Science and fun don’t have to be oxymoronic. Forget head-achingly boring textbook-based lessons – these museums house science exhibits so engaging and immersive that they seamlessly blend play with education.
Show kids that science can be fun for everyone by visiting one of these incredible museums around the world on your next family trip.
A piece of art, a puzzle or a playground? © Marina Bay Sands
Play where art and science collide
A cutting-edge fusion of science and art, ArtScience Museum in Singapore is, hyperbole aside, a mind-blowing interactive space that will captivate adults and children alike. In this museum, the visitor becomes part of the exhibit, not merely a participant. Stand under a digital waterfall, watch your children’s sea creature designs come alive and swim in a digital aquarium, and let the kids throw themselves into an enormous pit of glowing balls that change colour when bumped.
‘Magic’ might be the word your whippersnappers gasp when entering the permanent exhibition, Future World: Where Art Meets Science – but no, it’s science, and thanks to technology they can draw cars that come to life on screens in front of them and move when poked, or create a spaceship that flies over a town designed by youngsters. The question is, how will you get the kids to leave?
Enter a world of wonder and imagination
London’s Science Museum has been encouraging people to explore how the world works for over 150 years. The museum has evolved over time to meet the changing needs of the public, which is demonstrated by the creative and immersive Wonderlab gallery.
Wonderlab is the kind of place that makes kids quiver with excitement when they enter – what to see and do first? Participate in live experiments, tinker in the maths zone, learn about forces on a set of giant slides or lie under a twinkling evening sky? Wonderlab inspires kids to think like scientists and fires their imaginations in the process.
The vibrant exhibits at Questacon will wow kids © Christine Knight
Question everything you know
Canberra’s Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre is a hive of activity. Small feet bolt up and down the spiral ramp that leads guests past various galleries to a water-themed exhibit on the ground floor. Tiny hands manipulate experiments, including an earthquake simulator, a giant free-fall slide and an air-hockey robot waiting for its next challenger.
Questacon raises as many questions as it answers, leaving its visitors abuzz with the possibilities for their next great discovery. We also love that mini-scientists aged six and under are catered for with their own zone for exploring water play and constructing a futuristic city.
Get curious! The natural world awaits
Dive into the natural world at CosmoCaixa in Barcelona. ‘Touch’ is the order of the day inside this hands-on natural science museum, with exhibits that include an Amazonian rainforest complete with crocodiles and live piranhas (maybe keep your hands off those); a ‘geological wall’ made of real rock, which illustrates the world’s different geological segments; and a planetarium to whizz kids on a journey through space.
Try an experiment or two in the family science lab, learn about science through games and get a lesson in which animals and plants are safe to touch. The sound telescope outside in the Plaça de la Ciència is not to be missed.
Contemplate a creature 100 million years older than you are in New York © Christine Knight
Roar into the prehistoric past
Only one of the largest museums in the world would be able to accommodate one of the largest dinosaur fossils ever discovered. Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York, the American Museum of Natural History’s colossal collection includes crowd-pleasing favourites such as the stegosaurus, triceratops and tyrannosaurus rex – as well as extinct mammal relatives including mammoths, mastodons, sabre-toothed cats and giant ground sloths.
The star of the show, however, is undoubtedly the cast of a 122ft-long dinosaur named ‘Titanosaur’. Even in these cavernous halls, the massive dino’s head pokes out into the next gallery – welcoming guests, or trying to escape? You decide!
Blast off into space
At the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam, the new Life in the Universe exhibit takes visitors on a voyage to the stars. Touch a real 4.6 billion-year-old meteorite and protect Earth from outer-space dangers in an interactive game, using your shield to guard the planet from meteorites, comets and UV radiation. This visit into space will teach kids all about where life came from and our place in the galaxy.
Choo-choo-choose the Deutsches Museum for a family day out © Deutsches Museum
Discover plane, trains and automobiles
Little transport fans will lose their minds over the sheer number of cars, trains and planes inside the Munich-based Deutsches Museum. The world’s largest museum of science and technology is home to a mind-boggling collection of all forms of mechanical transport, covering road, maritime, rail, aeronautics and astronautics.
Highlights include a professional flight simulator (sorry, no hands on the wheel! It’s for demonstrations only) and the 42m-long U1 submarine, which was dismantled and reassembled inside the museum. Kids aged three to eight will love the Kids’ Kingdom; in this section, you’ll find science-based play such as pulleys, large Lego bricks, a giant guitar, lights and optics.
See the universe on display
At the Mind Museum in the Philippines science truly does come alive for children, who flock inside to explore exhibitions on everything from the smallest thing in the universe (the atom) to the largest (space). The mini-planetarium in the Universe Gallery is particularly helpful in bringing the wonders of the universe to life for kids. Want to inspire the scientists of tomorrow? The Technology Gallery focuses on how mankind’s high-tech gadgets and advancements can help us evolve to become better human beings.
See the world differently at the Exploratorium © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu
Stimulate your senses with science experiments
Take your tiny tornadoes to experience the real deal at the renowned Exploratorium in San Francisco. Less museum, more interactive extravaganza, each of the six galleries covers a different area, from understanding human phenomena – where experiments focus on how we think and feel – to investigating the world around us.
Play with light, sound, electricity and the elements at a dizzying array of activity stations. Whip up your own tornado in a cylinder where fog meets fans (and small human beings). Within the 650 hands-on exhibits lie the answers to many questions curious kids have been hounding their parents with for years, which means Mum and Dad can finally stop Googling!