22 August 2013

Following Monkey and Mole at the Rijksmuseum

Yesterday was our excursion to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to follow the path of the characters in one of Little Man's favorite books, Monkey and Mole at the Rijksmuseum (the original Dutch title is Aap en Mol in het Rijksmuseum), by Gitte Spee. Mole accidentally tunnels into the museum and is so impressed by what he sees, he brings his friend, Monkey. The two start to explore but attract the attention of an unhappy guard and are chased around the museum. While trying to hide, they bump into the director of the museum, who happily shows them that the museum is home to all sorts of animals, and invites them back for another visit. It's a perfect story that follows a child's imagination but also introduces them to famous works of art at home in the museum. Our goal during our visit yesterday was to use the book as a "scavenger hunt" guide and see all of the items that Monkey and Mole saw.

The day worked out even better than I could have hoped for - this was definitely one of my better field trip ideas. It takes about 2 hours to get from our home to Amsterdam, and Little Man

couldn't wait to be there. We brought the book with us, to be sure that we saw everything that Monkey and Mole saw, and read it several times on the trip up, which only increased the anticipation of our visit.

The Rijksmuseum from the Museumplein

We arrived mid-morning, and set right into the adventure. And just to prove we did it, we took pictures of everything that we found. (Though I realize while typing this that we forgot to take a picture of Vermeer's The Milkmaid. Whoops.)

Floor as designed by the museum architect, Pierre Cuypers in 1885

Rembrandt's The Nightwatcht, 1642
Jan Asselijn's The Threatened Swan, 1640s - already a favorite of Little Man's

Delft tulip vase towers, 1692

Petronalla Oortman's doll house, 1686

FK-23 Bantam designed by Fritz Koolhoven, 1917

Amor by Etienne-Maurice Falconet, 1757
And for the record, Little Man posed himself without my suggestion.

Meissen porcelain monkey, 1733

Kangxi period (1661-1722) Chinese porcelain vases

The only really difficult items find were the two Kangxi period vases with the gilded lions on top. They were tucked away in the "Special Collections" room, surrounded by hundreds of other pieces of Chinese porcelain and other ancient "pretties." And Little Man's only complaint about the visit: We didn't get to meet the director or find Mole's tunnel - otherwise he also declared the trip a success.

We ate lunch at a snack stand on the Museumplein - some lekker (delicious) hotdogs and icecream - when Little Man remembered that the Van Gogh Museum is also on the Museumplein and asked if we could go inside. I was a bit shocked, but if your three year old asks to go into an art museum, you don't ask questions and go straight into the art museum. The line was down the block, but this created another opportunity for me to praise the amazing-ness that is the Museumkaart. Because we had the Museumkaart, we skipped the entire line, which would have been a 30-45 minute wait just to get in the door even for the e-ticket holders, and sauntered in like regulars.

As it turns out, the Van Gogh Museum also has a children's scavenger hunt available at the Information Desk. It's really designed for kids around ages 9-12, but we tried our best and Little Man was able to do some of the activities. And at the end, the kids turn in their clipboard and get to choose a free postcard of a Van Gogh painting. We took advantage of our time, saw the "highlights" - a self-portrait, irises, skull, sunflowers, and Little Man's declared favorite: tree roots - before heading back to Tilburg. 

This trip was such a success, that I'm amending What I've Learned about Taking My Kid to Museums and adding a tip about scavenger hunts. This was a fantastic way to engage Little Man and show him other things while searching for the items on the list. *Pats self on the back*

And now I'm taking suggestions for future field trips - Any good ideas for making typically "grownup" activities fun for kids?


  1. At Safaripark Beekse Bergen #|Hilvarenbeek) they have fun entertaining and learning scavenger hunts!They even change them by new vacations and as Thema speurtochten..Very easy to go on the bike!

    Did You see the reptile museum in Tilburg yet?

    1. Thanks for the tip! We've been to the Safaripark but haven't looked into their scavenger hunt, that's something to check the next time we go. I keep forgetting about the reptile place, but we'll have to make a trip over there, too. Any kind of animal-related field trip is usually treated as a five-star adventure!

  2. By theSafaripark informationdesk (receptie)you can ask for speurtochten, also very nice drawnings that little man can colour,they are in the open kast there and free to take,They change the drawnings also evrytime another one!on their website they also show their activities like In the schoolbreak in Fall nice kidsprograms/#thema Lots of fun usually!If you plan to go more often in one year much cheaper a yearabonnement,can also in combi with Speelland much fun for kids!

  3. Did you ever seen this already? http://www.zevengeitjes.nl/
    maybe this one? http://www.brasserieboslust.nl/ Both are in easy to go by bike free entrance but the expect to drink some on the terrace like a cup of coffe or so at least...Nice playgrounds..

  4. Have you been to the Openluchtmuseum in Arhnem yet: http://www.openluchtmuseum.nl/.
    I loved this museum as a child. Combines history with activity.


    1. We haven't been there yet, but the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen is of a similar idea. The Openluchtmuseum is on our list of things to do, though!


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