Cité des Enfants: A City for Kids in the Middle of Paris
At Tours in Paris, I often emphasize the Paris experiences that show you our amazing art and grand history. It’s pretty easy to see why. This is a city where you can visit the greatest art museum in the world, and these streets have been the setting for some of the most important moments in European history.
But Paris has a lot to offer those curious in science and technology, too. And if you are going on vacation with your children, there’s no need to skip out on these experiences. Paris is home to the best science museum for kids in the world!
It’s called the Cité des Enfants, and no family trip to Paris is complete with it.
Here, your children can learn about the history of science in Paris and around the world. With specially themed exhibits designed with your child’s age in mind, the Cité des Enfants is the perfect place to take any budding scientist.
That’s why I’ve put together this ultimate guide to the Cité des Enfants. You can find answers to all of your questions about going to the museum and what you’ll find when you get there. We wrap it all up with a discussion about the importance of science in the history of Paris, and we will see why this is such an important city for the development of new knowledge and technology!
What is the Cité des Enfants?
The Cité des Enfants is a science museum focused on educating children about the exciting and fascinating worlds of science, technology, and engineering. It is run as a special permanent wing of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, or the City of Science and Industry (CSI).
The CSI is quite an institution, reigning as the largest science museum in the entire continent of Europe. It is tasked with promoting science as a positive cultural force. Part of that is creating content and programming that is specially designed with kids in mind. That way, future generations are able to learn the importance of this field and become the next wave of groundbreaking scientists.
With your Cité des Enfants ticket in hand, your kids go through a one and a half hour session (one and a quarter hour during Autumn half-term and Christmas holidays) touring through the exhibits. Depending on when you arrive, you will have to wait for one to start, but your tickets will have information on when your session will begin.
The area is split between younger kids (two to seven years old) and older kids (five to 12 years old). This way, material and exhibits are always geared specifically for a child’s developmental phase and the unique physical and cognitive skills they have.
The games change and evolve, like Art, along the year.
In the exhibits, children are able to have hands-on learning opportunities — activities that are as playful and fun as they are educational. They can observe and manipulate tools and environments, presented in a curiosity-inspiring and almost game-like way. It really helps connect scientific concepts to easily understandable experiences.
There is also the Louis Lumière theater, which helps highlight the intersection between science and art.
"Lumière" means "Light" in French. True ! but the name came from Louis Lumière, after all, he was one of the most important figures in the development of cinema, both on the technical end and on the creative end.
By the time your child completes their session, they will have a renewed interest in science. And they’ll have wonderful stories to share with their friends when they get back home!
What can children 2 to 7 years expect in the Children City?
The permanent exhibition for younger children is focused around the growing ability to listen to your own emotions, balance yourself, recognize sounds and letters, and explore spaces like mazes. These are the basic building blocks to becoming a scientist, and they are also key skills in being a happy and confident adult.
This section of Cité des Enfants (Children City) is spread out over five distinct areas, each with their own focus. These include:
1 - I Discover Myself:
Your child sees themself in mirrors and on screens, walks through interesting spaces, and uses their smell and touch to discover unique objects. This builds their ability to understand what is going on in the world around them, which is a fundamental skill in science!
2 - I Can Do:
This area has a ton of hands-on activities. They can interact with a variety of objects that do many different things, from setting a ball in motion to fixing a car and beyond. Getting to interact so much with the exhibits makes children feel empowered and included, and the activities naturally inspire experimentation.
3 - I Locate Myself:
This is where your child gets to figure out how to navigate a pathway that has different challenges. They’ll need to crawl, climb, and loop back to make it through.
Paying attention to their environment is key here.
4 - I Experiment:
This is a really fun part of the Cité des Enfants, giving your child hands-on ways to experiment with the differences between how water, air, and light interact with the world. Learning how these three things are similar and different begins to awaken the scientist in any young child!
5 - All Together:
The programming ends with an activity that requires children to work cooperatively. They can come together in a group to build a house with blocks, or they can put a circus into motion. It’s a way to incorporate social skills while still focusing on science and technology.
As you can see, the programming is focused on building your child’s talent for observing and understanding the world around them. It also helps spur on their inherent curiosity, empowering them to learn more on their own.
That’s the most magical part of Cité des Enfants. The time they spend here goes on to encourage a lifetime of self-education.
