The Young V&A is the most hotly anticipated museum opening in London this year for families and I’ve got great news – it’s so good! I went to a preview of the redeveloped museum (formerly the Museum of Childhood) with my kids to provide our readers with a hands-on review of the museum’s activities and features.
As the Young V&A is a museum designed for children, I’ll share here what my children (age 7 and 10) thought was ‘the best’ about the new galleries. They have been to the former museum many times in their younger years and loved returning after years of it being closed for redevelopment, eager to explore their old friend’s new offerings. These were their favourite features…
Surprising no one, they loved the gaming area. They will not be the only ones – this space will no doubt be heaving with excited kids once word gets out there are video games to play. How the museum will manage queueing here will be interesting to see as the games take a little while to get familiar with in order to play, then once you get stuck in you’ll want to play for at least 15 minutes.
There are four video games to play here, but two were my kids’ clear favourites – Explore the Minecraft Museum – Minecraft on a huge screen of the actual museum you are actually standing in at that moment. Minds blown. They also loved the cool graphics and brain stretching challenge of Monument Valley, in which you try to find a way for Ida to reach the exit point of fantastical buildings that twist and reveal secret passages. (I loved this one too!)
There is also a long table with create-your-own boardgame set ups. My 7 year old loved this and played a game she created, with a kind museum staff member who sat down with her. This patient person soon learned how quickly and often a 7 year old will change the rules to benefit their gain.
Are those cushions? Oh yes, yes they are! These bright soft slab shapes delighted my kids and they’ve asked if we can have them in our house as well.
DIY Ball Run
This massive wrap-around magnetic wall allows loads of kids to play at once – much needed in a popular museum! Kids can rearrange the yellow pieces to create an endless variety of ball runs, tinkering about with combinations to see what works best. The way their faces light up when the system they’ve created makes for a speedy smooth ball run is priceless.
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Spinning Sand Wheel
A mesmerising hands-on experience. The seagreen sand spins round and round; grab a giant yellow comb to create patterns, or the shovel to add more to the mix. Wave your fingers through it, feel the zen. Zen with excited kid noise soundtrack. No spa tunes here.
A variety of colours, textures, sounds, lights await in this back corner of the ground floor. They will crawl and climb about here, leaping on a giant blue beanbag snake and burrowing through a furry tunnel. There are many items in cases organised by colour and letter of the alphabet. Surprisingly some examples of ‘texture’ were locked up in glass cases, which seems to defeat the point really.
If your kid likes peering into (and playing with) dollhouses and miniature models then they will love this museum. The Village by artist Rachel Whiteread fills a room and draws you in to take a closer look. Get low, get nosey.
The Street features models of homes from different eras, showcasing a wide variety of architecture. Most are in cases but there’s a huge wooden play house at the end of the street that my kids loved playing with. It had one particular feature they particularly loved – a playground with moving parts, for the little dolls to enjoy.
Self Portrait Drawing Bar
This was a huge hit for my kids who have been known to spend A LOT of time at the Tate Drawing Bars. It’s quite clever – kids sit down, look in the mirror and their photo is taken which then appears on monitor on bar in front of them. They then place thin drawing paper over the monitor to sketch themselves over their photo, creating a self portrait. These can then be placed in frames on the wall. The museum will need many more frames I’m sure!
There’s much more to see and do, this is just a taste of my kids’ favourites on a first visit to the new Young V&A. You’ll also find a rotating exhibition space (first exhibition opening in October), a performance area, a Benugo cafe with kids’ meals, a beautiful gift shop, lots of lovely seating areas, pushchair parking, baby changing space and child-sized toilets and sinks! The museum is a short walk from Victoria Park, so ideal for a combo day out.
If you’re taking the tube it’s right next to Bethnal Green station and several buses stop just outside. There are some bike parking stands but we think they could improve this area and encourage more people to cycle. Would be great to see covered bike parking with lockable gate so families can rest easy knowing their bike will be there when the finish enjoying the museum. If anyone can design a cool bike park, V&A can!
Starting 1 July 2023 open daily 10am – 5:45pm
Cambridge Heath Road
We were invited to the press preview of the Young V&A.