All parents of babies and toddlers are on the constant search for playgrounds. And the only thing better than a playground is finding a playground that is a uniquely local experienceAnd while we have a fabulous example of this below for those who are travelling to Amsterdam with kids – don’t forget, there are unique playgrounds everywhere, if you are willing to look.

For example, on a winding, lush, road at Omana Regional Park in Auckland, New Zealand, we recently found a playground inspired by the Maori culture (this one was great for all ages, including babies. Plus, it’s right next to a beach).  In Canberra, Australia, there’s an excellent playground at the (also fabulous) National Arboretum inspired by the bush landscape (it’s called the pod playground and it’s better for 3-4 year olds and up).

Amsterdam with kids: don’t miss the ‘petting zoo’ playgrounds, known as Kinderboerderij. Great for babies and older kids.

If you are in Amsterdam with kids it’s worth knowing that one set of local playgrounds has a memorable twist: they are also a petting zoo.  After a friend who grew up in the Netherlands mentioned the Kinderboerderij, we knew we had to try it, and took a 10 month old along for the roadtest.

We spoke to one parent while we were there saying, “Wow, this is fabulous”.  He nodded, but said pragmatically: “It’s because we don’t have a lot of nature, we need something.”  It’s true: the Netherlands is a tiny country packed with 16 million or so people (it’s about 40 people per square kilometre), so he has a point. Although, cycling in Amsterdam with kids is another outdoorsy activity that feels pretty special, despite the crowds.

We loved the concept before we even arrived. It seems like such a great way for the kids to have a play, but for the adults to peek into the world of Amsterdam’s local families.

In Amsterdam there are about a dozen Kinderboerderij (they are all listed here), so you could go to a different one every day on your bicycle, just as an excuse to explore the city.

Entry is usually free and all the Kinderboerderij are run by volunteers. Doubly lovely!

Here’s what happened when we road tested a Kinderboerderij (petting zoo playground) in Amsterdam with a baby:

First, we spent some time deciphering the locations of all Amsterdam’s Kinderboerderij here (you’ll need to fiddle around to translate each page into English or simply open google maps and plot them on a map to see how far each is from your accommodation).

We decided to try Kinderboerderij De Werf, because it was an easy bike ride from the apartment we were housesitting on Java Island. (Housesitting with a baby? Yes!)

Amsterdam with kids - Kinderboerderij De Werf
These petting zoos/playground combos, called Kinderboerderij, are run by volunteers. They are found all over Amsterdam.

Parking on one of the bike racks outside, we opened the child proof gate and 11 month old Ollie was immediately greeted by a mass of bikes.  But there was something unusual here – there were pigs wandering amongst them.

Amsterdam with kids - Kinderboerderij De Werf Kids Petting Zoo pigs
Pigs and bikes? Yep, it’s true.

At least the bikes outnumbered the pigs!

Amsterdam with kids - Kinderboerderij De Werf Kids Petting Zoo - PigThe animals do have cages but are free to wander around as they choose.  Pretty exciting for us – although the local kids just went about their business. 

There were plenty of other animals at  Kinderboerderij De Werf – all just roaming around.  We were crazy excited, but the local kids took it in their stride to see chickens hanging out under the chairs in the simple cafe.

Amsterdam with kids - Kinderboerderij De Werf Kids Petting Zoo Chickens and Chairs
Chat with a chicken over a coffee? Why not?
Amsterdam with kids - Kinderboerderij De Werf Kids Petting Zoo - Goat
Get up close to a goat? Naaa (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

After a while, we headed for the swings and the sandpit. It was a nice change of pace, but also a good chance to talk to some local families.  (There were plenty of Dads on kid duty the day we went – buying into our preconceived notion that there’s a fairer gender split in parenting duties in the Netherlands than in countries like Australia or the US or UK. What do you think? Are we imagining that?)

Amsterdam with kids - Kinderboerderij De Werf - Playground
The playground was a good place to chat to local parents.

The whole place was tucked away amongst trees in a leafy residential area, making the ride there and back a fabulous addition to exploring Amsterdam.

Highly recommended!

Previous articleFlying with an infant: long haul
Next articleOpera in London. Yes, opera for babies!
Aussie journalist, travel writer and founder of Sue White has always been a traveller. When her son was born, Sue knew her travel itch would still need regular scratching. But how do you travel with a baby under one and still have a good time? Is it even possible? Where do busy new parents discover practical tips to support those first few trips? To find out, Sue and her baby son travelled both Australia and Europe doing house sits and house swaps; cat sitting and car journeys; took on 24 hours flights and short domestic jaunts; travelled with friends, solo and family members; and cycled, drove, flew and train-ed around seven countries, all before his first birthday. Learn more about Sue.