People who assume Amsterdam isn't an appropriate place for children don't know the city very well. There are plenty of fun and educational things to do with kids in Amsterdam, from letting them cook their own meals to exploring the canals and museums.
Enjoy Unique and Free Things to Do with Kids in Amsterdam
One of the most unique activities for kids in Amsterdam (especially on a rainy day) is a trip to the Kinderkookkafé (Children's Cook Café), where your children suit up in aprons and chef hats to whip up all sorts of creations, from pizzas and sandwiches to chocolate croissants and cookies. Located near the Vondelpark, the café is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call +31 (0)20 625 3257 to inquire about special programs and availability.
If your children enjoy horses, consider a stop at the nearby Hollandsche Manege (Dutch Riding School), where they can learn to ride and take care of horses and ponies. The Dutch Equestrian School Museum teaches kids about horses and their different breeds and even has live horse shows.
Take a Canal Cruise with Kids in Amsterdam
Many children enjoy a boat ride through the winding waterways of Amsterdam. Seeing all the "crooked" buildings, old bridges, and surprisingly modern harbor from this perspective is sure to entertain little ones.
During warmer, fair-weather days, try an open-top cruise operator like the Those Dam Boat Guys (they welcome families, but be aware that the carefree group attracts a hip crowd who bring their own beer, wine, etc. to enjoy). In colder weather, go for the bigger, glass-top variety—of these, the Canal Company offers a Pizza Cruise that might entice kids even more.
If your kids are big enough to pull (or pedal) their weight, go for the four-seater, self-propelled Canal Bike, also from Canal Company.
Visit Amsterdam Museums with Fun Activities for Children
Some of Amsterdam's best museums have unique programs for kids:
- Rijksmuseum: Special guided tours for families with children are held daily between 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
- Van Gogh Museum: Find an audio tour, weekend workshops, treasure hunts and coloring pages to help your kids enjoy the Dutch painter.
- NEMO: The science and technology museum's target audience is aged 6-16. The interactive displays encourage visitors to use all their senses (touch everything!).
- Dutch Maritime Museum: This museum of ships and seafaring may be for all ages, but the exhibits are particularly suited to kids thanks to their imaginative execution.
- Jewish Historical Museum & Tropenmuseum: Both have great children's museums.
Play in Parks and on Playgrounds in Amsterdam
Amsterdam's best parks are great places to let your kids expend some of that energy they never seem to lack. The Vondelpark offers a wading pool that's wildly popular with children in summer, as well as Het Groot Melkhuis (The Big Milkhouse), a café geared toward families with a huge playground.
On rainy days you might consider the TunFun indoor playground, where children from ages 1-12 can crawl, climb, slide, and bounce to their hearts' content. They can even dance at a children's disco and jump on an inflatable Amsterdam street block.
Soak-up Amsterdam's Winter Holiday Traditions with Kids
Amsterdam focuses on the kid in everyone at the holidays. It starts with the arrival of Sinterklaas (the Dutch St. Nicholas; not Santa Claus) in mid-November. After docking his boat in the harbor, he parades through town on his white horse with throngs of helpers (Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes), who throw sweets to the cheering kids. This is a huge event for children in Amsterdam. If you miss his arrival, he has a "Rooftop Rehearsal" on the deck atop NEMO (last week in November).
What child doesn't love sweets? There are plenty to choose from in Amsterdam during the holidays—poffertjes and oliebollen are for sale on the streets. Fill up, then take a spin on the open-air ice rinks at Leidseplein or in front of the Rijksmuseum!