Berlin with Children: Pedagogical Tips
Updated: Jun 24
Dear parents, you are planning a holiday trip to Berlin with children under the age of 13. A family holiday is certainly possible, as there is so much on offer for youngsters. Depending on their age and the difference in age between them, you will need to adapt your stay so that everyone can fully enjoy the German capital.
The constraints will be both practical and educational. On one hand, it will be necessary to find places where they can rest, have their diapers changed, or simply get some physical exercise. On the other hand, some themes may not be appropriate for children. Allow me to provide some guidance on visiting Berlin with children.
The Basics for a Family Holiday in Berlin
First and foremost, understand that this article is not intended to grade parents. Each parent develops their own pedagogy and relationship with their child. It is not a moral issue. All the advice or recommendations that follow are drawn from real-life experience. The aim is to prepare parents as much as possible by helping them to avoid certain regrettable pitfalls.
Remember, you are on a family holiday. It's about having a good time together. With young children, avoid discussing traumatic places or issues. You should adapt your stay for the sake of the child, not your own interests.
In order to have a successful holiday in Berlin, you should plan your trip in advance to avoid being caught off guard. Set a reasonable budget for your activities, then devise a programme that satisfies the whole family: neither a traumatic place nor an infantilizing space. Finally, if the weather permits, choose outdoor spaces so that the child can exercise.
Talking About Twentieth-Century History to a Child
The Risk of Traumatizing the Child
Berlin is a city of history, that of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. It may be tempting for parents to take advantage of the holiday to satisfy a desire to visit the themes of National Socialism and East German communism.
Totalitarian regimes can be discussed in the presence of children, provided that the presentations are verbal and sufficiently detached so as not to traumatize them. Avoid spaces where the visuals dominate. Children do not perceive their surroundings in the same way as adults. They do not understand historical discourse. However, they will absorb emotions, those of their parents and those of the place. The images they retain may remain in their memory as a persistent memory, an impression, a feeling. They may even be traumatized without being able to express or recognize it. Therefore, it's unthinkable to bring one's children to places of imprisonment, murder, and inhumanity.
Another important piece of advice is not to leave your child alone with an audio guide. It may seem like a fun gadget, but you will have no control over the information that is delivered. If you are not taking a guided tour but still want an audio guide, take only one per group. If explanations must be given to the child, use your own words and not those of the machine, which are dehumanized because they are mechanical.
How to Deal With Historical Questions?
However, the question of totalitarian regimes should not be dismissed at all costs. Generally speaking, children are very interested in historical questions. It's necessary to ensure that the discourse is adapted. Some museums manage to do this, and I will address this later.
An alternative to the museum would be to prioritize guided tours in the city. On a public tour, you will benefit from the presence of other visitors and a group dynamic that will lessen the intensity of the experience. If necessary, you can always disengage by taking a step back. The only constraint will be the duration of the visit, about 3 hours. In case of bad weather, do not consider taking your child on such a walk in the cold and rain.
Finally, if there are two parents, they can take turns so that one can satisfy their curiosity while the other stays with the children. Depending on the length of your stay in the city, this is a very viable option, provided it is agreed jointly. This remains an exceptional case in the context of a holiday that is above all a family one.
Some Rewarding Activities for the Whole Family
The success of a family holiday in Berlin depends to a large extent on the ability to diversify experiences and combine culture, discovery, and fun in a single dynamic.
Choosing the Right Historical Sites
Visiting historical sites or museums with children poses no educational problems when the setting allows for a dual interpretation of the places without any voyeurism or shocking images. Consequently, the child will receive a completely different message from you because they will not yet have a key to understanding the chronological events.
On the History of the Cold War
I recommend two emblematic places that are suitable for guided tours with children. Note that these places also allow you to have a picnic. Firstly, the Berlin Wall Memorial can be visited outdoors with beautiful views from the top of the documentation centre. Secondly, in Dahlem, you will find the Allied Museum, where you can see a British aircraft and a French military train carriage.
On the History of National Socialist Germany
You can visit the Olympic Stadium. The site of the 1936 Games, this architectural complex impresses with its size and the perspectives it offers the visitor. A self-guided tour is recommended. You can also visit the dome of the Reichstag building, with its impressive visuals and again a dual interpretation of the place.
Finally, for pre-teens, the Otto Weidt Museum is an excellent introduction to the subject of the Holocaust. The emphasis is on the biographical aspect, without any voyeurism or sensationalism. Even better: the conclusion can offer positive perspectives.
Activities for the Development of the Child
For a close encounter with nature, plan a trip to the Grunewald forest and walk to the former hunting castle of the Prussian kings. You can also go for a walk in the Suedgelaende Nature Park, where classical and alternative cultures coexist. Both trips become adventure expeditions with many surprises along the way. More centrally, you might consider a trip to Berlin Zoo, a huge, well-equipped complex with a feeding area for children.
As far as museums are concerned, you should visit the Museum of Technology and its extension, the Spectrum Museum. The former takes the form of vast warehouses full of old locomotives, aircraft cabins, and various machinery. The latter is a fully interactive science experiment and play area. Then, for children under 6, I highly recommend the Labyrinth Children's Museum, which combines discovery and fun.
There are two addresses to keep in mind to amaze children and pique their curiosity. First, the Natural History Museum with its imposing dinosaur skeletons. Secondly, the Neues Museum for a look at the Egyptian exhibits. Both of these outings can be made to look like indoor walks.
Finally, for a physical workout, head to the city swimming pool at the Olympic Stadium. In the shadow of the National Socialist architecture, the atmosphere in the former Olympic pools is striking. A sporting moment with a dual interpretation of the place.
What About the Cultural Budget?
Based on a 6-day, 5-night stay in Berlin for a family of 4, I suggest a program including 11 activities of your choice: 3 museum visits (€40), 2 guided tours (€80), 2 historical sites visited freely (€30), and 4 recreational outings (€90). This results in a cultural budget of about €240, or €40 per day.
Such a program is realistic because it takes into account the necessary downtime. The historical themes are approached discreetly, and the places to be visited will arouse the interest of all. The total cost is relatively reasonable, as most of the state museums in Berlin have special or even free admission for children. In the end, you can use the savings to treat your children to a trip to the Berlin Zoo or a magical ice cream in a Berlin café.