If you are parent to a preschooler and are looking for ideas for things to do then museums are great places to visit with young children. Many of them have interactive exhibits or activity sheets for younger visitors.
These are the best museums for preschoolers in Ireland, and definitely worth a visit sometime soon!
The Best Museums for Preschoolers in Ireland
In addition to family-friendly events and activities, the other great thing about museums is that they tend to be free or low cost to visit. And because they are indoors, they are perfect for a rainy day (which we do have plenty of here in Ireland!).
Here are some of our favourite museums for preschoolers around Ireland that are ideal for a fun day out.
National Museum of Ireland Museums
There are four NMI Museums, three in Dublin and one in Mayo.
- National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology at Kildare Street where you can see amazing artefacts including Sun Discs and Viking Swords;
- National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History at Collins Barracks, housing amongst other things a Samurai Warrior Armour and a Vampire Plane;
- National Museum of Ireland – Natural History in Merrion Street, home to a polar bear and an elephant (stuffed, in case you were wondering!);
- At the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life Mayo in Castlebar you can see the toys children played with in years gone by, and how they marked special events like Halloween and Christmas.
All are super for preschoolers and are free to visit. They have kids activity sheets which you can pick up when you go into the Museums and check their events calendar before you go.
They also run family events such as Hands On History where your preschooler can get to touch replica items, dress up and learn from museum educators.
National Museum of Ireland Museum of Country Life
Mum Niamh says “The Museum of Country Life is perfect for all ages especially the under 5’s. I’ve been bringing my children since they were babies. The museum itself has a number of floors that display the way Ireland was through the ages.
There’s a brilliant children’s corner with wooden toys and puzzles and soft cushions to chill out on overlooking the Castlebar River and Turlough Round Tower. The grounds have paths to explore the mature parklands, river and forest.
The museum has a lovely cafe/restaurant with great choices for young children. Turlough House ground floor is open to visit also and is furnished as it would be when it was the original landlord’s house. The piece de resistance is the brilliant playground that’s set in the forest.”
National Museum of Ireland Museum of Decorative Arts
Explore the Decorative Arts & History Museum through one of their trails designed especially for families. Go on the Heritage Trail, find your Favourite Object or explore the Soldiers & Chiefs exhibition with a family activity book.
There are lots of things for preschoolers to enjoy in the Museum from finding out how children dressed and played long ago, to spotting the Vampire Jet and other jets from the Irish Air Corps in the Defending the Peace display in Soldiers and Chiefs.
NMI Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is currently closed for renovation, planned for reopening late summer 2022.
The Natural History Museum is a great place for kids to learn about animals. The museum runs regular free family events and workshops for kids on different themes about Natural History too. There’s also a Wonder Cabinet in the Museum, an interactive exhibition space, enabling visitors to closely examine the contents which younger visitors will enjoy.
Mum Jaclyn says “The Natural History Museum in Dublin, aka The Dead Zoo, is great. My kids loved wandering around and getting a close up look at the animals.”
National Museum of Ireland Museum of Archaeology
Mum Kellie says “We recently visited the NMI Museum of Archaeology and the kids absolutely loved it, it is so well laid out. There are so many different sections to explore, as well as some temporary exhibitions that change from time to time.”
“My preschooler particularly loved the Ancient Egypt area and the self discovery areas where he could colour or listen to headphones. The museum is bright and spaced out with so much to look at. As a parent, I thought it was great as it takes time to explore all the areas – and it’s free.
“It’s only about a 10 minute walk from the Natural History Museum so you can easily take both places in on the same day, and if the weather is good Merrion Square has a playground too for a fun free day out!”
The Round Tower Clondalkin, Dublin
The Round Tower Clondalkin is one of only four remaining round towers in County Dublin. The Visitor Centre museum brings the story of The Round Tower Clondalkin and the surrounding area to life through an exciting interactive experience.
The fun and educational exhibition can be enjoyed through eight distinctive themed spaces in the refurbished 19th century Mill Cottages.
You can also enjoy public gardens, an exhibition and gallery space, as well as their café which has indoor and outdoor eating.
At Dublinia you can travel back to Viking and Medieval Dublin, witness the sights, sounds and smells and unearth the city’s archaeology in the History Hunters exhibition.
A full programme of events takes place at weekends during the summer, including Family First Saturdays with workshops, puppet shows and much more.
Mum Elaine says “We enjoyed visiting Dublinia – just be warned, there are some areas that my preschooler daughter felt were creepy because there are darkened rooms depicting life years ago, but we just went through a little faster if she was reacting to it.”
“She did like that some exhibits are interactive, sometimes they have actors doing real life scenarios to show what life was like.”
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
Also known as the IMMA, the Irish Museum of Modern Art is Ireland’s leading national institute for modern and contemporary art in Dublin. They present a large variety of art, exhibitions, drop-in arts & crafts workshops throughout the year.
They hold EXPLORER Family Workshops on Sundays where you can get creative together as a family, explore artworks with IMMA staff, and enjoy a hands-on workshop in the galleries. Explorer is drop-in, fun and free.
