“ The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green in the East End of London is a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum (the "V&A"), which is the United Kingdom's national museum of applied arts. The museum was founded in 1872 as the Bethnal Green Museum, reusing a prefabricated building from Albertopolis which was replaced with some early sections of the modern V&A complex. It was used to display a variery of collections at different times, including the works which can now be seen at the Wallace Collection. In the 1920s, it began to focus on services for children, and in 1974 the director of the V&A Sir Roy Strong defined it as a specialist museum of childhood. „
V&A Museum of Childhood is an exciting museum that will entertain and hold the interest of young and old. The museum is found a 5minute walk from the Bethnal Green underground (there is no lift at this station). Many buses stop close by to the museum. We decided to drive there is not a car park for the public at the museum so you need to find a space down a side street which we did easily but you do need to pay to park. If you are disabled phone the museum as thy can organise a space to park at the museum. Please be aware that this is not near the main V&A museum. We put the museum into the SAT NAV & it took us to the main museum so we have a stressful drive through London.
The childhood museum is free which is a lovely find in London. When entering the museum there is a huge lobby where you can find the stairs and lifts. In the museum it is a hub of noise the feeling of fun and excitement oozes in here. By the entrance there is a gift shop area and then a large cafe area. Upstairs is where you will find the exhibitions. There is a lift to this floor at the front of the building. In the lobby there is a buggy park.
Do you remember The Master of the Universe? Care bears? Action Man? Then you will love it! There are so many glass cabinets full of toys from the past to present. The toys are presented at different levels in the cases so little ones have always got something to look at. The toys are clustered in groups so in one area there are puppets from Muffin the Mule to Sooty. There are teddy bears ranging from Steiff to care bears. Dools houses, action figures such as Action man, Power Rangers from 1994, He-man, star wars I could go on and on. The part I loved was the dolls houses. I remember mine as. Child that my dad made& my mum made all the furniture for.
There are lots of hands on activities for little ones to do. In the rocking horse& ride on toy section there is a rocking horse that they can try. Reminded me of the ride on donkey I had for years. There was a wooden train set that my son sat playing with for a long time. There were bricks which lots of children were building towers with. This is a lovely way to introduce your child to the world of museums.
As you would expect this museum is very child friendly. Downstairs there is a quiet room which can be used for prayer but there are seats in there if a mum wants to breastfeed in privacy although they welcome breastfeeding in the museum. The toilets were very clean which I thought was a miracle considering the amount of children!
The museum cafe offers a range of food from soup to cake. It is quite pricey but they have different offers depending upon the day. It is very busy in the cafe so can be hard to find a seat. They have facilities for bottle warming. We sat in the lovely gardens to have our flask of soup. If it is raining ask at the desk and staff can sometimes offer you a space to sit in a room. They are very friendly and helpful so worth asking if you have any enquiries.
The gift shop had some lovely toys and books that I had not seen elsewhere. There were some small pieces up to quite pricey toys. Some things did seem quite over priced but then the museum is free to get in.
Before visiting the museum check there website as they have some exhibitions that change. There are also a lot of events throughout the year. They also offer regular hands on activities for little ones. They open at 10am and close at 5.45pm. We spent two hours in there. If there was an activity/event going on it would have been a longer visit. Great for a wet morning if you live close by.
A great trip down memory lane for hubby and I. A kids paradise!
For a long time I had heard about the Museum of Childhood in London, but in my imagination it was a small, dark and musty museum with limited interest. I couldn't have been more wrong; a school trip took me there for a day with forty 16 year olds, and I can reliably say that everybody had an entertaining and informative time in this light, airy and free interactive museum.
The museum is a fascinating collection of everything to do with childhood; toys from across the ages, original examples of children's clothing, extravagant and enormous dolls houses, games, puppets and puppet shows, and much more. There will be things that you recognise from your own childhood, whatever your age - there will be things that you always wanted but never had. It will make you feel a bit sad and nostalgic but at the same time it will excite and entertain you.
The Museum of Childhood started life in 1872 as the Bethnal Green Museum. A notice by the café informs visitors that the unusual black and white fish scale marble floor was laid by female prisoners in that year. Since then the Museum has gradually evolved to become the child welcoming and child-centred place it is today; reorganised to become more child focussed in 1922 with the addition of teachers and classrooms, it started to source child-related objects.
