Children tired of art and architecture can release their energy at well-equipped playgrounds with slides, swings and frames at Parco Savorgnan near Ponte delle Guglie in Cannaregio and the fenced-in waterfront park at Giardini in Castello. The vast shady green expanse of Sant’Elena even boasts a modest skating rink and an artificial climbing wall. Otherwise, make friends with the city kids as they kick footballs or cycle around Campo San Polo on an afternoon.
Restful for adults, exciting for youngsters, the varied boat lines are an ideal way for families to appreciate the joys of the city. Get older children to plan trips on the route maps, but avoid the outside seating on the vaporetto with toddlers. For an extended trip, take the majestic double-decker motonave over to Lido and Punta Sabbioni.
Magic moments are guaranteed as children are transfixed by skilful craftsmen blowing blobs of molten glass into fine vases, or moulding coloured rods into myriad animal shapes. Small workshops are dotted all over Venice, while Murano has more large-scale furnaces – demonstrations are free, on the condition that you stroll through the showroom afterwards.
Salizzada del Fondaco dei Turchi, S Croce 1730 • 041 275 02 06 • Open Jun–Oct: 10am–6pm Tue–Sun; Nov–May: 9am–5pm Tue–Fri, 10am–6pm Sat & Sun • Adm (last admission 1 hour before closing) • www.visitmuve.it
The star of the natural history museum is a 3.6-m-(12-ft-) tall, 7-m-(23-ft-) long skeleton of the dinosaur Ouranosaurus nigeriensis, found in the Sahara Desert by Giancarlo Ligabue. Don’t miss the aquarium.
Easily the best city museum (see Museo Storico Navale) for children, this three-floor haven of shipbuilding includes Chinese junks and exhibits from World War II, such as the famed torpedoes guided by Italian Navy divers, responsible for sinking British warships.
Every Sunday the museum (see Peggy Guggenheim Collection) hosts Art4Family, free educational workshops in English and Italian, run by artists and students from the Venice Academy of Fine Arts, for children aged 4 to 10 and their parents. You must book in advance.
Campo San Barnaba, Dorsoduro 2808
Standing on a picture-postcard bridge, this delightful toy emporium caters for kids both young and old. Owners Marco and Francesco are veteran game designers specializing in Tolkien-related board games, making this a prime destination for gamer geeks.
Children are thrilled by the spooky labyrinth of narrow passageways through the palace’s erstwhile prisons, and it’s fun deciphering the graffiti scratched on the walls by inmates over the centuries. In the armoury, hunt out the unusual child-sized suit from the 16th century, along with the protection for horses.
Ruga Giuffa, Castello 4925
Run by a real magician, this shop is full of essentials such as wands, hats, and books revealing the tricks of the trade in Italian and English.
If younger children are starting to tire of the galleries and museums, take them to play at the Lido. The free beaches offer hours of fun and not just in the summer. Bikes can also be hired.