“Ah, did you have the Fisher Price tape recorder, too?” I ask my husband, my fingers pointing at the ‘relic’ behind the glass.
“Of course!” he grins back at me.
The childhood memory floods my brain – “Yes, I had one of those Cozy Coupes – you know, the red car with the yellow top? The tape player fit perfectly in the slot in the back. I always listened to Michael Jackson’s Thriller tape.” and he just laughs.
We’re at the Toy Museum in Mechelen, Belgium. Our daughter’s Belgian school had taken her class on a field trip to visit earlier in the month, and she couldn’t stop talking about it. It was short train ride from Antwerp into the city – and an even shorter walk from the station to the museum.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Toy Museum in Belgium – would it be only Belgian toys or toys from everywhere? What American toys made it over the ocean, anyway? We know Paw Patrol and Disney is world-wide, and of course the Smurfs originated in Belgium. . . We entered the lobby and small displays highlighted decades of toys. I was greeted by Care Bears, Connect Four, and Cabbage Patch Kids from the 80s and I knew my husband and I might even enjoy this museum more than the kids.
We climbed the ramp to the entrance and found the fees for the museum to be 9.80 Euros per adult and 7.30 Euros per child (ages 3-12).
The museum started with history of dolls – with beautifully preserved and restored porcelain dolls from Europe in the 1700 and 1800s. We traveled through the progression of toys through the centuries. Children always mimicking their parents – dolls, doll houses, cooking utensils and kitchens, transportation, and building tools. Simple toys like sling shots and wind up toys to the most advanced robots and electronics.
V and I rejoiced at the sight of toys long forgotten from our childhood – Popples, Fisher Price view finders, and ET figurines. Some toys crossed generations – my daughter enjoyed seeing Barbies and My Little Ponies from my childhood. The history of the Teddy Bear was illustrated and although the explanation of the exhibit was in Dutch, I was able to fill in the gaps from my own knowledge of Teddy Roosevelt and the great bear hunt.
Hands on activities were scattered throughout the museum – legos, building blocks, and a mock school room. The exhibit spanned multiple floors ending with an exhibit of toys from around the world – pinatas from Mexico and simple dolls from Africa.
We wandered back down the stairs and followed the dull roar coming from the cafe. Foosball and pool tables were packed with families competing. A large area for toddlers was a complete disaster, but full of happy children. A glass counter held every type of board game imaginable for check out and entertainment while sipping on a cup of coffee or a Fristi from the cafe. With the nearing of closing time, we promised the kids we’d come again and participate in the ‘game room’ next time.
Overall, it was a really fun experience for the whole family – even if it’s a little weird to see your childhood toys behind glass. Ha.
For more information: http://www.speelgoedmuseum.be/EN/homeEN.html