Whether you are a class teacher or a home-school/stay-at-home mom, outings are an important part of your child’s development and education. For years, children piled into school buses to visit a variety of cultural institutions, including art, natural history and science museums, as well as theatres, zoos, and historical sites. Schools gladly endured the expense and disruption of providing excursions because they saw these experiences as central to their educational mission: schools exist not only to provide economically useful skills in numeracy and literacy, but also to produce educated young men and women who would appreciate the arts and culture.

However, fewer schools and parents are taking their children to museums and other cultural institutions. Either the challenge of supervising hyperactive, easily bored children is too great, the cost is too high or there is little understanding into the benefits that children experience from visiting such institutions.

Research shows that visiting museums has the following benefits for children:

  • enhanced love of history
  • improved receptive hearing (specifically story-listening) skills
  • better ability to compare and differentiate
  • improved language development
  • improved curiosity, imagination and creativity
  • relationship building with those that accompany the child.
We therefore feel that the benefits far outweigh the challenges and we did some research into educational museums across South Africa. Find below a few museums that we feel are worth a visit.

Iziko Museum (Cape Town)

The South African Museum, established in 1825 by Lord Charles Somerset, is the oldest and largest museum on the sub-continent. The Iziko Museums is an amalgamation of 12 national museums located near the Cape Town city centre. These museums encompass the areas of natural history, social history and arts.

Albany Museum (Grahamstown)

This Eastern Cape museum was established in 1855 and is the second oldest museum in South Africa. The Natural Sciences Museum houses permanent collections of terrestrial insects, freshwater invertebrates, freshwater fishes, a plant herbarium, birds, palaeontological fossils, rocks and minerals, ethnographic and archaeological material. The History Museum houses an important collection of historical artefacts as well as a genealogical archive relating to the 1820 British Settlers. The Fine Art collection is also housed in the History Museum. The Education Department provides loan resources and education programmes for teachers, students and learners through curriculum-based as well as broader interest museum lessons and outreach visits to farm schools.


PE Museum (Port Elizabeth)

The Port Elizabeth Museum, which blends cultural with natural history, is the third oldest in South Africa. The museum consists of a Dinosaur, Marine, Bird, Maritime History, Costume and Local History Halls, as well as a Curiosity Corner, Xhosa Beadwork Gallery and the First People of the Bay exhibit. Other diverse temporary exhibits in the fields of natural science, archaeology and geology are also regularly on display in the Museum. Particularly noteworthy exhibits are the 15m skeleton of the last Southern right whale harpooned in Nelson Mandela Bay; a life-sized reconstruction of the giant local prehistoric dinosaur known as Algoasaurus; a replica of the Dias Cross; and a 5m bronze cannon dated 1640, recovered from a Portuguese galleon wrecked near Port Elizabeth.


Ditsong Museums (Tshwane/JHB)

The DITSONG Museums of South Africa is an amalgamation of eight national museums, seven in Tshwane and one in Johannesburg. The target audience for these museums are children, youth, adults, students, tourists (foreign and local), researchers and the public in general. DITSONG MUSEUMS have diverse collections covering the fields of fauna and flora, palaeontology, military history, cultural history, geology, anthropology and archaeology.


Natural Science Museum (Durban)

Another worthwhile stop and great for children is Durban’s Natural Science Museum, located in the majestic City Hall building. This museum will provide you with a clear idea about Africa’s wild life (you will have the chance to closely analyse taxidermies like an elephant, wild dogs, a leopard, birds and insects). Don’t miss the popular galleries with stuffed birds (flamingos, penguins, ostriches) and giant insect replicas and kids will love the interactive displays.

National Museum (Bloemfontein)

The National Museum dates back to 1877, when its collections comprised mainly of rare treasures from around the world. Since then the Museum has developed into an institution of international stature, focusing on natural and cultural history and art. Intensive research is carried out in these varied disciplines, and valuable and important collections have been established. Through its displays and education programmes, the Museum renders a public service to its audiences, engaging them in enjoyable and enlightening experiences and enriching the learning opportunities of all individuals.


By introducing short, interactive trips to children, they will learn far more than by being taught the work verbally in the classroom. Experiencing and seeing things helps children obtain a better understanding and retain the knowledge they are taught.
So, do some research, pick a date and plan a visit to one of these great museums. Of course, there are plenty of other museums across our country and we would love for you to share your (and your children’s) favourites in the comments below.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the original authors and other contributors.  The information set forth herein has been obtained or derived from sources believed by the author to be reliable and it has been provided to you solely for informational purposes.
While every caution has been taken to provide readers with the most accurate information and honest analysis, please use your discretion before taking any decisions based on the information in this article.  The author will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this article.

  • January 19, 2017
  • Carmen Kingwill
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