London with kids,  Travel

Explore the Colours with children at Horniman Museum and Gardens, London

Horniman Museum and Gardens is one of our favourite places to visit with children. There is always something for everyone in the family to enjoy, from gardens to the aquarium and from music gallery to natural history. There are also temporary exhibitions, and currently, one of them is called “Colour: The Rainbow Revealed“.

Temporary exhibition for children at the Horniman museum and gardens in London

You can enjoy the “Colour” exhibition, set in the Temporary Exhibition Space, until the 28th of October 2018 between 10 am and 5.30 pm.

How do we see? explained for children at Horniman Museum

As you enter the exhibition space, a huge eye is looking at you. And it’s nothing spooky about it, as it’s there so that anyone can see and understand how our eyes see the world… upside down! “Mom, why is the image in the huge eye upside down?” the kids asked instantly.

Speaking of how our eyes capture images, in the same area there is a TV screen with a magnifying glass. You can actually see the 3 colours that any screen displays: red, blue and green.

Afterwards head towards the colour cafe. A table with 3 plates with foods that you might, or might not, enjoy eating. There you can also read the information that explains why you’d make a certain choice based on the colour of the food. And if, after “eating”, you feel like playing, there is a Quiz box for 4 players, with questions that have colours as answers.

Next to it, there is a challenge game. How fast can you tell the colour of a text when the text reads a different colour? Like “red” written with green, would you say “red” or “green”? Also, would you eat blue beans and blue sausages?

Horniman Museum Temporary Exhibition

Moving on, you step into the world of animals, their patterns and their vision. This is your chance to see with fish eyes, dog eyes or bee eyes. It is also a great experience for children at the Horniman Museum.

Seeing the world through dog's eyes

If your kids love puzzles or rainbows or sorting games, just look next to you. There are a huge animal blocks jigsaw, a rainbow puzzle (which we managed to build and it actually is a rainbow, and then a child came to knock it down, everyone bursting with laughter!) and a colour sorting game on a magnetic blackboard.

If your child is a baby/infant, he/she can still have fun playing games as there are, in a corner, lots of wooden puzzles and games and colouring materials.

Can you build a rainbow?

Colour sorting with magnets on a blackboard

After playing these games, my kids discovered one of the main attractions of this exhibition: design your own fish! On a touchscreen, you choose your fish (which is white), you choose the colours and you paint your fish. When it’s ready, it can “swim away”. The fish will appear on a huge screen standing in front of you, actually swimming in a virtual aquarium! What can be more exciting than to see your painting come to life?

Design your own fish and send him to swim away

After sending around 8 fishes swimming (we were lucky to be there on a Monday morning when it was not at all crowded so no queues), my kids discovered another cool activity: the Art Machine. There you are in charge of a huge “cannon” of colour. You control it in order to splash paint on a spinning wheel standing in front of you. And when you are done, you can save and email the image to anyone you want!

Children playing at Horniman Museum and Gardens

Splashing paint is definitely fun. Finding more about the colours can also be fun if the information is presented as a quiz or through coloured objects and paintings. Speaking of which, did you know that green colour contained arsenic? And that red colour is obtained by boiling female beetles?

After finding lots of interesting information, it might be time to play a little game again. Get creative and design your own traffic sign. You choose the shape and the symbol, the colours of the border, symbol and background, and the text to go under the sign. In the end, you can also email it.

Kids playing with colours at Horniman Museum in London

If you’ve dreamed of hiding in plain sight, this is your chance, in the “Get lost!” section. With the right clothes (chosen from a box) and the right background, you can become a magician and simply… disappear!


After enjoying every section of the exhibition, my kids wanted to go to certain exhibits once again, and again, and again. So we ended up spending an hour and a half there. We left only because they were starting to get hungry (and the “Colour Cafe” food didn’t appeal to them!). However, they do want to go back. They even asked to go back on the same day, after having lunch!

And it’s not only them that enjoyed the exhibition, trust me, but this is also a great place to relax, play and find great information.


Things to know when planning a visit with children to the Horniman Museum and Gardens:

  • the ‘Colour: The Rainbow Revealed’ exhibition is open until 28th of October, 2018, from 10 am to 5.30 pm
  • the museum is located at 100 London Road – Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
  • ticket prices are between £4 and £17 (FREE for Members, membership starting at £29/year)

Did you know: Horniman Museum was founded on the collection of  Frederick John Horniman, a Victorian tea trader who collected specimens and artefacts from his travels around the world in the 1860s?

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