Melbourne Museum for Kids: 9 Exhibits You Shouldn’t Miss
Melbourne Museum is a place of wonder, curiosity and delight for visitors and locals alike.
The museum was established in 1854, which makes it one of the oldest museums in the Southern Hemisphere. With over two storeys of exhibitions to explore including science, history and art, it’s a definite stop on your to-do list in Melbourne.
Over the ten years that we’ve been visiting Melbourne Museum, it’s been a favourite place for learning and play. It’s the location of many happy, treasured memories for myself and my kids.
From dinosaurs to bugs, Melbourne Museum has a lot of displays that will excite kids. Whether you’re a new or returning visitor to Melbourne Museum, here are 10 exhibits you shouldn’t miss.
Melbourne Museum kids activities
1. Design your butterfly at the Children’s Gallery
The Children’s Gallery is a wondrous place for kids to explore, play and learn.
It’s primarily aimed at babies to 5-year-olds but older kids will also enjoy the sensory experiences, hands-on exhibits and fun atmosphere.
My kids keep going back again and again to butterfly-designing touch screens in the gallery to make kaleidoscope creations, brimming with colour.
2. How many dinosaurs can you spot?
Melbourne Museum’s iconic Dinosaur Walk needs no introduction!
The double-level exhibition is an awe-inspiring sight for any dino fan – the question is, how many prehistoric animals live there?
Answer: tick off the ten dinosaurs, three pterosaurs, one mammal-like reptile and Australian megafauna in this impressive collection. And coming soon is a new Triceratops!
3. Spot the frogs hidden in the forest
In the centre of Melbourne Museum is the Forest Gallery – a piece of Victoria's mountain landscape in the city.
Once you pass through the glass doors take a deep breath and smell the misty air and damp earth.
Then keep your eyes peeled for the many creatures hidden amongst the temperate rainforest plants and in the water, including the camouflaged tree frogs.
4. Get up close and personal to creepy crawlies
See, hear and even smell a whole world of bugs and insects, and learn how they affect us through interactive exhibits inside Bugs Alive.
A favourite photo opportunity is the glass dome where you can watch a colony of green ants diligently going about their work.
5. Immerse yourself in the creation myth of Bunjil
First Peoples tells the story of Aboriginal Victoria from the time of Creation to today and celebrates the history, culture, achievements and survival of Victoria’s Aboriginal people.
I think it’s an extremely well-curated exhibition that offers a balanced insight into the indigenous history and culture of Australia.
There are many thought-providing images and videos which at times brings me to tears, particularly around stories of the Stolen Generations.
It’s a particularly hard topic to discuss with children, and the exhibition does an excellent job of expressing the grief, anger and hurt of that period.
Our favourite part is entering the darkened nest of Bunjil the wedge-tailed eagle and ancestral spirit. Inside you can sit and listen to the story of how the Country, Law and people of the Kulin nation were created while watching light projections on a stunning set of floating bird’s wings.
6. Lie back and explore The Mind
The Mind Gallery is a permanent exhibition that examines the human brain – the most complex structure in the universe.
There are many immersive experiences, from mazes to interactions with historical psychiatric objects and artworks.
The most popular exhibit is probably the Ames room – a distorted room that creates an optical illusion that makes big things small and tiny things gigantic.
But my personal favourite is the pretend psychiatrist couches, where you can lie back and watch videos that help you reflect on the workings of your mind.
Confession: It’s also a very relaxing experience after running around with the kids!
7. Imagine yourself in the grandest bookshop in the world
The Melbourne Story is a fascinating insight into our hometown’s past and the many ways in which it has changed. It’s a must-do for families and anyone looking to discover the history of this amazing city.
We love watching old films about Melbourne life inside the miniature art deco cinema, pretending to ride the historic Luna Park roller coaster and snapping a selfie at the iconic Luna Park moon.
Our favourite spot is the entryway to Cole's Book Arcade, one of the great iconic stores of Melbourne in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It closed its doors in 1931 but lives on Amelia Mellor’s wonderful children’s book ‘The Grandest Bookshop in the World’ and you can see various artifacts from the shop such as the golden eggs!
8. Horses and courses
Just outside The Melbourne Story is a tribute to Australia’s most famous horse – Phar Lap.
There’s the horse itself as well as objects from the horse’s life such as his training saddle, his shoes and his tonic book. Art and souvenirs from the period all help tell the story of Australia's greatest racehorse as well as provide a window into the past and present of Australian culture.
In the same way that horses are measured by hands, I measure the height of my children by how far they are from Phar Lap’s head every time we visit!
9. We love Sad Otter
The Melbourne Museum Shop can be just as wondrous for kids as some of the exhibits, and it can be hard to know where to look.
Well, look no further. I think the perfect souvenir of your Melbourne Museum visit is the plush Sad Otter!
‘Sad Otter’ was part of a beloved exhibit at Melbourne Museum whose main claim to fame is that he was featured on the popular website Bad Taxidermy. He is so very cute and his expression really is a bit crestfallen.
While the original Sad Otter is not currently on display, you can take the plush replica home to remind you of your time at Melbourne Museum.
What are your favourite moments and exhibits at Melbourne Museum?
For more things to do at Melbourne Museum go to Road to Zero and Mini Mega Model Museum
Play outside at Carlton Gardens
Click here for more things to do in Melbourne with kids
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