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Music boxes and Old Masters at the Mauritshuis Museum, a child friendly museum in The Hague, Netherlands

Mauitshuis

Stepping into the Mauritshuis, The Hague’s collection of art from the Dutch Golden Age, is like walking into the lavish drawing room of your Great Aunt. The sleek wooden surfaces of its panelled walls and ornate fireplaces offset the heavy, velveteen scent hanging in the air. Even without the Old Masters, the flock wallpaper itself is a treasure; and every room is hung with kick-ass art, like Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt, The Goldfinch by Fabritius and The Bull by Potter. The rooms are small enough to feel intimate, but like Auntie’s ‘best’ room, the hush lets you know you must not touch anything.

There were no other children at the Mauritshuis on the day of our visit, which was surprising. I’d say it was the best museum we’ve been to for helping children really engage with the art on display. Yes, there was an app which guided you through the collection (this is worth dowloading even if you’re not visiting, as it contains a feast of high-res images, with all the history to go with them). But our children – aged four and six – were mainly gripped by the family activity package we picked up at the reception desk.

Mauritshuis

The family activity package is a bag containing a set for each child: a pad, with a new activity on each page; colouring pencils; and a music box.

The activities helped our children think about art from all different angles. Hendrick Avercamp’s Ice Scene, a detailed picture of villagers skating on a frozen lake (and falling over – one woman has toppled unfortunately, with her bottom on display), is reproduced in the pad as a bare scene. The children had to study the picture up close, then put stickers in the right places on the Ice Scene in their pad.

Mauitshuis

Mauritshuis

Children can draw portraits of each other, and chose the right shades (or the wrong ones, depending on how they feel) to colour in Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Vermeer

Mauritshuis

My favourite item in the activity package was the music box. It was the old-fashioned kind, where you turn a handle and a tune plays. I won’t give away which tune it was, but you were instructed to play it in a room stuffed with pictures of people dancing, army scenes, portraits of 17th-century dignitaries, and still-life flowers. The idea was to listen to the music box, and find the picture that went with the tune. There were no right or wrong answers; it was just an exercise in connecting emotions, conjured up by the music, with paintings.

Mauritshuis

The Mauritshuis is relatively small, but its 200+ artworks are ‘all killer, no filler’ – each one a piece that cries out to be studied for a while – and I felt as though I could easily have spent a day there. But, even with carefully crafted activities, a couple of hours in a museum is plenty for our young children.

If you have older children, there’s a ‘Golden Tour’ for over-13s, with an app taking them through an interactive tour.

If you’re interested to read more about south Holland, you may like these posts:

Six stops on a south Holland road trip

A week at Strandpark Vlugtenburg

Windmills at Kinderdijk, near Rotterdam in Holland

A morning at Gouda cheese market

A day at Duinrell Wassenaar theme park

A week at Duinrell theme park with Canvas Holidays

Things to do in Leiden

  • Gouda
    A morning at Gouda cheese market

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17 Comments

  • Nichola - Globalmouse
    July 19, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Glad you had a great time, we love this little art gallery! Thank you for including a link to my post 🙂

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 19, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      It’s a pleasure!

      Reply
  • Katy
    July 19, 2016 at 8:53 am

    This looks so fun and interactive. Having visited a few galleries/museums in the Netherlands recently I think they may be the experts in making their content accessible for children. Book marking for a future trip #citytripping

    Reply
  • Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
    July 19, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    This looks great. Always fab to find a museum that is so good with children and the activity package sounds brill. I’d love to see Girl With A Pearl Earring. Sounds like something for all the family #citytripping

    Reply
  • Cathy (MummyTravels)
    July 19, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    What an amazing activity pack – someone has really thought through some ways to get kids to interact with the art and really think about it rather than simply entertaining them as parents explore. The collection sounds amazing too. Thanks for joining up with #citytripping

    Reply
  • Ahila
    July 20, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    That sounds like a family fun day at Mauritshuis. Thanks for sharing this interesting museum and the children friendly activity package there. #CityTripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 26, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      It’s a pleasure!

      Reply
  • Claire at Tin Box Traveller
    July 20, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    What a great activity pack! We’re just coming ‘into zone’ for this type of thing for Tin Box Tot which means we can start to look around ‘serious’ museums again, at least for a short while. The artwork looks amazing too #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 26, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      Ah, that’s good news. Enjoy the time while it lasts!

      Reply
  • Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays
    July 20, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Jealous, the Mauritius high on my list!
    #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 26, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      You’d love it there Catherine.

      Reply
  • Ruth
    July 22, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Oh that is nice! Having an activity package to use at the museum sound wonderful. What a way to keep children engaged (and parents at normal stress levels).

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 26, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      Yes, we actually got to see some of the artwork ourselves!

      Reply
  • Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net)
    July 23, 2016 at 12:49 am

    Love the activity pack! The museum in general seems great, but getting the young ones engaged and interested is fantastic.

    Reply
    • Nell
      July 26, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      I know – I was very impressed.

      Reply
  • Trish
    August 10, 2016 at 8:00 am

    What a fabulous gallery and I love how they engage children. I’ve wanted to visit since reading the book, The Goldfinch, and your post has whetted my appetite even more.

    Reply
    • Nell
      August 11, 2016 at 7:26 am

      You should definitely go, Trish. You’d love it.

      Reply

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