Unfortunately there is no longer access to the roof of Parliament House, for kids to run on the grass, for security reasons.
Where's all the fun kids stuff?
When visiting Canberra's national attractions, museums and galleries, sometimes it can be hard to raise some enthusiasm from the kids. Walking around looking at paintings that don't make sense, viewing old things behind glass and having to be quiet all the time - that doesn't sound like much fun. Where's all the fun kid's stuff?
Thankfully the national museums and galleries are all family friendly, with school excursions passing through all year around and kids pouring in each school holidays. There is no need to be quiet all the time in each museum, as there are other families and kids groups also there enjoying the exhibits. The only thing to remember however, is that some museums have sensory alarms that go off if you try to touch an exhibit or painting, so little fingers need to remember to try not to touch - however tempting it is (for us adults too!). Each museum, gallery or attraction has an area or activity that the kids will enjoy - guaranteed to stop the boredom...for awhile anyway!
The Discovery Zone. Source: Australian War Memorial website
The Australian War Memorial is a sobering museum for adults to learn about the stories of wartime, however for kids they have designed various family friendly activities which tell them stories about heroism and bravery. There is Storytime, Drop-In Craft and free craft activities in the school holidays such as making paper slouch hats and paper poppies. There is also a popular interactive kids area called The Discovery Zone with a helicopter you can sit in, a submarine you can walk through and interactive areas to press buttons and dress up. See the Australian War Memorial events link for details.
The Royal Australian Mint is a popular venue for families, as kids can look down onto the coin factory and watch the robots in action. Be amazed by the strength of the largest robot Titan, which is the second largest robot in the Southern Hemisphere. Also see Penny, the forklift robot that drives herself around the factory and robot Robbie, who picks up the plastic bags of coins and puts them in the box at the end of the production line. There is also a colouring in area for small children in the National Coin Collection gallery and activity books for older children in the school holidays. In the shop downstairs you can also mint your own $1 coin. See the Royal Australian Mint website for more details.
Watch the Titan in action through the windows at the Royal Australian Mint
Old Parliament House (or Museum of Australian Democracy) is one of the most kid-friendly museums in Canberra. There is a whole area dedicated to entertaining the kids, with a dress up area, craft, drawing, reading, blocks, puzzles and more at Play Up. For older children, there is a board game area at the Behind The Lines exhibition downstairs, as well as the Zine Lounge to make your own printable brochure. Throughout the year and school holidays they have a host of kids activities and family friendly events. See the Old Parliament House families link for more details.
Parliament House is a fascinating place to walk around for adults, however it may not be as exciting for younger children. For a good place to run around however, take the lift at the back of the first floor up to the top of the building and run out onto the lawn on the rooftop. Look up to the flag above Parliament House and marvel at its size - it is as big as a double decker bus! If the kids are tired from all that running, catch the lift back down and have a break at the Queens Terrace Café. This café is surprisingly family friendly, with kids food options and colouring in pages and textas available behind the counter. See the Parliament House website for details.
The National Museum of Australia is another kid friendly museum, with an area called KSpace, which is designed for kids aged between 5-12. It is an interactive half hour game where kids use touchscreens to design their own robots, then send it back in time to a famous era in Australia's history. Perhaps it will visit the gold fields or be there at the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge. There are then missions to complete during the game. Downstairs, younger kids can also run around on The Garden of Australian Dreams, with undulating hills to run up and a tunnel to run through. Each school holidays they also have exhibitions and craft activities for the kids, with a range of ideas that help teach kids the story of Australia. See the National Museum of Australia families link for details. See the YouTube video of "Kspace at the National Museum of Australia", below.
The National Portrait Gallery is an enjoyable small museum to walk around and admire Australian portraits of well-known personalities. For kids, there is often a pre-schooler activity in term time and in the school holidays there is always a drawing or paper craft activity that relates to the portraits in the museum. These school holiday activities book up quickly so ensure you book in early. See the National Portrait Gallery calendar for details.
The National Gallery of Australia is located across the road from the Portrait Gallery and is a quiet place to walk around, with the countries most prized pieces of art and sculpture. Inside the gallery there are family tours and pre-schooler activities during term time and school holiday activities held throughout the year. Kids enjoy the drop-in craft sessions where they can create their own work of art. See the National Gallery of Australia families link for details.
After exploring inside the gallery, walk outside for some interactive art that the kids will also enjoy. Behind the gallery is the National Sculpture Garden with plenty of grass to run around and picnic spots in the shade. Between 12:30pm – 2pm each day "Fog sculpture" (1976) by Fujiko Nakaya is in operation, where kids can run through the wet mist and cool down in the fog. Also at the front of the museum is a Skydome called "Within Without 2010" by James Turrell. Take a walk down into the tunnel and be astounded by the water feature and dome inside, before looking up through a hole in the ceiling to view the sky. It also has a cool echo!
Walk through Fog sculpture (1976) by Fujiko Nakaya between 12:30pm - 2pm
Other museums and galleries in the city who often have kids activities are CMAG (Canberra Museum and Gallery), the National Library of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive (which has school holiday movies in their Arc Cinema) and the National Capital Exhibition has a LEGO and DUPLO area to build Canberra's landmarks. Of course, if you want to go to a museum that is dedicated to kids, then you can't go past Questacon, where kids learn the principles of science and have fun with their hands-on experiments. With so much to do for families in Canberra's museums and galleries, it means that adults get to see what they came for and the kids get their own areas to play as well.