To begin with, we thought we’d list the blue-chips: half a dozen attractions that you can visit any time with kids of all ages.
The Natural Sciences Museum is for many families with children the North Star that guides their outings. The permanent collection includes everything from iguanodons to hissing cockroaches, and there’s a real emphasis on education through inspiration. They also lay on some of the most exciting temporary exhibitions you’ll ever find in a science museum, hands-on so kids can get up close and learn through touching, smelling and hearing. By coincidence, the current exhibition is about the senses, and there’s a chance to put every one of them to the test. For children six and over, with special arrangements for ages three to six. Senses runs until 2 September. Open every day from 10.00 to 18.00 www.naturalsciences.be
Nature and science are also at the centre of De wereld van Kina in Ghent, in what used to be a side wing of Sint-Pieters abbey. The museum was voted this year the best in Flanders by a jury of kids, so that must mean something. The permanent collection features dinosaurs, the sea and insects. A section for older children focuses on sex and relationships. And every day there’s a treasure hunt tailored to the child’s age group, with something special during the holidays centred on diamonds. There’s so much to do you’ll find yourself being dragged back more than once. Open Mon-Fri from 9.00 to 17.00 and Sunday from 14.00 to 17.30 www.dewereldvankina.be
Several generations of Flemish people have grown up with memories of the open-air museum and playground in Bokrijk, a favourite destination for school outings since 1958. The installations and buildings are all authentic, though brought together in one place from all over Flanders, and it has a genuine feel: The barns are rickety and the schoolbenches splintery. Employee “extras” in period dress add to the atmosphere. Bring the kids for craft demonstrations, horse-and-cart rides, pottery workshops, or just let them take their shoes off and run around like urchins. And admission is free. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10.00 to 18.00 www.bokrijk.be
Rumbeke castle is reputed to stand on the site of the fortress
where Boudewijn Iron Arm brought Judith, daughter of
Charles the Bald, in 862. The pair were later married after the
Pope stepped in, and they gave rise to the dukes of Flanders.
But the current exhibition there is less concerned with the
dukes than with the women of the duchy: women like Maria
of Burgundy, Margaret I of Hainaut, Margarets II and III of
Dampierre, Mary the Rich and so on.
The exhibition and castle can be visited apart or together, with or without a visit to the 1302 museum and the nearby Wijnendale Castle. In any case, children under 13 enter all but the latter free. Opening hours vary; contact the castle to ask for hours on the day you’d like to visit www.kasteelvanrumbeke.be
Animal park Planckendael has been in the news lately,
with the move of the elephants from Antwerp Zoo to a new
“elephant temple”. The elephants, including media star
Kai-Mook, will be housed on one of the five continents that
make up Planckendael, home to 78 species of animals, from
lions to the goats in the petting zoo. Planckendael also has
some of the best playground activities and family terraces in
Tip: Book your tickets online and scan them at the entrance to avoid the queues. The absolute best way to get to Planckendael is by the park’s boat from the dock behind Mechelen’s train station. Follow the link “Plan je bezoek” on the website. Open every day in July and August from 10.00 to 19.00 www.planckendael.be
Zomer op Straat is a festival of street theatre, so it’s only to be expected that it doesn’t stay in one place. Over the next two months you can find it in Landen, Tielt-Winge, Kortenberg, Haacht, and on it goes. A mix of adventurous amateurs and practised pros, it also includes workshops, music, food and bouncy castles. Highlights include Sofie Vandewijer, who can make anything, even clothes, out of balloons, and Compagnie Cirkanto featuring Cuban-born Truykman, a juggler who must have three hands. It’s the only explanation. www.zomeropstraat.be
Check back for more kids’ activities every week this summer
Contributions to this article were made by Olga Hope