It’s a fantastic way for a kid to be introduced to science. Instead of making everything dry and serious, it reminds us that really science is all about the adventure of discovery and the fun of experimentation.
What can children 7-12 years expect in Children City ?
Much like the section for younger children, the section for older children is created out of many different areas. And because the kids are a bit older, they are able to complete all the activities without any help from adults.
This gives them an experience they can really feel proud of, and it gives parents a break, too!
The six areas pick up some of the same themes as before, but they provide kids with a lot more high-tech fun. The themes include:
There are so many ways that kids will learn about the human body in this exhibit. They can have their top running speed measured, listen to their own heartbeat, test their balance, and so much more. There’s even a computer that can give them an instant makeover! These activities are a lot of fun and provide challenges.
2 - Communication:
After visiting this area, your child will know how to write certain characters in Chinese and Arabic, as well as get practice learning how to communicate in a variety of spoken and written ways. This not only builds up communication skills, it also helps introduce kids to ideas about what makes transferring information so interesting.
3 - TV Studio:
This is one of the favorites in the entire museum. Kids are allowed to film musicians, run a teleprompter, experiment with special effects, and try out other activities that teach them how movies and television are created. As you can imagine, children really enjoy playing around with this equipment and seeing things from the other side of the camera.
4 - Garden:
Agriculture is a major part of life, but many children never get to see it up close. This area teaches how things are grown and how entire ecosystems work to support life. There’s even an astronomy hut where the seasons are taught. Showing the connection between species and how life functions are the essence of biology.
5 - Water Games:
In history, few things have been as vital to technological innovation as understanding how water works. And in this area, kids get to play around with all kinds of water dynamics. There are jets that shoot water, tools that make bubbles to send objects to the surface, and many more. Through playing, children learn about concepts like pressure and flow rate.
6 - Factory:
Applied technology is central to almost everything in your house. That’s why this area teaches children how goods are created in factories. They also learn about how to make electricity and how to measure mechanical efficiency.
Because these are for children 7-12, the exhibits are more advanced, providing greater challenges and delivering more information. But like all of Cité des Enfants, everything sits in that sweet spot between education and entertainment. Your child is going to learn a lot just by playing around!
What else is at Cité des Enfants?
No matter which area you go through, the exit to Cité des Enfants shows many engines and machines from a variety of fields, including a helicopter, fighter plane, tank, firefighter airplane, and tractor.
These machines show children the most important technologies for the French economy, and it also shows the important role scientists play in any country. This encourages kids to pursue a career in science and to save human lives as they grow up.
Other places in Paris are modernized and encourage pupils to learn coding and software programming at the age of four.
And of course, what museum would be complete without a gift shop on the way out?
At this boutique, you can buy encyclopedias, educational toys, and even art books.
Is Cité des Enfants accessible for English speakers?
When you bring your child to the Cité des Enfants, you’ll be happy to find that all of the explanations and descriptions are available in English!
This is a major benefit to English-speaking families, of course, but it is actually becoming extremely common throughout Paris. More and more of the city is making an effort to be welcoming to people who do not speak French. This includes much of the Metro line, the train, many museums, and even city public services.
This makes sense, as Paris has always had a close connection to the United States!
This growing friendliness to English speakers is particularly apparent here at the museum. On our most recent visit to the Cité des Enfants, we found there were many people who didn’t speak a word of French — including people from New York, San Francisco, London, and even New Zealand!
On your next trip to Paris, you’ll find that the city really is much more open to English speakers than ever before. It makes things a lot easier for you while on vacation, and it means that your children do not have any language barrier to enjoy the educational materials at the Cité des Enfants. But of course, there will still be exposure to French, which can be an eye opening experience for many youngsters who have never traveled outside their home country.
How should you travel to Cité des Enfants?
One of the best elements of Cité des Enfants for families visiting Paris is that it is easy to get to using a route that’s straightforward and family friendly.
By subway, you take Line 7, which is a safe Metro line. However, it is recommended that you go by cab. This will bring you right up to the building. Anyone traveling with children, especially little ones, knows how much of a benefit that really is!
Because the Cité des Enfants has so many experiences to offer kids, it is a good idea to do this early on in the day when they will have the maximum amount of energy. That’s another good reason to take a cab rather than using the Metro, as they can burn up a lot of focus and attention behaving on the subway that they will want for the exhibitions inside!
