Auto. Auto. Cars!

August 22, 2012

Kids in Museums, Germany

Lately, #MuseumBaby has been obsessed with cars. It’s his favourite word of the moment, in both languages. “Auto. Auto. Cars!” is a not uncommon chain of words uttered in our house, and you should see, or rather hear, him when we’re out and about. We live in the city, after all. So we thought we should take him on a visit to the Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Technology Museum), which includes an engine shed full of trains (everything with wheels on it is a car to him) and a new permanent exhibition all about road traffic.

The engine shed is both child friendly and unfriendly at the same time. It’s friendly in that it contains exhibits that are very attractive to children – life sized trains! (or cars, if you’re #MuseumBaby) – and that you can get up close to. But it’s unfriendly in the sense that you need to be fast to catch your kiddo before it disappears under a train. Toddlers are also known for running ahead without looking where they’re going, and some of those cast iron engine parts are just at the right height for little toddler heads waiting to ram them (yup!). But as long as you’re always one step ahead of your over excited toddler, it’s truly a wonderful place.

There are actually also engines specifically set up to walk under (big wow all round)…

…and even ones you can climb up on to and have a go at being a train driver!

And there’s the ever popular activity of pressing buttons :-)

The engine shed opens out into the museum park, with watermills and windmills for little – and big – people to marvel at (though if your little person is still little enough to fit through the railing at the watermill, please keep a tight hold, I certainly did!). And there’s lots of space to just go for a nice walk before heading back inside to look at more exhibits.

The exhibition on road traffic is located in a separate building, in the newly restored loading shed of a former freight yard, but it’s all included in your ticket, you just show it again at the door. And no sooner had we passed through said door, than #MuseumBaby excitedly ran ahead to point out the “Auto. Auto. Cars!” to us. Bless. We followed in quick pursuit, as the the very low display platforms are not really a deterrent to a toddler who can’t read the “please don’t touch” signs, but other than that it’s a lovely looking exhibition.

As well as the actual vehicles on display, there are also display cases with model cars and other road traffic related ephemera. #MuseumBay could just not stop pointing :-)

In addition to the more traditional display cases, there were also some crawl through toddler spaces with cases on the inside filled with lots and lots of toy vehicles, with a different colour for each crawl space. Another nice feature for kids were the car racing tracks on the undersides of a couple of the display cases. The cars were attached – which isn’t just useful to defy gravity but also to stop them growing legs and walking off – and we ended up with the whole family lying on the floor. Great way to make everyone feel comfortable and at home!

There were more buttons to press and knobs to turn, film clips to watch and audio clips and traffic noises to listen to, and a display with different types of wheels to touch and spin.

But, ladies and gentlemen, the absolute winner was the Trabant car, which visitors are allowed to sit in. #MuseumBaby had never sat behind the steering wheel or a real car before, but likes moths to the light he was immediately drawn to it. I have never seen anything hold his attention for more than 5 minutes, perhaps 10 minutes if we’re lucky, but after 20 minutes when the exhibition started to get a bit busier and other children were queuing up, we literally had to drag him out of the car, after prying his little fingers off the steering wheel. He was absolutely inconsolable. “Auto. Auto. Meine. Meine!” And lots of tears. I think he would happily have stayed in that car all afternoon!

It is a bit of a shame that there is only the one car for kids to sit in (and I am not just saying that because of our little tantrum), I think there would easily be enough uptake if they added a couple more. But overall it was a successful visit, and we’ll probably be back soon. Tickets are 6 Euro for adults, 3.50 Euro concession, and there are also some special family deals available. ICOM members get in for free. Both buildings have barrier free access and changing facilities, and you can buy your ticket at either building. The main building also had a very nice cafe, which didn’t seem to have any high chairs but they did have a kids’ menu (including a free “robber’s plate” to steal food from your parents, love the idea!) and drawing paper and crayons to keep little customers busy. The cafe in the new building doesn’t open until next summer, but you are welcome to bring and eat your own food in the cafe space.

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