Time Out Melbourne

Our writer, Rachel Devine, takes four-year-old twins

Taking a four-year-old to a museum can be hit or miss and taking twin four-year-olds is an alluring, but risky idea... kind of like inviting elephants to high tea. So you can imagine I was a little wary to road test the Immigration Museum with my kindy duo. However, considering they are the only members of our family actually born in Australia, I thought it a very important place for us to explore. Our family arrived on a 747 from Los Angeles just five years ago and I was excited to learn about those who came from all over the world and now make up a large part of the modern Australian story.

Climbing the impressive front steps of the historic 19th century building, the twins were excited. They wanted to race up the giant staircase just behind the reception desk, but we opted for the glass elevator that took us right to the top floor where we found a large DIY art installation. The kids spent 30 minutes happily creating imaginary airplanes from the copious supply of recycled objects available. It is the perfect way to start your Immigration Museum experience with kids. With a little bit of their energy spent on the craft activity, they were ready to walk through the exhibits. We saw beautiful photographs, incredible documents and actively took part in quite a few displays. I even passed the practice test for Australian citizenship with flying colours! We spent a great two hours exploring the immigrant culture of Australia and left with a lot of information to spur important conversations at home.

Five reasons the Immigration Museum is a great stop with younger kids

1. Interactive Displays
With art to make and buttons to touch, kids are encouraged to physically immerse themselves in the experience. The many computer kiosks and phone handsets dispensing information meant that everyone gets a turn to learn.

2. The ship
The long room on the first floor holds a display reproducing vignettes of ship interiors that ferried immigrants to Australia from the 1880s through the 1950s. Kids can actually get into the bunks and play.

3. Friendly staff
Helpful people to answer our questions and happy to see children enjoying the experience.

4. The building and grounds
The huge spaces give kids wiggle room and help parents feel like they can relax just a little. There are little bits of exciting architecture to spot (for example, see if your kids can find the unicorn out a window) and the glass elevator is a highlight.

5. Manageable size
The Immigration Museum is big enough to contain five permanent exhibitions in addition to the travelling ones, but is small enough that parents can enjoy almost the entire museum before little children run short on attention.

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Updated on 10 Apr 2013.

By Rachel Devine   |   Photos by Rachel Devine
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