As 16 year olds, on the very first school exchange trip abroad with no parents around, we visited the Netherlands with my friends and classmates. The trip was eye opening: how Dutch teens in a small rural community lived compared to us big city dwellers. Our hosts organised several excursions, all memorable for different reasons, but the one that left the biggest impression: a visit to the Kröller-Müller museum- with the world’s 2nd largest collection of Van Gogh’s works- and cycling around the Hoge Veluwe National Park.
Our Van Gogh tour last year had jogged those memories from years ago and I was determined to take my kids to the Kröller Müller museum. The opportunity came on a grey winter morning, when we were expected to a dinner date with friends nearby Otterlo in the Netherlands.
We borrowed a car and left early from Eindhoven, but not too early, so we’d miss the real rush hour. (Dutch road around rush hour are horrendous: the traffic report is not about where there are jams, but how long each traffic jam is.)
The plan: We had 4 hours at the park and planned to see the museum, wander the sculpture park and grab 4 free bikes for a pedal around the national park.
The Kröller-Müller museum is inside the Hoge Veluwe National Park, a 55 square kilometre park with varied landscapes of forests, sand dunes and heath land. A short drive through the park gets you to the museum.
…or you could pick up a free bikes right by the National Park entrance and cycle. (There are some children’s bikes too and most adult bikes have a baby seat on the back.)
Art museums with kids
Most museum with kids can be challenging: they are expected to talk in hushed voices, not run around and keeping their interest can be tricky.
The Kröller-Müller museum, luckily, is one of the easier museums to keep the kids engaged- their exhibit is varied with more modern pieces, which seem to draw the attention of kids better. It maybe the brighter colours, the more abstract shapes.
The museum also sells a fabulous dice game, which can be used in any art gallery.
The combination of the dice game, a kids detective trail, endowing a camera to Hugo- our most itchy-footed explorer-, the audio tour and the interest of art we spent a good 2 and a half hours in the museum and could’ve stayed another hour probably, if time wasn’t an issue.
The kids showed real interest in the Van Gogh pieces, Monet and a couple of other pieces. It was lovely to see their puzzled expressions as they tried to make sense of some pieces; these gave excellent discussion points.
The detective trail helped the children look at the art in more detail trying to find the missing pieces of their puzzle. Though, as it is with most trails, it makes the kids a little competitive and wanting to find the clues quickly… they rush ahead. It held Angelina’s interest (aged 10 and very arty) for the longest, while Max (aged 5) was more interested in the dice game. The audio tour was also a hit for Max.
Kids can put their artistic skills to test too.
A hot chocolate, a sandwich and an apple pie at the café is a perfect finish to the visit indoors.
When you think you’ve seen the Kröller-Müller museum, then you head outside and realise there is a very large sculpture garden. This is perfect for the kids, as they can run around and a number a pieces are interpretive, jogging their imagination.
Our plans to grab bikes and cycle were totally scuppered by the lack of time: 4 hours was not enough for us to really immerse ourselves in the Kröller-Müller collection.
The national park visitors’ centre was also running some interesting workshops- one being an owl ball dissection and look at the content, figuring out what the owl had eaten- sadly we missed it.
In the park, a 5-10 minute drive from the museum, is the hunting lodge Sint Hubertus, the house of the Kröller Müller family. Again the shortage of time only allowed for a brief drive-by.
We made the most of our visit:
However, the Hoge Veluwe National Park and the Kröller-Müller museum beckons to be visited again!
Which are your favourite museums to visit with kids?
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