The first thing my 20 month old noticed when we walk into the NEMO science center in Amsterdam was the bubbles stations. He forgot the year before when my husband tried to stand inside the a large bubble and it popped. My poor baby cried until we distracted him with all the buttons in the next area. (Poor baby being my son, not my husband)
This time, my toddler wanted to try it for himself. The problem? Too many big kids. So, while we tried to get him to use some of the other bubble making tools he eventually lost interest. Which was ok because there were many new and exciting activities waiting for him. (Side note: they import their soap used in the bubbles from the USA!)
Of course there were tons of exhibits waiting. Science Center NEMO is huge. I would soon rediscover its five floors by chasing my little boy. He ran from exhibit to exhibit to exhibit. Between my husband and the grandparents, someone was always trying to rein him in. Since I was super-pregnant with our daughter, I got out of a lot chasing duties.
TIP: don’t want to be responsible for chasing a toddler around? Go during your third trimester!
He was worse than a pinball because of all the other pinballs running around him.
This place is great for all ages!
The first time we visited NEMO Science Center our son was only 8 months. Since he wasn’t walking yet, we tried the Age Machine. We took a picture of ourselves, then moved a dial to see what we looked like as a kid and what we will look as we age. My husband as a kid was eerily accurate. If this is any indication, that means my son will not be the best looking old man.
My son’s favorite exhibits had one thing in common: buttons. Still, there was one button that stood out in a room of buttons. He’d spot this button from far away and we knew what was about to happen. Arm extended in front of him, raised with his finger ready to push, he’d start running. Then the four adults in our group would look at each other. Using just our eyes for communication we would assess who was closest, fastest, and who he was most likely to listen to. Most likely it was grandpa. So, grandpa would go after W before W got to his favorite button of them all: the elevator button.
Fortunately the elevator button “exhibit” wasn’t his favorite. I think that honor goes to a ball exhibit called Machine Park. I’m not entirely sure what the point was since there were several stations, each doing something different. At the one my son picked he had to grab a ball and push a button. The ball would eventually make its way around, get dropped into a bucket, and the process would start again. You could even get a progress report. He’s going to make a great line worker some day.
He also loved one so popular with kids, it was hard to read what it was about. The kids were covering a lot of the explanation and doing the experiment. I think it was about water purification. Warning: toddlers don’t care about purification as much as they care about water. He ran in and minutess later, after his grandfather caught up with him, they both came back to us soaked.
Addressing sexuality in a science center
As for the adults in our group, we got the biggest kick out of the Teen Facts floor. It’s about sexuality and the changes teens experience during puberty. You know you’re in a science center in Amsterdam when…
Within this area a separate area restricted to 18 year olds. I’m too much of a prude to go into details, but I will say that it was a discrete area. A staff member kept young kids out.
Back to the unrestricted area. Along one wall there was a cartoon showing the development of a boy and girl from baby to teenager and repeat. It was really cute and a reminder of that awkward puberty stage. You can watch the video here, I highly recommend it.
The funniest exhibit definitely goes to the French kissing booth. Here you tongue battled with anyone you wanted, but not how you think.
Take a break from it all
The highlight at NEMO was the rooftop. Along one side of the building there’s stadium style seating with views of Amsterdam. When we were there in 2011 the rainy weather kept people away. In 2012 I left the grandparents with my son so I could enjoy some quiet time alone. Not going to happen. The sun was out and my peaceful city-escape was crowded with school kids running around and enjoying themselves. When I noticed the water fountain that all the kids were jumping in I texted the family: hey, don’t bother meeting me up here, no way W will ever leave. Meet you downstairs.
- NEMO Science Center is a 15 minute walk from Centraal Station, next to the public library
- Hours of Operation: Open Daily from June to September (10:00 am – 5:00 pm), closed on Mondays the rest of the year. Also closed on New Year’s Day, Queen’s Day, Christmas Day
- Admission: Free for kids 3 & Under. As of this post, it is EUR13.50 for everyone else, more details here.
- There are restaurants and cafes in the museum. You can also bring your own food and eat in designated areas.
- There are lockers for visitors, available for a small fee.
- I recommend buying a ticket online to avoid the line, there is a small fee to do so.
- Weekdays are busy with school trips and weekends are busy with local families. It’s big enough that you can still enjoy yourself.
- Bring an extra pair of clothes so your kids can enjoy the water exhibits without hesitation.
I recommend this to: anyone with the slightest interest in science or fun, regardless of age. Yes, we are even taking out childless friends who are visiting from the states. I’ll let you know how they like it.