Museum of Childhood (and toys)

Much emphasis is placed these days on museums appealing to all ages, so it’s no surprise that the more interactive a museum is with its visitors, the better its reputation. What could be more appealing than a museum about childhood?

The objects are of course the big attraction – toys! The grown-ups go for the nostalgia, the memories; the kids find entertainment in the simplicity of old unsophisticated toys. Where are the batteries? The switches? The keyboard? There are dolls, toy soldiers, ancient board games, spinning tops and Lego (of course). Where there are the original packaging and cartons, it’s also an exploration of marketing, illustrations, and typography. Never forget the toy in its original box is premium! When you spot the very edition of Monopoly, Scrabble or Mechano you had in your toy cupboard, there’s a strange sense of elation. I think this is what makes childhood museums special; there’s something in the glass cabinets that everyone can relate to, and for the grandparents you take along for the day out, there is the delight in watching them point out their memories – their toys, wooden and simple, have vanished from the toy stores to be replaced with plastic. (I went to great lengths to find wooden toys for my kids.)

Where can you visit such a place?

The Museum of Childhood at Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire is now owned by The National Trust. The museum is housed in the narrow rooms of the stable block. It’s a little cramped and the collection is crammed into the space with ingenuity (there’s an upside bedroom on the ceiling, I kid you not). Timed tickets are required to manage the flow. It’s very easy to lose track of time. But the museum isn’t just a collection of toys, it also reminds visitors of the hardships of growing up when there were no laws to protect children from exploitation. A popular exhibit is the chimney sweep. Parents watch, with mild alarm, as their small child scrambles up a fake chimney, their legs disappearing above the hearth, only to find them rematerialising further along the room. While your child is over-excited, adults are given a reminder how much childhood has changed in the last one hundred years with informative exhibits and boards.
Children can attend the school room for Victorian style lessons and play games on the lawn outside. There’s also the house to visit to finish off the day.
There are other museums of Childhood in the UK, one at Edinburgh, another in the V&A in London. But there is something special about this maze of little rooms and the pristine toys on the shelves, and it’s what museums excel at if done well – bringing the past back to life and creating a connection to our forebears. Nothing should be forgotten.

What toy do you miss most from your childhood?




  1. I have been to the museum of childhood at Sudbury Hall, breaking a long journey there. It was very interesting. The toy I most miss is perhaps my contact quiz. It was battery-powered and had cards with holes in. Electrodes had to be placed on a question and the correct answer would light a bulb. I only remember the butterfly card!
    (I have also been to some of the other museums you have mentioned so far.)

    A to Z 2021

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What fun, sounds like a punch card you get in computing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thoroughly enjoying your exploration of museums.When we can travel again you will have provided us with some sites to visit.


    1. With luck, by the time I’ve finished this blog challenge, they’ll be quite a few on the list. Thanks for stopping by.


  3. Thank you very much for introducing us to this museum. Siri ๐Ÿ™‚ and ๐Ÿ™‚ Selma immediately wrote it on our list of place they would like to visit.
    Our dear Master knows that contact quiz that Sue mentioned as well. He loved it as a child in Sweden.
    All the best. Happy Easter ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฃ
    The Fab Four of Cley
    ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. I hope you get the chance to visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed my visit there a couple of years ago – I really wanted to climb the chimney myself! One word jumped out of your second paragraph for me – Mechano! How I loved it as a kid!


    1. My kids have no idea about Mechano, and they were too big to climb the chimney, but niece had a go.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I like looking at toys in antique shops. I like those old cast iron banks where you put a coin on some apparatus and it takes the coin and deposits it. My favorite old toy was a pair of stilts my dad made for us. I think started with the low ones and then me made them higher.

    Interesting on the timed tickets. Must be a well-beloved place.
    My A2Z for today is here:

    A2Z 2021 Jethro Tull Songs Day 3 โ€“ (To) Cry You a Song from Benefit (1970)


    1. We had stilts, I was absolute rubbish at them, like the pogo stick, always falling off it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We had really tall steps so it was easy to get on the stilts. I remember pogo sticks now that you mention them. Loved those too! Sorry, hope you didn’t get hurt when you fell.


  6. Oh I don’t think I’ve ever been to that Museum. It sounds amazing. I particularly liked the idea of the chimney sweep re-enactment. What fun for the kids. We used to holiday in the Blue Mountains as a child and we always enjoyed visiting Leuralla I really wanted to visit the Ghibli Museum in Japan when we were there a few years ago but you need to book well ahead I had fun buying my husband replica toys over the years – his favourite are robots but I also liked mechanical moneyboxes. I hankered after an Etch-a-Sketch in my youth and was delighted to be able to buy myself Mousetrap when I was older. I just loved that game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved etch-a-sketch as a kid, but was frustrated by only being able to do straight lines.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Tarkabarka · · Reply

    Oh, I’d love to visit this one! ๐Ÿ™‚ Toy have changed a lot over the past decades.
    I like your museum theme!

    The Multicolored Diary

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a real nostalgia trip and something of interest for the whole family.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love children’s museums! I went to the one in Boston so many times when I was younger, and later took my sitting charges and campers to various children’s science and nature museums in Upstate New York.

    I miss the vintage computer games I played on the 128K Mac, like the original black and white version of The Manhole.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I miss playing pacman and space invaders!

      Liked by 1 person

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