Regress into the V & A Museum of Childhood
Remarkably informative, well-curated and thought-provoking, the V & A Museum of Childhood will bring out your inner child and mature your kids’ view of the world.
Childhood: the supposed domain of the innocent free from the tainting effects of the outside world. What is better to represent this than the innocuous toy? Of course, the battleground of socio-political adult concerns does find its way into the home of the rosy-cheeked. From dolls’ houses, to toy guns, robots, and rocking horses, there is always a subtext to toys that illustrates not only the history of childhood itself, but also the history of ideals. What do we want our children to aspire to? Whatever we respond to this question defines which toys we give our children. If I am determined to fight for the freedom of my constitutional rights in a time of upheaval, I shall give Jimmy a toy rifle to show him that fighting has merits. If I know that marriage is the only way to secure a respectable status in my society, then I shall give little Jemima a dolls’ house to teach her how to run a household with servants properly. If I am convinced that technology is the way forward for society and the development of the human race, then Mary will get a robotics kit. Childhood museum is the place to be.
The V&A Museum of childhood responds to notion in a considered, aware and engaging manner and has taken its rightful place as the official London toy museum. The breadth of their toys and childhood memorabilia throughout the ages is truly impressive. Although under the ownership of the V & A for the better part of 40 years, it has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment and was opened in its current form to the public in 2006. However, it is not a museum aimed mostly at adults despite the complex and thought-provoking implications of many of its exhibits. The 1974 director of the V&A collections established the space as a specialist museum of childhood ‘to enable everyone, especially the young, to explore and enjoy the designed world, in particular objects made for and made by children.’ As such, it flourishes in its activities aimed at children. Although it has some stiff competition in terms of educational family activities, it is the #1 museum in this regard. Without fail, every day there is at least one workshop going on. The base line is their arts and crafts session from 2-4pm in the Creativity Gallery that takes place every day of the week, with all manner of additional exciting goings-on to engage the little ones with. Past activities have included crochet circles, regular theatre performances, soft toy workshops, and they have a Haunted Museum at Night event once a month. Particularly impressive are their Montessori Family Packs and their Montessori Parenting Course which pushes the boundaries of standard museum engagement with the edification of the public. Also know as the museum of childhood.
So, what can you expect to find here? The open-plan museum on two floors is divided into four galleries in keeping with traditional Victorian displaying methods. These cover the umbrella topics of Moving Toys, Creativity, Childhood, and the Front Room that features temporary exhibitions. Each section has something exciting to find and learn about with a few highlights that are worth looking out for. There’s a stunning model of a Japanese palace amongst the dolls’ houses display (alongside the previously hinted at dolls house from the 18th century that was intended to teach girls how to run a household), some very cool tin robots, some unusual peep shows (not the ones you’re thinking of), a few highly enviable pudding hats, wondorously preserved examples of children’s clothing from the last 400 years, and superb superhero action figures. Should you get bored of looking around, there’s a wealth of interactive exhibits to mess around with including a sandpit, a jukebox, and Punch and Judy stalls. A trip to the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood is sure to please and entertain even the most difficult of Jimmies, Jemima’s and Marys (irresponsible aunts and uncles looking to vy favour with the relatives, take note).
Victoria and Albert children would certainly go here, attending the children’s museum Bethnal Green.
The V & A Museum of Childhood is located at Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9PA
The Museum of Childhood London opening hours: 10am-5.45pm every day