Over the following 23 years the childhood area of the museum became more and more popular and in 1974 it formally became the Museum of Childhood. All childhood related objects from other areas of the V&A were relocated to Bethnal Green and non-childhood related objects were moved out.
From 2005 to 2006 the museum was closed for a massive refurbishment, with new entrance, lifts and improved access. The result is traditional but at the same time bright and modern - a very attractive museum that children love and which attracts over 400,000 visitors every year.
We gathered our group inside the large entrance lobby. This area is bright and tastefully decorated with a green and cream décor with 3 large fun mobiles hanging down in front of the wide entrance to the galleries. The cream marble floor gives the museum a very European feel and was a comfortable place for us to instruct our students and present the tasks.
The lobby also has a designated buggy park area. This is not secure but a member of uniformed staff was drifting around in the area which gave parents some reassurance.
In this area we were welcomed by a designated member of staff, who gave the students an overview of the museum, with a hint of what to look out for. This talk was very appropriate for the age group, reminding them to look carefully inside the dolls house display as this gives a good indication of the way in which houses were actually arranged and decorated through the ages.
We were told where to leave coats and bags, and then left to our own devices.
Walking through the large main doors into the galleries, I was immediately hit by the height and the bright airy space. I was also hit by the noise; the place was very full of excited children, most of them very young and all of them with very excited voices. Undeterred, my teenage students plunged inside, heading straight up the stairs to the top galleries which contained the Childhood galleries. Each section of the childhood galleries explores a different aspect of childhood; how babies were cared for, the changes in children's clothing, what is the meaning of a home. These galleries are the most historical in the museum, housing objects from all eras. I was horribly fascinated by the glass breast pump and feeding bottles, but there were also high chairs and perambulators. Many of the toys in this area were very familiar to me, reinforcing the way in which girls of my generation were limited to toys that reproduced housewifely life - I recognised my old toy hoover, cooker, mangle and toy sewing machine.
The Ground floor galleries were much busier - the younger children were having a lovely time in this more interactive area. This floor holds the moving toys gallery on one side and the creativity gallery on the other. We all loved looking at the toys in both of these areas and recognising them from our own childhoods. How I longed for a Rolf Harris stylophone in the sixties - and why would my mum never buy me a Space Hopper? My colleague greeted Sindy and Barbie with great joy.
Some very odd dolls and golliwogs can be seen in the display of toys from around the world - some of them from China and Japan many of our students found rather scary and sinister.
Children of all ages enjoyed the interactive games area - this included a dance game, a reactions game and a virtual cycle race. There are also timed organised art and craft activities in this area for children. A firm favourite with smaller children was the interactive robot - winding his handle and putting a complicated set of cogs into place resulted in this life sized robot whirring into life with flashing lights, moving parts and whirring noises. The smaller children were ecstatic.
The two floors are connected by four sets of stairs and every gallery opens out into the central well so that you can look down onto the café courtyard and the book / toy shop below. Each gallery is fully accessible by lift and there are lots of seats and benching for weary parents.
In the basement we were shown the Clore Learning centre, where my college had a timed slot to sit down on the tables to eat a packed lunch. This area can also be used as a teaching area, and I saw around 3 other school parties apart from ours, all making good use of the area. The coats and bags that we had left were left in this area - again not secure, but put in large plastic bins which ran along one side of the room.
~~Toilets and other facilities ~~
Toilets are located in the basement. There are spacious male and female toilets both with baby changing facilities and low sinks and toilets for children. There were enough cubicles in the ladies to accommodate the noisy primary school party who had a group wee just before I went in - from memory there were about 10 cubicles and no queue, which is always nice.
Of the three hand driers in the ladies, one was out of order. Although the area was fairly clean, there was a lingering unpleasant smell, which my male colleague confirmed was also the case in the male toilets.
There is one disabled toilet which is kept locked. It is opened with a RADAR key or you can ask an assistant for key. Unfortunately the nearest assistant and key was back upstairs, which I thought could have been a bit annoying if you had come all the way down in a wheelchair.
In the interests of review writing, I also put my head around the door of the Quiet Room. This held a bed, sink and chair and was obviously designed for those who were overcome by the noise and excitement of the museum.
A member of staff immediately noticed my interest and rushed over to see if I was feeling OK. He was very kind and concerned and I thought this was an excellent indication of the helpfulness and professionalism of all the staff there.
