Young V&A

A photo of the interior of the Young V&A.

This is the third in the series of blog posts about places we went to in London – you can also read about the Bank of England Museum and the Cute exhibition at Somerset House.

The Young V&A is the new name for the V&A Museum of Childhood. It’s still in the same place, outside central London in Bethnal Green, but the new name reflects a complete refurbishment. We last went in 2017, and it’s changed massively since then. Before, it was very much a museum, with lots of objects in big glass cases and not much to interact with. Now, whilst there are still some objects to look at, it’s a much more interactive space, and somewhere to bring young children to play. Indeed, our eight-year-old was probably one of the older kids there. Dropping the ‘museum’ from the title therefore makes sense.

The gallery spaces have been split into themes – Play, Imagine and Design. Play arguably caters for the youngest children, although there’s a big screen with a playable Minecraft version of the museum (thankfully it resets regularly to discourage hogging). Imagine includes the dollhouse collection from before, and design looks at how products are designed. There’s a particular focus on recycling waste into useful furniture.

Japan: Myths to Manga

Japan: Myths and Manga

Then there’s an exhibition space, and the opening exhibition is called Japan: Myths to Manga. Whilst the main museum is free to enter, you have to pay to access the exhibition space, and tickets are limited. We made the mistake of not booking in advance, so when we were ready to visit the exhibition on a Saturday afternoon, no more tickets were left. So, we ended up booking tickets for the Sunday and came back the following day.

Personally, I concur with Ianvisits and found the exhibition a little under-whelming, but my wife and child seemed much more engaged. The exhibition is rather sparse, and I would have expected to see more objects there. However, I’m not in the target market for this and we did spend over an hour in the exhibition. There’s several clips from Studio Ghibli films to watch and plenty of Pokemon; but it was also good to read about the traditional Japanese stories and myths which inspired these works.


Because our hotel was located between Aldgate and Whitechapel, we caught the bus to the Young V&A, but it’s also a short walk from Bethnal Green tube station which is on the Central Line. It’s also not too far from Cambridge Heath station on the London Overground, on what will soon be known as the Weaver Line. Around the corner is the new permanent home of the Vagina Museum, although we didn’t have chance to visit this time around.

As you would expect from a recently-renovated museum, there is step free access everywhere, and there’s a dedicated quiet space in the Reading Room. Which we found quite welcome; although the renovation has been extensive, it’s a listed building and so there are limits. Any building popular with children is bound to be noisy, and the open space in the middle is quite echo-y.

V&A Museum of Childhood

V&A Museum of Childhood

Not all of London’s museums are in the centre of the city. The East London suburb of Bethnal Green is home to the V&A Museum of Childhood, home to a wide range of toys from several decades.

Now that our 18-month-old is an easily-bored toddler, we felt that we needed to go to a museum that would keep them interested. Thankfully, a museum filled with toys fits the bill, especially during school holidays. It’s technically part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, but doesn’t focus on art and sculpture like its larger Kensington sister museum.

A lot of the toys are enclosed in big glass cabinets, but there are some interactive exhibits. The most popular of which was simply a big pile of differently sized cardboard boxes, perpetuating the oxymoron that children are sometimes more interested in the box than the toy inside. Upstairs there was a sandpit, and we arrived just in time for an interactive story-telling session.

Our 18-month-old also enjoyed the sensory exhibit, with bubble tubes and multi-coloured lights. Christine and I appreciated the range of toys, which included the very old and the quite new. At the back is a large display of dolls houses, lit up as if in a large night-time scene.

We didn’t have the time to see everything as we had to go to meet a friend in the afternoon, so we only had a fleeting glance at the upstairs exhibits (sandpit aside). There’s quite a good café in the central atrium of the museum, which seemed quite busy even before lunchtime.

Entry to the museum is free, and it’s just up the road from Bethnal Green tube station on the Central Line. The museum itself is fully accessible but the nearby tube station doesn’t have step free access. We brought Lizzie in her sling as we knew we’d struggle with a pushchair.