Cultural Dad

Naturalis museum in Leiden, The Netherlands

I like to do cultural city trips. When I became a father that had to change. These days, my wife and I have to take a young girl into account for our plans.

Cultural stop

Before we became parents, my wife and I would take holidays to cultural hotspots like Florence, Berlin, and Barcelona. We would visit museums during the day, then eat at a local restaurant in the evening. We went to see the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Vasa in Stockholm, and the Uffizi in Florence.

Then, we had a daughter, and that changed things. I had no desire to spend many hours in a train, airplane, or car with a baby. And I soon realized that these things are even less fun with a toddler. I remember the train journeys I spent running after my daughter through the train as she started pawing at people left and right. I shudder at a ten-hour flight to the US, or a long train ride to Paris. Of course, my daughter is eight now, and that has become less of a problem.

But, the pandemic also happened, and climate problems went from bad to worse over the past decade. These days I really feel ashamed at the idea of going on a city trip for a few days by plane. It also turns out, unsurprisingly, that my eight-year-old is less enthralled by a gallery of renaissance paintings than I am.

So, cultural trips had to change.

Cultural renaissance

Now, that doesn’t mean museums are out. Like with anything related to children, you have to adjust to find a middle ground.

My daughter is not an idiot. While she does not fully grasp the cultural background of the millions of crucifixion paintings out in the world, or appreciate the skill of a complex oil painting, or the beauty of an ancient temple or church, she does like crafts, music, and museum exhibits. As long as they appeal to her world view.

The picture at the top of this post is of the Naturalis Museum in Leiden. It’s a museum about biodiversity, and my daughter loves to go there. While part of the allure is the cafeteria and running through the building, she does appreciate the mounted animals. And Naturalis has an actual T-Rex skeleton — although, that is often considered to scary to visit.

Luckily, the Netherlands has quite a lot of places that offer interesting cultural outings mixed with things for young children to do. And during the rainy months of winter, going to a museum instead of a playground or swimming pool is a nice change of pace.

The importance of culture

I would argue that museums are good for children. Culture in general is. Capitalism, right-wing politics, and AI, are chipping away at culture, and the idea that anything beyond toiling for money is important. But it is.

I think it’s important for my daughter to learn that it’s not (just) about money. To see that there is more to entertainment than people regurgitating children’s songs in heavily accented English on YouTube. And that ‘culture’ is not unboxing an LOL surprise doll.

I feel that we are here on this Earth to find and create beauty. And perhaps, with enough museums under her belt, my daughter will feel the same way.

In short

Before I became a father I was worried that culture was a thing of the past. That has turned out not to be the case. Like with many things, the way to approach it has changed, but the core concept remains.

Taking children to a museum is different from going with just adults. But that isn’t a bad thing. Over time, I hope we can go from the museums with interactive activities aimed at young children to the more ‘hard-core’ museums like galleries, with paintings and sculptures.

I hope this has given people who might want children some peace of mind, and perhaps people who already have children some new ideas.

Martin Stellinga Written by:

I'm a science fiction and fantasy author/blogger from the Netherlands

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