Traveling with children provides a unique opportunity for their education. They can learn so much more through first hand experience than by books alone or in a classroom setting. During our travels, we always try to find a way for the kids to learn something new by experiencing it for themselves. For your visit to Amsterdam with children, I have put together to a list of educational opportunities to take advantage of while there. I think these ideas provide a range of learning options that will entertain as well as educate them.
5 Ways to Educate Children in Amsterdam:
1. Anne Frank House – One of the best educational experiences for my kids during our recent trip to Amsterdam was a visit to the Anne Frank House. It is definitely an emotional experience, so kids need to be older and able to understand what they are seeing. K (11) said that even though it was sad, it was one of the best museums he has toured. I think Anne Frank’s age makes her more relatable to children and provides a unique way to teach children about WWII, the Holocaust and life in Europe at that time.
To prepare for our trip, we watched Youtube videos on Anne Frank and discussed some of the history surrounding her story. I considered reading Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl with the kids prior to our visit but didn’t have time. However, the kids think it’s better to read it after the visit. Either way, the diary will help tie the entire experience together.
Walking into the first section of the Anne Frank Museum, we watched a video showing Anne Franks life before and during the war. Each floor provided a unique look into the life of Anne Frank, her family and the other occupants and workers of the building in which she hid. The warehouse workers were not aware that the Jewish family was hiding in the attic, only the four helpers were entrusted with the secret.
We walked through the warehouse, offices, storeroom and the landing with the movable bookcase which concealed the door to the annex where the families hid. Throughout the museum, quotes from Anne Frank’s diary, photographs, family objects and videos are displayed for visitors. Lucy was intrigued with all the quotations throughout and made it her mission to read each one to us. Some provoked questions from Lucy that we tried, with difficulty, to answer.
Later we passed into the hiding place and visited the rooms of the eight inhabitants. Many features of the annex have been preserved including the growth lines from Anne and her sister Margot on the wall in Otto, Edith and Margot Frank’s room.
After exploring the annex, we walked through a passageway to the front of the house. Here we watched the story of Hanneli Goslar, friend of Anne Frank, as she recounts her conversation with Anne before her death in the concentration camp. Next was a video of Otto Frank, the only survivor of the eight inhabitants. Finally, we saw the diary which also included passages from the books she read and short stories she composed.
On July 6, 1942, Anne Frank and her family go into hiding in the building where Otto Frank’s business is located. A week later another family joins them. Four months later, the final inhabitant arrives in the annex. Here they lived until August 4, 1944 after having been betrayed by someone still unknown. Seven of the inhabitants die in the camps. On June 25, 1947, Otto Frank published his daughters diary. The diary has since been publish in more than 60 languages.
Tip – Book tickets online! I can’t stress enough how important this is. Even before COVID, this was a necessity. You can start booking tickets approximately 2 months in advance.
2. Rijksmuseum – The Rijksmuseum is the largest art museum in the Netherlands, opening in it’s current location in 1885. The building housing the Rijksmuseum is a stunning piece of artwork in itself. Take time to examine the massive structure before venturing inside.
The Rijksmuseum houses 8,000 artistic and historical objects covering 800 years of Dutch history. You’ll find collections from the 12th century to the present. Each floor of the museum features collections from different time periods starting from 1100-1600 on the ground floor all the way up to 1950 – 2000 on the 3rd floor.
Rijksmuseum features masterpieces such as Night Watch by Rembrandt and Milkmaid by Vermeer. But there is so much more to see in than just these two artists. Rijksmuseum boasts four levels of artwork, furniture, porcelain, sculptures, tapestry, furniture, wood ships and so much more. You could easily spend an entire day exploring the vast collections held within it’s walls.
With kids, an entire day at the museum just isn’t going to happen. You need to plan what you want to see most and not try to see everything. After you’ve visited the top collections on your list, you can stroll through the remaining museum collections at your leisure or for as long as the kids patience holds. We spent a little over 2 hours here.
While I would have preferred longer, the kids attention was starting to fade. We did make the mistake of walking from our apartment in the Jordaan neighborhood. In hindsight, we should have taken the tram. The kids would have been a little less exhausted.
My first tip is to pick up the “Family Tips” guide from the information desk. It looks similar to the “Floor Plan” adults receive, but this guide is designed especially for children. Inside are suggested routes, games and activities to keep kids involved in the museum exploration. There are even spots for drawing some on your favorite pieces which Lucy took full advantage of.
I recommend starting your visit on floor 2. Come in through the Great Hall and move through the Gallery of Honor into the Night Watch Room. This is the most visited part of the museum, so arrive early if you can. You can then head right (toward 2.15) making a circle back to the Great Hall. You’ll pass by coins and medals, doll houses and more. The route should take approximately 45 minutes. If you have extra time, view the Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters painting by Hendrick Avercamp in section 2.6, one of Lucy’s favorites.
Next, head down to floor 1. We didn’t spend a lot of time here. If you need to eliminate part of your visit, you could skip this level. However, we did find the Haarlem Period Room in 1.7, Waterloo in 1.12, and Van Gogh in 1.18 particularly interesting.
The ground floor or level 0 will probably hold a lot of interest for kids. My kids eyes start to glaze over after they’ve seen too many paintings. Each side of the ground floor will take approximately 30 minutes, so save an hour of your schedule if possible. We started at 0.1, housing Geertgen Tot Sint-Jans religious works and moved onto the Weepers statues in 0.4 to Italian renaissance in 0.5.