I had previously chatted to a lovely lady who was counting and welcoming people in the foyer. She was delightful, chatting to everybody and singing beautiful opera to herself during quieter moments.
Every member of staff I met was smiling and welcoming, from the curator who greeted, welcomed and organised our party to the servers in the canteen.
The café is located right in the centre of museum so parents can sit and have a coffee while keeping an eye on children who may be roaming the galleries. This café is apparently the "award winning benugo café" and prides itself on handmade and authentic products.
Although all of the food looked extremely good quality and very fresh and tempting, the prices were definitely on the high side. I had a very delicious and good value latte for £2.30, but balked at paying £4.50 for the cheapest sandwich, even though it was a delicious looking ciabatta.
A sausage roll cost £3.10; the spinach roulade or quiche £4.10 and salad an extra £1.50. The café offered smaller, cheaper portions for children and there were free bottles of tap water on every table.
The café sold exceptionally healthy products considering that its main clientele were children. They did not succumb to any fast food or sugary drinks. They sold small boxes of raisin snacks and healthy fresh fruit pots for snacks.
In good weather visitors can use the picnic tables outside to eat packed lunches.
I would highly recommend this for a day out with or without children, and I wished I had taken my own boys there when they were younger. We spent 2 hours there and were fully occupied the whole time, and this was without engaging in any of the organised activities.
The museum is very interesting, very child focussed and obviously has put a lot of thought and effort into making it a really good day out.
~~Opening Hours and Directions ~~
Open 10am to 5.45 daily (last admission 5.30)
Entrance is Free
The museum is easily reached by tube, Bethnal Green tube station being much closer to Liverpool Street in real life than it looks on the tube map.
The museum is a few hundred yards away from the tube entrance and clearly signposted from the moment you pass through the ticket barrier.
At the moment the museum is not in the congestion charging zone, and pay and display parking is available nearby. Free on site parking for disabled visitors can be arranged.
V&A Museum of Childhood
Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9PA
Museum of Childhood
We were recently in London and because we were staying close to this museum, decided to give it a visit.
The museum is located close to Bethnal Green and Cambridge Heath tube stations; we got the tube to Bethnal Green and it took us about 10 minutes to get there. If driving to the museum, parking can be arranged for visitors with special needs; there is some parking close by but its limited. The museum is easy to find as it's a large building on a main road and clearly signposted. Once we got there, there is a large paved entrance area with a garden and metal gates separating the museum from the pavement.
--The museum and exhibits--
On entering the museum, there is a large display inside a cabinet with dolls and bears from different eras and an open display retelling a story.
Visitors then go straight into the museum which has a shop and then straight ahead the large open café which sells teas coffees, drinks and snacks. As expected this was very busy! The structure of the museum is very open plan with a ground floor, mezzanine level and first floor and one thing I noticed immediately was the beautiful fish scale pattern marble floor which was apparently laid by female inmates of Woking Gaol.
The exhibits in the museum were originally from the Great Exhibition (namely, Food and Animal Products,) South Kensington collections and a loan of 18th century French art. As time passed, members of the Royal family began to house their gifts at Bethnal Green, so it was not originally intended to a museum of childhood. It didn't become a museum of childhood until 1974, so it is incredible that it now has more than 4.5 million exhibits from 1600s to the present day in 145 galleries.
Many of the exhibits are housed in glass cases, usually covering themes such as Superheroes, dolls houses, and clothes. Each glass case has an explanation of what is inside the case and because there are several objects in each case there is plenty to look at and comment on. Because of our age, Himself and I were especially liking the toys from the 70s, and it was nice to reminisce and try to remember the names of some of the tv characters and the toys we used to play with. There are some incredible dolls houses, which Little Miss enjoyed looking at.
Walking along the two upper levels and there is plenty to interest visitors, such as the sensory area, dressing up area, sand pit, games area and if anyone wants a rest, there are comfy seats and quiet areas dotted about.
One of my favourites was the fairytale area. Here visitors walk through different rooms depicting various fairytales and inside the different rooms are dressing up clothes and artefacts so that children can act out fairytales. There is also an area with interactive optical illusion displays and a magic exhibition as well as a puppet theatre.