Mum Elaine says “The grounds at IMMA are amazing for looking around and playing, almost like an Alice in Wonderland setting. They have varying exhibitions on that can be interactive for children, as in touch and feel. Their cafe has a nice toddler play area too in the basement.”
National Gallery, Dublin
The National Gallery in Merrion Square houses the national collection of Irish and European art.
They host free regular drop-in family sessions, a free art-making workshop and family-friendly tours of the collection tailored to engage young visitors.
Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
Hugh Lane Gallery on Parnell Square houses a collection of contemporary art in Ireland, and the gallery also has dynamic temporary exhibitions.
There is a children’s area and learning resource centre where kids and families can further explore the various exhibitions together in their own space and at their own time.
They also hold regular children’s workshops, including Saturday art classes, so check out what’s on before you visit as some require pre-booking.
Crawford Art Gallery, Cork
Dedicated to visual arts, both historic and contemporary, Crawford Art Gallery is the National Cultural Institution and regional art museum in Munster.
Admission is free and they host regular exhibitions, education programmes and family events including art classes for children, summer courses and every Sunday there is something on for the whole family.
Birr Castle Demesne & Science Centre, Offaly
The Science Centre and Observatory at Birr Castle has many interactive displays including early photography, engineering and astronomy.
Here you will also find The Great Telescope, the project of the Third Earl of Rosse. It was built during the early 1840’s and was the largest reflecting telescope in the world for more than 70 years. People travelled from all over the world to view what lay beyond the earth and it is considered one of Ireland’s greatest scientific wonders.
There are family quests to take and once you have completed that, head out to their amazing playground with one of the largest tree houses in Ireland, sandpits and more!
Tip: Leave time to visit Ireland’s largest treehouse in the grounds of the castle!
Kerry County Museum
Kerry County Museum is full of interesting exhibits and historic artefacts, with lots of fun activities for families.
Each object on display in Kerry County Museum tells its own story from a beautiful sunflower pin worn by the fashion conscious in the Bronze Age, to duelling pistols used by the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell, in the early 19th Century.
Located in Tralee in the Ashe Memorial Hall it houses various exhibits from the award winning Antarctica Exhibition depicting many colourful characters including the heroic Annascaul man, Tom Crean’s Antarctic journey to the excellent Geraldine Experience.
Tip: Kids can follow Pangur Bán’s Trail through the museum to make their visit extra special.
Galway City Museum
Galway City Museum has three floors of exhibitions about the archaeology, history and sea science of Galway. The Sea Science Wild Atlantic Exhibition is interactive, taking you from the rocky shore to the ocean depths, and helps you find out more about the wonders of our marine world; from about how the moon affects the tides and the global movement of ocean currents, to who eats whom in the ocean depths, and what it’s really like to explore our oceans.
The Museum has activity sheets, in English and Irish, as well as colouring sheets for younger kids. And there is a lovely cafe for a bite to eat after your visit.
The Hunt Museum, Limerick
At The Hunt Museum in Limerick, they hold a Kids’ Arts and Crafts Club on the first Sunday of every month where children learn new skills while they are involved in a fun project with parents. Every month a new theme and craft is presented.
There are also Drop in Arts & Crafts sessions on the remaining Sundays at 3-4pm where kids create crafts on a specific theme which are linked to objects in the Museum’s collection, as well as enjoy a small tour where they learn about the objects.
Cavan County Museum
The Cavan County Museum is located at Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan. The museum houses a medieval dug out boat and sheela-na-gigs, galleries on folk life in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the great famine, Percy French & the GAA. There is a children’s playground, garden, shop and tea rooms also on site.
Tip: Be sure to visit the World War 1 Trench Experience, the largest outdoor replica WW1 Trench open to the public in Ireland and the UK.
Ulster Museum, located in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens, has free admission and has exhibits to excite, teach and satisfy all ages. There are collections from all corners of the globe.
On display is the skeleton of an Edmontosaurus and in the Deep Time gallery you can WOW your child with the only dinosaur bones ever found in Ireland.
Tip: Pick up your free kid’s explorer map, complete with stickers in the welcome area, to help plan your way around the museum!
Ulster Folk Museum
When you visit Ulster Folk Museum you can walk around the houses of people going about their business in the early 1900s. The museum is set in extensive grounds and you can spend all day walking around the various rural buildings.
Kids will love the secret door between the Bank Manager’s house and the bank, as well as the old school room. Explore thatched cottages, farms, schools and shops as you experience life from over 100 years ago. You can talk to costumed visitor guides as they demonstrate traditional crafts and meet farm animals in the beautiful parkland of the Folk Museum.
Ulster Transport Museum
Your train or car mad preschooler will also love the Transport Museum with its brightly painted trains, Titanica exhibition and transport cafe. Discover more than 500 original artefacts, climb on and off majestic steam locomotives and explore horse drawn carriages, electric trams, boats, motorbikes, fire-engines and vintage cars.