If the kids won’t last an hour, I think heading to the left side of your map toward the Special Collections would hold the most interest for young visitors. This wing will captivate typical boys with weapons in 0.12 and girls with fashion and jewelry in 0.9. We also found the vast display’s of keys fascinating. What did these keys access? Who once possessed them?
We didn’t even make it to the 3rd floor housing collections from modern times. There are aircraft on this level, so if you have a child particularly interested in flight, you might want to add this to your itinerary.
One thing I loved about the Rijksmuseum was the Information Boards available for some of the artwork. Both kids would pick up a board that identifies objects “hidden” within the masterpiece. It was a great way to get the kids interested in the art. The kids took a more detailed look at each piece teaching them that art is more than what is seen at first glance.
The Picknickroom located on the ground floor of the Rijksmuseum is designed for children to draw for free and even to eat snacks that you’ve brought it. It is only open at select times, so plan accordingly. Guided family tours are also available for an additional 5€ pp. These must be booked at least 2 weeks in advance.
Book your tickets online! The busiest hours are 11am-2pm, so I would plan to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Kids under 18 are FREE
3. Van Gogh Museum – Located across from the Rijksmuseum, is the museum of one of my favorite artists, Van Gogh. Make a day of the arts and head to the Van Gogh Museum after visiting Rijksmuseum. I suggest stopping first to play in the park and let the kids run around, have a snack and take pictures on the I amsterdam sign. My kids needed to get their wiggles out after spending a couple hours quietly walking around the Rijksmuseum.
I think when visiting any art gallery, we all walk away with favorites of the day. A few of our favorites included Almond Blossom, Wheat Field Under Thunderclouds, Landscape at Twilight and Irises.
Keep kids involved by participating in either Vincent’s Travelling Case or Treasure Hunt. Both are free for kids ages 6 – 12 and are available at the Information Desk. If you decide to purchase the audio tour, get the family guide at the multimedia desk. The audio tour is tailored to each person’s age and is available in English and Dutch. The cost is 5€ per adult and kids ages 6 – 12 can get a free audioguide by joining their parents. We didn’t try the audio guide, but think it could be a great way to add more education to the visit.
Due to COVID, you must purchase tickets in advance. It’s all about planning to maximize your time and keep kids from getting antsy! Entrance to the Van Gogh Museum is FREE with the I amsterdam City Card. If you don’t have the card:
Kids under 18 are FREE
4. NEMO Science Museum – After studying history and art, it’s time for some fun with science and technology! NEMO has a ton of different exhibitions to keep kids excited about learning. Journey through the Mind helps kids learn about what’s going on in their brains through tests, experiments and brainteasers.
In Water World kids will learn about water treatment and the process of how it gets your tap, clean and drinkable! Another fun area is the Laboratory where kids can experiment on the hidden properties of household items such as baking powder and vinegar.
Older kids can benefit from Teen Facts where they can find answers, explanations and facts about puberty. The development of the various regions of the brain during this time in adolescents is also explained.
After exploring all the exhibitions within the museum, it’s time to head up to the roof and let kids play around at Energetica. Here they experience how energy is captured from wind, water and the sun.
Entrance to NEMO is FREE with the I amsterdam City Card. If you don’t have the card:
Kids under 4 years are FREE
Again, you must now reserve a time online
5. Food Tour – My kids love to eat and they will listen to pretty much anything if you’re feeding them. Not only did we eat amazing foods like poffertjes, baka bana, gouda, and herring, we learned some of the interesting history of Amsterdam as well. We learned about the historical sights of the Jordaan neighborhood with a knowledgeable guide all while sampling local Dutch favorites.
Read our Amsterdam Food Tour Review to learn more about Eating Amsterdam Tours.
In addition to these 5 ways to educate children in Amsterdam, I have a few other suggestions if you have more time in the city. We were crunched for time on our recent visit, so we didn’t get through all the places on my list.
Walking the streets of Amsterdam instead of taking public transport is an education in itself. Did you know there are about 1,500 bridges in Amsterdam? Or that the large arm and hook on top of the buildings are for hauling up goods to the upper floors? Or the metal strips on some stairs are “bike slides”? Amsterdam is a city built for bikes after all.
Exploring some of the neighborhoods outside of the city center would also be great for kids. We loved the look of the Oud-Zuid area where the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum are located. If you have time to visit the Artis Royal Zoo, plan to spend the rest of the day exploring the De Plantage area possibly taking time to see the Rembrandt Museum while there.
If you have an I amsterdam City Card, I’d recommend the following as further educational opportunities:
- Canal cruise
- Artis Royal Zoo
- Hortus Botanicus – Botanical Garden
- Het Scheepvaartmuseum – National Maritime Museum
Should you get the I amsterdam City Card?
If you’re planning to spend time in Amsterdam, you should consider the I amsterdam City Card. Make a list of places you would like to visit and see if you’ll save money with the card. ou’ll get free entry to Amsterdam’s best museums and attractions. Plus enjoy free, unlimited use of the GVB public transport (bus, tram & metro.)
The admission price at the NEMO and Van Gogh Museum together are 32€ meaning you are already halfway to the card price with just those 2 locations. If you were to also visit the zoo (20.50€), take a canal cruise (16€), and have 72 hours of GVB transport (17€) then you would have spent 85.50€, making the card worth the money. See what’s included with the I amsterdam City Card to make the decision that’s best for your family.
Since discounts are available for children at most museums, I don’t recommend a card for children under 10 years old.
Do you have other ways to educate children in Amsterdam? Please share your tips on visiting Amsterdam with kids!
Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary tickets to Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House as well as an I amsterdam City Card to facilitate this article while visiting Amsterdam with kids. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and may differ from others.
NEMO Photo Credit: iamsterdam.com