No matter what age you are beyond your teens and 20s, most of us look back fondly on our childhoods, and the older you get, the more likely it is you’ll feel nostalgic for those years of innocence.
Yes, there are children’s play areas at museums, and there are always new toys that capture a child’s imagination. But sometimes, nothing quite matches the experience of seeing toys and other items from the past that are either considered collector’s items, or are simply copies of a specific item you, or even your grandparents remember, but no longer exists.
That is where the Victoria & Albert, or V&A, Museum of Childhood comes in.
About the Museum
Located in Bethnel Green, the Museum of Childhood is an extension of the original V&A museum, which is the UK’s national museum of applied arts. It houses many collections of classic toys, games and stuffed animals and other items. When taking a tour of the museum, they offer free family backpacks designed by Montessori, and the backpacks are for children ranging in ages from infancy to the 3-5-year-olds. Each backpack contains activity ideas, a map, storybooks and even toys to touch and play with.
There are also daily activities as well as topic-specific exhibitions that explore aspects of childhood, so you’ll not be disappointed or bored when you plan a visit. Head to the main V&A Museum of Childhood page to see what’s on.
Some of the collections the museum has on display include:
- Action Figures. This museum may bear the names of Victoria and Albert, and tin toy soldiers may be classic, ‘old-school’ examples of past ‘action figures,’ but by no means have more modern toys been excluded from their collection. Such toys include those from Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, Toy Story, and more.
- Teddy Bears. This collection includes the likes of Paddington and the Care Bears, as well as much older ‘models’ from the past. Anyone who has ever loved a stuffed bear will adore this collection.
- Childhood is always a fascinating subject for painters, and this collection displays many paintings, dating back to the 1600s, which feature the long gamut of changing attitudes towards childhood from both the past and present.
- Optical Toys. From magic lanterns all the way to Nintendo and Sega game consoles, this is for those who love toys that are just as visually dazzling as they are interactive.
- Must-Have Toys. The 20th century is still not too far behind us, and many of us still have relatives living that were born in the early decades of the previous 100 years. In truth, this collection is multi-generational, with toys that date back to 1900-1910 and on upward, so mums, dads and any living grandparents will enjoy this trip down a 100-year memory lane. Many people who were children in the 1980s are likely parents now, so they have the opportunity to show their children what they played with as tots.
Even if you are a single person with no spouse or kids to speak of, but enjoy not just the history of toys, but occasionally revisiting your own childhood days, take a visit to the V&A Museum of Childhood for a few hours amongst the old toys, and feel the nostalgia wash over you.