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Best indoor educational attractions for kids in Malaysia

Featuring the best places in the country to have a laugh and learn something new with your children

Fun is the key to effective learning, especially at these art, museums and discovery centres. We pick the best places in the country to have a laugh and learn something new with your children. 

Ilham Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
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Ilham Gallery, Kuala Lumpur

ILHAM Gallery is doing a commendable job running educational and public programmes to bridge the gap between artists and audiences. One such initiative run by ILHAM is Tours for Tots, a gallery tour tailored especially for families with young kids.

If art appreciation lies close to your heart, Tour for Tots is the perfect means to introduce the subject to your children. The tour begins at 10.30am with a meet-and-greet session, during which time everyone trills a welcome song to help break the ice. Each tour shines the spotlight on the current exhibitions on view and includes fun arts and crafts to encourage creative participation. After viewing Ai Weiwei’s monument ‘Divina Proportione’, for instance, the kids are prompted to create their own three-dimensional sculptures. Likewise, a tour of a photography exhibition is capped with the chance to create your own self-portraits. Such activities create a deeper sense of awareness while prompting critical thinking among budding minds.

Before calling it a day, don’t forget to collect your Tours for Tots gift bag filled with crafty materials, which will keep the creative juices flowing long after your gallery visit.

Tue-Sat, 11am-7pm; Sun, 11am-5pm. Tours for Tots: RM30 per child (must be accompanied by a parent). Show up at 10am to register. Limited to 12 children per tour. Email info@ilhamgallery. com to place a reservation.

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KL City Centre
The Habitat, Penang
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The Habitat, Penang

This new nature reserve atop Penang Hill serves as a refreshing getaway from the island’s hectic neighbourhoods (think George Town and Gurney). If your kids’ only knowledge of the wilderness is via National Geographic, lead them through this lush rainforest seemingly untouched by man. 

All of The Habitat’s attractions, including the Nature Trail, the Canopy Walk, the Treetop Walk and the Butterfly Bank, were constructed using ecologically sound and environmentally-friendly methods to ensure minimal disturbance to the environment. Exotic flora and fauna loom around every corner with the Red, Purple and Yellow Gardens housing flowering plants of the said vibrant colours. Kids with keen eyesight are likely to get lucky spotting the Paper Kite Butterfly, Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Dusky Leaf Langur and other wildlife.

Mon & Thu-Sun, 9.30am-6pm. Adults, RM50; Children (aged 3-12 years); Students (with valid ID) and Senior citizens (above 60 years), RM30; Children (aged under 3 years old), free. Family package (2 adults and 2 children aged under 13 years old), RM130.

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Air Itam
Wonderfood Museum, Penang
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Wonderfood Museum, Penang

What kid hasn’t read ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ or watched ‘Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs’ and dreamt of gargantuan portions of food? Wonderfood Museum Penang brings the fantasy to life by exhibiting realistic models of food, some fit for giants.

The museum was built in direct relation to the founders’ unique vocation; Mr and Mrs Lau specialise in making the kind of lifelike food replicas you see displayed at the entrance of eateries, especially Japanese restaurants. The couple, who have been supplying restaurants, hotels and food stalls with faux food since 2007, deemed it a waste that some of their handiwork were swept under the carpet without the chance to be appreciated, which led to the museum’s grand opening in November 2015 to showcase their works.

The museum displays miniature, regular and massive models of food, but it’s the last of which that grabs most visitors’ attention. You can pick up a colossal satay skewer that’s as long as a javelin, fake a headsplitting brain freeze next to a mountain of cold cendol, or pose next to a bowl of Penang laksa that’s as big as a hot tub. Seeing a dish enlarged by more than a hundred times isn’t just surreal; it draws one’s attention to the individual ingredients that go into your favourite dishes, giving the interactive experience an informative edge.

