The Tropenmuseum is the perfect museum to visit with children in Amsterdam, at least it is on a rainy day. We visited this ethnographic museum just outside the center of Amsterdam on a Sunday in May. It was pouring outside, so I gathered the museum would be incredibly busy. It was not – to my surprise – but it should have been. I hope I can bring the message across in this review that the Tropenmuseum Amsterdam definitely is one of the most child-friendly museums we have been to. And it is a perfect day trip for parents who would like to educate their children on global citizenship, while enjoying themselves at the same time.
Experience Brazilian culture on flip-flops
Preparing our visit to the Tropenmuseum at home, I had some difficulty understanding the Tropenmuseum Junior concept from their website. It turns out that the Junior part is a separate part inside the main museum, located on the ground floor. We enjoyed their exhibition MixMax Brasil, an interactive experience in which children become a part of the Brazilian state Pernambuco.
You enter the exhibition MixMax Brasil via the Kartini wing in the Tropenmuseum, where children can play, listen to stories and do crafts in the theme of the current exhibition. Visitors can book ahead to take part in the guided tours to ‘Pernambuco’, but do not sweat it when you just try your luck. We bought the guide booklet at the cassier and were allowed to do the tour by ourselves.
Entering Pernambuco, the children changed their winter shoes into Havaianas, the famous Brailian flip-flops, which are available for loan in all sizes. Flip-flopping along, we continued into the mangrove forest. Our seven-year old kept repeating that he ‘was not frightened at all’, so yes, it was a bit intimidating. But fun, nevertheless. The exhibition consists of two floors and introduces you to Pernambuco’s music, art, economy and inhabitants.
Plastic bottle art and selfie with Neymar
Learn how to capoeira, take a selfie with Neymar, listen to music ‘at the beach’, relax on a couch made of plastic bottles and mix your own song like a Brazilian DJ. And these are just several of the activities to be enjoyed at MixMax Brasil. The exhibition itself is not that big, but the museum succeeded brilliantly in recreating a Brazilian atmosphere. Our five- and seven-year olds could understand most of the exhibition without us having to explain much. In fact, they enjoyed the Junior part that much, that they begged us to see the rest of the museum as well. True story.
The ground floor exhibition in the main museum ‘Black and White’ makes you question the concept of skin colour and its effect in our society. There is a part about Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), which had our children’s interest immediately. The picture I enjoyed the most is the one of a black colonial family with a white servant. How would our society look like today if roles had have been different in the past?
We stayed at the Tropenmuseum for 2,5 hours and got to see the ground floor and the colonial part of the first floor. Hours well-spent indeed, the children enjoyed themselves by trying out all interactive parts of the exhibitions. The thing I love most about ethnographic museums is that you can teach your children one or two things about global citizenship. At least, if the museum has done its work well. And the Tropenmuseum Amsterdam definitely passed that test.