Address: Cambridge Heath Road London E2 9PA
E mail: email@example.com
Open 10.00-17.45 Monday-Sunday (last admission 17.30)
Closed 24, 25 and 26 December and 1 January every year
This is a very interesting museum with lots to look at and talk about. There is plenty for children to do and one of the things I liked were the quiet areas and the games area where games were set out on tables ready for children to play.
Admission to the museum is free, drinks in the café aren't ridiculously expensive and there is a picnic area on a lower level so families can bring in their own food if they want a free day out.
A recommended museum for anyone to visit if in the area.
Thanks for reading
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:
Are you looking for somewhere different to go, easy to get to, a place where there’s plenty to keep children (and adults) entertained, where you can play, learn, remember, spend a day – all for free? This is how the Bethnal Green Museum of childhood describes themselves and I couldn’t have said it better. This place is BRILLIANT!!! It’s a wonderful place for adults who can look at the toys and reminisce and also for children to have fun and learn (even though it doesn’t seem like learning to them!). If this museum was in central London (although it’s easy to get to) it would be packed to the seams. Ok, so lets take a little tour……………. ~~THE BUILDING~~ The building is an imposing red brick structure on Cambridge Heath Road easily visible from the road, and is grade 2 listed. It has a quirky sign above the door which reminds you of children’s toys but doesn’t quite fit in with the building. Infront of the museum is a picnic area with tables and benches where on dry days you can sit, the area is very clean. Inside the building is huge, light and airy and very well looked after. ~~THE HISTORY~~ The Bethnal Green museum was opened by HRH the Prince of Wales on 24th June 1872 although the intention was to depict local life that never happened. There were a number of exhibits including one on food and another on animal products; showing what useful things could be made of fur and feathers. In 1923 a special children’s exhibition was established which was the start of the current collection. The museum is actually a department of the Victoria and Albert museum. Any restoration work on display pieces is done at the V&A. The museum has had its fair share of celebrity visitors, one was Van Gogh who visited between 1873-1875. ~~THE GROUND FLOOR~~ All the exhibits are housed in enormous glass
cabinets which make viewing very easy (even when there’s little fingerprints on the glass from over enthusiastic viewers!!). One of the most impressive collections is the first that you will see as you enter the museum - the Dolls House Collection. The houses range in sizes, some are enormous and have so much detail that it takes ages to take it all in. The oldest is the Nuremberg Dolls house from 1673. The museum has thought of everything and kindly provides cushion pads to place on the floor so that you can view in comfort. Whilst I was there I saw three boys (all aged about 8-12) sitting on them looking at the houses – this was a lovely thing to see as usually a TV screen is the only thing to get such rapt attention!! Parents were cleverly using the houses to teach the children and asking questions such as what do you think that is? and what do you think it was like to live in that house? (very smart, the kids had no idea they were getting a history lesson!!). There actually is a “boys” dolls house which is called Dingley Hall, this was made for 2 boys and is absolutely fascinating, there’s a grand staircase, a nursery full of children and even its own chapel. The houses range from the 1700’s to a modern dolls house from 1999, the Charles Rennie MacIntosh House made to celebrate the millennium and as a tribute to the architect himself. Some of the dolls houses are huge and some are smaller single rooms such as the one depicting Martin Luther and the Christmas Tree. This comprises of 2 little rooms, which look like scenes from Christmas cards. Martin Luther (religious reformer) is believed to have started the tradition of Christmas trees. He was walking through a pine forest when he saw stars twinkling through the branches and he thought how nice it would be to set one up at home. He used candles to depict the stars. (See you’ve learnt something already!!). Another display well worth