There’s another good reason to go as early as you can: the crowds. They open their doors at 9:30 am — from Tuesday to Sunday. That’s probably the best time possible to visit, as the crowds only get worse as the day goes on.
All in all, getting to the Cité des Enfants by cab early in the day is the best way to experience it. Your kids will thank you!
Why is Paris such a good place for kids to learn about science?
As you can see above, the Cité des Enfants is the perfect place to take your children to learn about science. But really, your entire Paris vacation can be a great time to teach the young about the development of science.
Paris has been home to some of the most celebrated scientists in history. This is even the place many of the most well known experiments and inventions have happened.
Below, I’ve collected some of the shining moments of this history, but remember that there is so much more to the story! There really isn’t enough space to share more than a small sample of this incredible history of science and technology in Paris.
The Académie des Sciences
In 1666, King Louis XIV established the Académie des Sciences, or the French Academy of Sciences. This was a government organization that committed itself to promoting scientists and funding their work. It proved to be an essential part of the story of European discovery for the following centuries.
The Academy held high status up until the First World War. By that time, it was no longer the center of French science, with the most exciting new theories coming from outside its walls.
This governing body shows that science has long been a source of fascination for the country, and it has also been a major point of pride for us that we have been the home to so many breakthroughs.
One of the most famous scientists of all time, Marie Curie moved to Paris when she was 24. It was while in France that she completed her pioneering work in radioactivity (a term she coined) and discovered both polonium and radium.
Curie was the recipient of many awards, including two Nobel Prizes — one in physics and another in chemistry. That made her the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first human in history to win a Nobel Prize twice.
Thanks to her work, we now have effective radiation treatments for cancer and can easily diagnose various injuries using X-rays.
And the work she started continues! She established the Curie Institute in Paris and a sister institute in Warsaw (she was originally from Poland and remained deeply connected to her homeland). Both of these continue to be enormously productive research centers, helping to improve our understanding of the universe long after Marie Curie’s death in 1934.
The Pasteur Institute
This massive non-profit is named after its founder Louis Pasteur, a French scientist who might be responsible for saving more lives than anyone else in the history of humanity.
His experiments created the germ theory of disease, which laid the groundwork for modern disease prevention. He also created multiple vaccines and established the process known as pasteurization (also named after him). Thanks to him, humanity figured out how to sanitize surfaces and tools — something that makes everything from surgery to tap water much safer!
The institute he founded went on to continue his work studying infectious diseases, and they have been at the forefront of this field since they formed. In 1983, their scientists were the first to isolate the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and their research has been irreplaceable in the fight against many diseases, including tuberculosis, plague, and many more.
So far, 10 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to scientists for their work with the institute. Here’s to 10 more!
Medicine in Paris
Medical research in Paris has a long history. If you’d like to learn more, check out this blog post on the subject!
The Parisian View of Science
When you visit Paris, you will find that the culture here loves science. The French people in general are well educated in matters of science and technology, and we have overwhelming public support for the scientific community.
We believe that science is universal. The same scientific laws at work in Paris are at work anywhere else on earth. That makes them important — they bring us all together. That spirit of unity means that science can be used to put aside our differences and work together.
It is also a powerful tool. The long history of scientific breakthroughs, especially over the last few centuries, has shown that this method of understanding the world is also a great way to change it for the better.
The French Revolution itself, an event that had a permanent effect on our culture, came from the same Enlightenment that brought us the rise of science!
Here even our art museums are on the cutting edge of technology. Art historians at places like the Louvre and the Orsay use forensic methods to learn about works and check authenticity.
And we are leading the fight to make science accessible to all. The vast majority of French scholarship is available for free online, and our government has worked with others in Europe to promote open access to science.
Take your children on a Science-focused vacation to Paris
Do you want to open your child’s eyes to the wonders of science? Your next vacation to Paris is the perfect opportunity to do so!
It all begins with the Cité des Enfants, but there are so many other science-related places to go and see.
I’m a mother who has been giving accredited tours of Paris for over a decade. That means I have the experience to make all the wonders of science fun and engaging for children of all ages.
When they come here, they will be in a city that has long upheld science as important. And we still support the work scientists do.
If you want your next family vacation to bring wonderful scientific education to your children and transmit to them the Passion of Paris, then contact me to plan ahead.