Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What to do Wednesday: Visiting the "Of Toy and Men" Exhibition at the Grand Palais

One of the many wacky digital images displayed at the "Of Toys and Men" exhibition

Until I had kids, I thought I was a kid at heart. Then my sons were born and I realized that I’m light-years away from my childhood. Much of the time, I have absolutely no clue what these babes are thinking. Why won’t my two-year old eat a broken cookie? What would possess my four-year old to drink his bathwater? How come they suddenly hate cherry tomatoes, when a few months ago they clamored for them like pieces of chocolate?

Fortunately, there are times when I recover the sense of excitement and wonder that I often felt as a child. Taking the kids to the “Of Toys and Men” exhibit last week at the galleries nationales, Grand Palais was one of those times. My kids and I were of one mind: toys are so cool.

I always worry that taking my children to a museum or exhibit featuring toys that they aren’t allowed to play with will be a nightmare. But every time, the kids have surprised me. Last year’s Playmobil exhibition was a smash hit in our household, as was our visit to the Doll Museum. Apparently, just seeing the toys and imagining that they could play with them was entertaining enough. (God – don’t you miss being a kid sometimes?)

Of course, it helps that “Of Toys and Men” isn’t your grandmother’s exhibition, where you shuffle quietly through the galleries with an intensely meditative expression plastered on your face. This exhibit is brimming with color and life. A multimedia retrospective, things twinkle, shimmer, blink, revolve. You’ll face larger-than-life digital dolls. See a grumpy Santa Claus being pelted with beautifully-wrapped gifts. Watch funny snippets of old black-and-white movies with toy themes, such as “Babes in Toyland.” You’ll witness how certain toys have evolved over the centuries and marvel at how essentially the same many have remained. You’ll see old friends: Barbie, GI Joe, Spiderman, Raggedy Ann, Smurfs, Super Mario Bros…. Star Wars action figures!

I tell you, I rushed from display to display with a smile on my face, as did the kids. And I vowed to participate in a toy drive this Christmas. Because the relevance and importance of toys in a child’s life is brought home to you, seeing this exhibit. And it broke my heart to think of kids that don’t have any.

After the exhibit ends, be sure to pass through the gift shop (basically a toy store), where the exhibition organizers have set up a large playhouse filled with small toys and interesting costumes where the kids can finally, finally, finally let go and play to their heart’s delight.

My oldest son can’t wait to go back and see the whole thing again. Actually, neither can I.

Practical Information:

Address: 3, avenue du Général Eisenhower
75008 Paris

Hours: Open every day except Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., late night on Wednesdays until 10 p.m. The exhibit runs from mid-September through January 23, 2012.

Price: €11.00 for adults; €8 for 13-25 year olds; 12 and under free. Parents of small children should not that strollers are not allowed inside galleries. You can check your stroller in the coatroom for free.

Transportation: Metro: Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau (line 1) or Franklin Roosevelt (line 9). Bus: 72.


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  1. Hi Barbra, was wondering about how this exhibit was. Thanks for the review!

  2. Hi Cat - I thought it rocked. We haven't been back yet, but we're planning to!