a mention is the 2 Chinese rock gardens, made from ivory, shell, wood and even kingfisher feathers. The scenes depict Chinese people fishing, boating etc amongst wonderful trees, flowers and insects. Originally part of a gift from the Emperor of China to Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife. The museum is undergoing some major changes and the dolls houses are eventually being moved upstairs. I have made my own contribution to this part of the museum. In the depths of my flat I have some toys dating back to my youth and as I wasn't a destructive child they're nigh on perfect. Amongst my toys was a dolls house which was called Jennys house. They were made in the early 60's and were plastic rooms that you bought and built up a house as big or small as you liked. I had 2 units complete in original perfect boxes with loads of furniture from the age, again in excellent condition. I could have sold the items but I liked the idea of children getting to see them on display so I offered them to the mueseum. I have to say they were very excited by them as not many survived. So if you go look out for Jennys house donated by ......moi!! ~~UPPER LEVEL~~ I’ve named this level the upper level as its only 2 or 3 steps or a ramp to get to it. On my last visit there was a section closed for renovation but it didn’t detract from the other hundreds of exhibits. This floor houses dolls from all centuries, even the classic such as Barbie, Cindy and the Cabbage patch dolls are here. There are also mechanical toys and toy theatres and puppets galore. In a central position is a Marionette theatre made in Venice in the 18th Century. My favourite puppets are 2 Japanese Bunraku puppets, which need 3 men to operate them. One operates the head and right arm, one the left arm and the final one operates the feet of male puppets (females don’t have feet!!). The operators are visible and dress totally in black; they stand beh
ind and slightly lower than the puppets. It takes years to learn the art. Around the corner past all the puppets are housed the train sets, meccano, Lego and something I haven’t seen for years – hobby horses!! There are loads of other things I haven’t mentioned but needless to say every sort of toy from modern to old is represented somewhere. There are even some displays, which can be operated on the insertion of 20 pence and are well worth the money as they’re very funny. One of the machines tests your daring, are you brave or not!!?? ~~UPPER FLOOR~~ The Upper floor is divided into sections: Learning Days Breaking Away The Early Years ~~Learning Days/The Early Years~~ This section covers how children first learn, for example by “lets pretend”. There are tea sets, sewing machines and even a toy flymo!! In the centre of the floor are interactive toys that children can actually play with. There's such things as a tiny synagogue with all the males on the ground floor and all the ladies in their best hats upstairs, its all done in wonderful detail and there's a description of what everything is next to the synagogue. ~~Breaking Away~~ This section seems to reflect social history. There are wonderful displays of clothing including some from wartime and school uniforms. My personal favourite was a fancy dress “Christmas Cake” outfit (dated 1929) which is hilarious and even had a hat shaped like a Christmas pudding! There’s also a huge array of cradles, prams and baby walkers’ etc. There's even a child’s wardrobe that looks like a dolls house. At the end of this section is a very painful looking item which is apparently a birthing chair as used in 15th Century, you’re invited to try it out…Emmm…I think not! The final section upstairs is where children can sit and re
ad or listen to stories being told, its very spacious and has plenty of seating and desks. ~~THE SHOP~~ Located in the center of the ground floor the small shop sells souvenirs of the museums such as pencils (25 pence),rubbers (40 pence) and books, teddies etc There are plenty of dolls house items from little bibles to pots and pens. I was struck by a moment of nostalgia when I spotted paper dress up dolls, you have a choice including – the bride, Miss Emily and Lady Jane, unfortunately the price wasn’t nostalgic at £5.95!! ~~THE CAFÉ~~ Located near the shop for when you need a break. Limited menu includes: Tea 85p Capuccinno £1.25 Can of drink 75p Sandwiches from £1.50-£2.15 Children’s lunchbox: fruit, sandwich, carton of drink and chocolate bar £2.45 ~~OTHER INFORMATION~~ Toilets (very clean and well looked after). Ramps and lifts to give access to wheelchairs, anyone with any other special needs can phone in advance and the museum will assist. Guided tours for adult groups, must be booked in advance. Children’s holiday events and Saturday workshops Jump Around (for under 5’s) – Let the children loose in a soft play zone, open every weekend. Parents/guardians must supervise but there are complimentary weekend newspapers to keep you occupied. £1.50 for 40 minutes session. Children’s birthday parties from £6 a head. ~~COST/HOW TO GET THERE/OPENING HOURS ETC~~ The cost? – An astonishing NOTHING!! Yes it’s free!! There is a collection box in the entrance and I think its well worth a contribution to keep this magnificent museum running. Address is: Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green E2. Nearest Tube is Bethnal Green tube on the central line. Exit the ticket barrier take a sharp right go up the steps and follo
w your nose in one minute you're there. Bus: 8 from Victoria via Oxford St to Bethnal Green road or Roman Road. 106, 253, 309 and D6 to Cambridge Heath Road. Ask for the stop nearest the tube station. Open: 10am to 17.50pm. Closed Fridays and also 24-26th Dec and 1st Jan. Info line: (24 hours) 020 89802415. Website: www.museumofchildhood.org.uk GO ON RECAPTURE YOUR YOUTH, GO ON, GO ON, GO ON………(sorry couldn't do the Irish accent!).