How does a steam engine work? How did people travel in days gone by? How does an airplane stay airborne and fly? The exhibits at the Museum of Technology provide answers to these and many more questions posed by little explorers. Kids just can't get enough of the museum with the ‘Candy Bomber' suspended over the terrace on the fifth floor. Scrambling over old steam engines and pressing the various buttons and controls is just as much fun for a four-year-old as for school kids, and there's always something new to discover.
The Science Center directly next door is also worth a visit. The presentations and exhibits there explain complex physical phenomena in a child-friendly way. Experiments teach visitors how vision and hearing work, for example, or how lightning is created.
Berlin's museums have a wealth of knowledge to offer kids! At present, visitors have to travel to Dahlem to view the collections of the Ethnological Museum, with its astounding array of artifacts from North America, the South Seas and the Caribbean. In around three to four years, however, the Native American tribal masks, Mayan sculptures and the life-size model ships of the South Seas that children so love to climb into, are set to relocate to Schlossplatz in Berlin-Mitte. The affiliated Junior Museum is also well worth a visit. Its current exhibition 'That's What We Eat - We Eat Rice' teaches four- to eight-year-olds how rice grows and is harvested.
"Please DO touch" is the motto at the Labyrinth Children's Museum in Osloer Straße in the district of Wedding. In a large factory hall, kids aged four to twelve can climb, craft, experiment and discover.
The approach at the MACHmit! Children's Museum (meaning literally: join in!) at Senefelder Straße 5 in Prenzlauer Berg is similar. In addition to temporary exhibitions on various art and scientific themes, children can also wander through a hall of mirrors or try their hand at using an old printing press.
The journey here is an attraction in itself: the park's very own mini-railway, with kids as ticket collectors, transports visitors from the Wuhlheide S-Bahn station to the Leisure and Recreation Center (Freizeit- und Erholungszentrum Wuhlheide, FEZ for short, see above)). This is a real El Dorado for families. An indoor swimming pool, kids' museum, theater and concert stages, space center, cinema and a vast park with fantastic play areas and petting zoos are just some of the attractions to explore.
Fairs and themed weekends with special events are also regularly held at FEZ - a return visit is a must.
Children love animals, making the Zoo, Tierpark and Aquarium perennial favorites for family outings. While the Zoo impresses with its vast variety of species and central location, the expansive grounds of the Tierpark in Friedrichsfelde have their own special charm. However, small children might have even more fun petting a rabbit than standing in front of the big cats' enclosure. There are numerous children's farms around the city, such as in Görlitzer Park in Kreuzberg, or at the international cultural centre, Ufa-Fabrik in Tempelhof, located on the premises of the former UFA film laboratory, from which it derives its name, where children can pet the animals or enjoy a pony ride.
Young and old alike can experience first hand how nature is striving to reclaim a derelict railway switchyard at Tempelhof Südgelände Nature Park. This is probably one of Berlin's most unusual parks: visitors can climb over metal grilles and through pipes among the almost jungle-like flora and fauna, contrasting against rusty metal sculptures, an old signal box and an enormous steam engine. Visitors can also watch as graffiti artists (legally) decorate the brick walls, or visit one of the art exhibitions on display in an old locomotive hall. A trip to Marzahn to the Gardens of the World Park (Gärten der Kulturen der Welt) is also well worthwhile. Within the extensive grounds of this recreational park, various gardens were recreated in the style of countries from all across the globe - with Japan, Italy and the Orient all side by side. Children especially love the huge labyrinth, which can be observed from above from a viewing tower.
But what happens if the weather just won't play along? Legoland Discovery Centre at Potsdamer Platz is just the ticket for a rainy day with Berlin landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate painstakingly built from around five million Lego bricks. "Hold on tight" is the order of the day on the dragon ride and there are plenty of opportunities for clever little fingers to have a go at building their own Lego models.
Meanwhile, at the Planetarium am Insulaner (the Insulaner being a huge mound created from the rubble and debris left after WW2), kids can learn what makes up Space and how the earth was created. There are regular theater and film presentations, as well as a selection of fascinating talks. The repertoire ranges from "Little Peter's Trip to the Moon" (Peterchens Mondfahrt) to the "The Rainbow Fish" (Regenbogenfisch).
Performances are accompanied by images projected onto the impressive domed ceiling. Those bold enough can follow this with a clamber up the enormous climbing frame at the foot of the Insulaner. With so many adventures on offer, there's no room for boredom.
01 At the Museum of Technology, children can discover how cars and steam engines work. (photo: © Technikmuseum)
02 "Out of the way! Kid's create a city - Master builders Lukas, 8, Emma, 7 and Alma, 7 (right to left)" (© Labyrinth Kindermuseum Berlin, photo: Ulrich Sülflow)
03 Fun and games at the FEZ Berlin (photo: © FEZ)
04 Polar bears at Berlin zoo (photo: Karl Bröseke)
05 The Dragon Ride at Legoland Discovery Centre (photo: © Legoland Discovery Centre Berlin)