It’s not hard to find a fun and educational event for kids in Istanbul as the local museums here host many such activities. Kids can make their own creations at workshops while traveling into a colorful and free world through their conversations about art in the exhibition halls with the instructors. As they hone their skills, parents can catch a movie at a movie theater, enjoy a cup of tea at stylish cafés, or read a book in a library -all in the same building as the museums.
Istanbul Toy Museum
We start our museum exploration with the Istanbul Toy Museum on the city's Anatolian side. Founded by poet and author Sunay Akın, the museum resembles a fairyland fitted into a white mansion. The most frequently heard remark throughout the museum is “I had a toy like that!” The museum caters to visitors of all ages and keeps the past and the present alive. Its audiovisual design is especially interesting for kids as it teaches them about humankind’s efforts to reach the Moon with toys about space, and about the Industrial Revolution with trains. The precious highlights of the museum include the “Charlot” doll specially made for Charlie Chaplin and presented to him as a gift; dollhouses from the 1800s which deserve praise for their craftsmanship and attention to detail; the porcelain doll of Mona Lisa made in 1954 by the American doll maker Fawn Zeller; wooden toys brought from Anatolia; precious rag dolls; and famous toys sold in the district of Eyüp.
At the Istanbul Toy Museum, children can watch a theatrical performance and attend special events. At the museum’s theater, the phenomenally popular The Little Prince is staged. While children experience a fairy tale, parents can recall the scenes in the beloved book written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The weekend workshops include ceramic objects, sculpture, and origami, which enable children to improve their skills in addition to making their own toys using different materials.
The museum also teaches kids to use their body as an instrument and to discover the power of improvisation, gestures, and sound with the “Creative Drama and Fairytale Workshop” where they can move as they wish, learning new ways to better express themselves.
The Pera Museum is another venue which introduces kids to art through play. The exhibition The Time Needs Changing invites children on an exploration in a labyrinth installed in the museum. Before they enter, they search for answers to questions such as “Do we feel the same emotions throughout the hours of the day or do they change over time?” In the last section, after examining the work entitled Escapement by Raqs Media Collective, young visitors portray their feelings on wooden cubes and start a new game by revolving them.
Children between the ages of 7 and 12 go on a multicultural visual journey in Sergei Parajanov's exhibition, the master director of poetic cinema. Ranging from traditional to pop art, the exhibition includes costumes, patterns, paintings, mosaics, and photographs. Starting from Parajanov's creative diversity, children are given the opportunity to design kaftans (a type of robe which is a part of the Caucasian culture) with Hama beads.
The museum also hosts a movie theater which screens a different selection of movies every month. You can also take a break at the museum café and enjoy a slice of tiramisu!
Istanbul Modern is perfect for actively partaking in activities with children. The “Textured Painting Workshop” is an event that caters to families with children aged between two and three. First, you introduce your child to organic and inorganic materials such as sponges, carpets, fabrics, or wood. Then, you take a tour around the exhibition and explore works made using such textures. Another highlight event is “Puppets from the World of Painting.” By examining the puppets inspired from the exhibited paintings, you and your child enter and explore the worlds inhabited by the puppets. Afterwards, the children act out the visual representations of the puppets and their lives. Another event for children at Istanbul Modern is the “Art Maker Lab Learning Center,” which brings art and technology free of charge to children between the ages of 7 and 15. While the children spend time at the educational event, adults can visit the exhibitions In Pursuit of the Present and Yıldız Moran: A Mountain Tale, or watch movies by director Yeşim Ustaoğlu, screened throughout February, at Istanbul Modern's mini movie theater.
Rahmi M. Koç Museum
Located by the Golden Horn, the Rahmi M. Koç Museum offers kids far and beyond anything on offer at ordinary museums. There are many charming alternatives from visiting the exhibition of old planes and classical cars to going on a nostalgic journey along the Hasköy-Sütlüce railway on a 1965 locomotive, walking around a submarine which glided through deep waters in World War II to going on a carousel ride. It’s hard to say no to gazing at the stars with your child. Lie back in the seats of the planetarium and see the dreamlike dome projection of space, solar explorations, the appearance of stars, the lives of dinosaurs, the Ice Age, and the mysteries of the human body. Make sure to buy your tickets online for these events in advance as the museum may be fully booked.
The event “Colorful Mathematics World” broadens children’s horizons with multifaceted experiments such as learning the secrets of architect Sinan’s bridges, rebuilding the bridge Leonardo da Vinci designed for the Golden Horn, proving the Pythagorean theorem, and composing music. Meanwhile, parents can enjoy the perfect Golden Horn view at the café housed in the Historic Fenerbahçe Ferry, which is displayed at the museum as one of the city's most nostalgic symbols. On the weekends, the ferry becomes a space where kids between the ages of 4 and 14 attend workshops on sculpture, puppet making, dancing, and theater.
At the end of the day, both parents and children, who have spent the day creating their own works and designs, return home happily. A city full of surprises, Istanbul thanks to its museums continues to embrace children with its multihued world.