsuits” in the UK), shoes, diapers, dress clothes, and more have evolved over time. The museum has over 6,000 articles of clothing and accessories for you to see.
Of course, a lot of kids don’t find staring at exhibits to be very fun, so the Museum of Childhood has plenty of activities from day-to-day in which visitors can engage. Whether it’s engaging in storytelling, building your own Punch and Judy puppet, crafting a crafty alligator toy, coloring, or even making your own Clanger ears, the V&A will make certain that your child isn’t bored.
Undeniably toys and a desire to play are part of childhood, letting us explore our imaginations to create our own universes or discover who we want to be. The Museum of Childhood’s collection includes toys from as far back as 1300 BC and more modern playthings such as board games, construction toys, dolls, plush animals, and more. Going through the collection will help you see how children have played in all ages.
Delve into Stories
Stories and children’s literature are well represented at the Museum of Childhood. Beyond examples of books from over the decades, more interactive exhibits include one dedicated to author Michael Morpurgo, responsible for such works as War Horse. The exhibit not only includes his notes and manuscripts but also examples of the works of all the artists who have contributed to his novels over the years.
Doll House Collection
One of the top things to see at the V&A Museum of Childhood is the Doll House Collection. The collection includes over 100 different dolls’ houses from different eras, displaying how children of different eras and social status played out their lives on a small scale. You’ll find houses that are very simple to those that are quite ornate, including one that was a sixth birthday present to Queen Elizabeth II.
Part of the dollhouse collection, “Place (Village)” is an art exhibit from Rachel Whiteread that features a “community” of over 150 dollhouses placed to resemble a hodge-podge village. Whiteread collected the houses for over 20 years, and all of them together will make you think that you’re looking at a model village instead of a collection of children’s playsets.
Good Time Galleries
Located next to the sandpit, the Good Time Galleries are about fun and how it has been experienced by children over the centuries. Besides the aforementioned sandpit, there’s a jukebox, interactive Punch and Judy stalls where children can play with the puppets, and items from fairs and circuses of years past. However, children have had fun can be found in this part of the museum.
If you want to be part of the Museum of Childhood’s future, you should check out the Open Studio. Launched as part of the museum’s transformation plans, the Open Studio offers visitors a chance to engage in some potential new additions to the museum. This can certainly be fun for visitors, and it helps the museum to figure out what works.