Telephones are better than robots

March 15, 2012

Kids in Museums, Germany

Although #MuseumBaby has been dragged through visited countless museums here in Berlin, most of those he was strapped into a pram as sadly there isn’t a wonderful space like Imagine at any of the museums here, where babies could crawl around. But now that he has discovered his new walking skills, I thought I’d take him to meet the robots at the ‘Museum für Kommunikation’ – they rove around the plaza in the main hall on the ground floor, perfect for little boys who like to run around and chase things (or so I believed), and there’s lots of other hands-on activities in adjacent the ‘Kommunikationsgalerie’ I thought would appeal to even someone his age.

Well, it turns out that although 16 month old little boys love to run around and chase things, they are also very frightened of big talking machines that move around trying to chase them (at least that seems to be what was going on in my boy’s head). #MuseumBaby usually loves playing with balls, but he ran crying from the robot who wanted to play ball with him. Thankfully, the other activities in the Kommunikationsgalerie were as attractive as I’d hoped they would be, and there’s nothing to distract a tearful toddler than not one, not two, but five telephones! Ring, ring…ring, ring…quick, go and answer! (yes, they do actually ring)

The activities cover lots of different ways of communicating – as befits a museum of communication – from traffic light signals to morse code, but next to the telephones it was the ‘pow wow’ activity, producing (fake) smoke at the touch of a button, that had him hooked. He was so delighted every time he made it do a puff of smoke, that he was actually jumping up and down in excitement. Bless.

I did eventually manage to persuade him to go and explore the rest of the gallery (it’s amazing how long a bunch of telephones and some fake smoke can hold a toddler’s attention), and he found these pods which all show different sets of people coming on screen and saying hello – from business men to punks to little girls dressed in their Sunday best – very fascinating:

These weren’t the only pods in the gallery. There were also pods you could sit in and listen to sounds coming out of the headrest (I think they were animal noises), which confused #MuseumBaby a little but otherwise he seemed to approve of the seats, and pods you could pretend to drive. Well, it’s actually a two person communication game – one person stands in front of the pod looking at a screen with three squares and a crane, and directs the person inside the pod who uses the levers to move the crane and stack the boxes from 1 to 3. But when you’re 16 months old, standing inside a pod car and pulling at levers and pressing buttons will do just as nicely.

All in all, we stayed for over an hour, which did also include a ride up and down in the lift (one of the boy’s favourite things to do), and a visit to the nappy changing room. It’s in the basement, on the side of the building where there’s no lift, and you need to get the front desk to unlock it, but the staff were very friendly and helpful, and it’s great that they have a dedicated room (with a changing mat and a sink), always feels so much cleaner that those drop down changing tables in the toilets. We were also able to check the pram in at the cloakroom, which was helpful as it’s such a hassle lugging it around if the boy’s not actually in it, and most places don’t have a secure pram parking space. There’s a café on site, which we didn’t test out, but I did see that they have a kids menu. As an ICOM member I didn’t have to pay to get in to the museum, but the entrance fee is only 3 Euro (1.50 concessions) and kids under 16 go free anyway. Opening times vary, but are listed on their website, and like many museums in Germany it’s closed on Mondays. So, if you find yourself in Berlin with a toddler that needs to burn off some energy and are looking for somewhere cheap and fun, I’d recommend you take yourselves along to the Museum für Kommunikation.

My only disappointment was that #MuseumBaby didn’t enjoy the robots. Personally, I think they’re really cool. He did seem to find them fascinating from a safe distance though, he kept running back to the plaza enclosure to watch them through the pillars, so I’m hoping that he’ll learn to love them as he grows older.


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