Daily, 9am-6pm. Adults, RM25, Children (ages 3-12 years), Students (with ID) and Senior citizens (above 60 years), RM15; (MyKad holders) Adults, RM15, Children (ages 3-12 years), Students (with ID) and Senior citizens (above 60 years), RM10.

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Upside Down Museum, Penang
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Upside Down Museum, Penang

This wonky museum, which opened last year, is amazing fun, especially when the whole family or a large group of friends are in tow. It’s also a memorable spot to introduce your children to the concept of gravity, a natural phenomenon many take for granted.

Saunter through conventional backdrops depicting typical-looking bedrooms, kitchens, dining halls and the like – standard settings, except they’re upside down. The marvel of engineering has allowed for lightweight furniture and other household items to be attached to the museum’s ceiling. Meanwhile, the floor is left bare so that visitors have plenty of room to roam about and pose for photos. Smiling museum assistants will gladly snap shots for your whole posse so that no one gets left out.

After you take your picture, rotate it upside down so that subjects appear to be defying gravity. The overall effect is highly convincing and amusing, save for the fact that your hair and clothes don’t fall the way they should.

Mon-Fri, 8.45am-5.30pm; Sat-Sun, 8.45am-6.30pm. Adults, RM27, Children (aged 5-12), RM16, Non-Malaysian students (with ID), RM16; (MyKad holders) Adults, RM16, Children, RM8, Students (with ID), RM11.

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Funtasy House Trick Art, Perak
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Funtasy House Trick Art, Perak

Got a giggle out of Penang’s 3-D trick art museums? Then you’ll be glad to know that there is a similar institution in Ipoh. Punning the words ‘fun’ and ‘fantasy’, Funtasy House Trick Art has gained quite a following since its opening in November 2015, with visitors heaping praise upon the attentive staff. Each group of visitors is assigned their own guide, who strives his or her best to make you feel at home (hence the ‘house’ reference).

Located in a Straits dual-frontage courtyard shophouse and divided into three sections – The Ipoh, The Punishment Room and Fantasy Fairy Tales – the galleries encourage family bonding over laughs. Trompe-l’oeil (French for ‘trick of the eye’) artwork is the name of the game here with 3-D paintings created by local artists spurring your kids to get creative with their funniest poses. Lie across a colossal chopping board, trap yourself within a mermaid-enchantress’s crystal ball, shrink your sibling to fit inside a magician’s top hat, fulfil your Harry Potter fantasy of riding a broomstick, and more. Each fantastical situation is both absurd yet highly entertaining.

Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm; Sat-Sun & Public Holidays, 9am-8pm. Adults, RM19, Children (4-17 years), Students (with ID) and Senior citizens (above 60 years old), RM10, Children (below 4 years) and disabled, free; (MyKad holders) Adults, RM15.

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Ho Yan Hor Museum, Perak
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Ho Yan Hor Museum, Perak

This new kid on the block is strategically housed right next to an old-timer; the former spotlights the classic Ho Yan Hor herbal tea, while the latter, known as the Han Chin Pet Soo Museum, is a renowned Hakka tin mining museum. So kill two birds with one stone and visit both.

Painted a pretty periwinkle blue, the modest Ho Yan Hor Museum is charged with conserving the annals of the iconic Ho Yan Hor tea, which was created by the very interesting Ho Kai Cheong, who started selling the tea to miners on their way home from work. Deemed a household staple by many a Malaysian parent, the brew contains 23 natural herbs that provide relief from heatiness, the common cold and the flu.

A pet project of the Ipoh-based pharmaceutical company Hovid, the museum charges absolutely nothing for entrance. Its main objective is to preserve the old building where the company first set down roots and to promote appreciation of the local tea.

Walk with the kids through the museum’s educational corner with easy-to-understand story boards, watch a short documentary, scrutinise tea-related antiques and artefacts, and end the tour by sipping steaming cups of Ho Yan Hor tea at the tea bar. The tour takes no longer than an hour, which is great considering the attention span of a child.

Tue-Sun, 10am-4pm. Free entry. 

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