Children's activity farmyard

Het kindererf in het Openluchtmuseum

Children's activity farmyard

At the children’s activity farmyard kids can see how animals live up close. As part of the Smallholders (school) project, for example, they learn where milk actually comes from and that you need to look after animals well if you want to eat healthy food.
•    The Flemish barn at the children’s activity farmyard is open on Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 1.15 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. The stable is open to everyone at these times. Kids can help the farmer or farmer’s wife to look after the animals.
•    On Saturdays, Sundays and official public holidays, as well as during official school holidays, the stable is open from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
•    Between 10 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. farmyard activities are organised especially for 3, 4 and 5 year olds. The stable is open to everyone in the afternoons. Kids can help the farmer or farmer’s wife to look after the animals.


Want to help out the farmer or farmer’s wife?
Take a look at the activity Roll up your sleeves and get down to work on the children’s activity farmyard.



It is thought that our museum goat is descended from a wild goat species: the Bezoar goat. Goats and sheep were the first ruminants to be domesticated by humans. This was around 10,000 years ago in the region we now know as Iran and Iraq.


The first goats probably arrived in the Netherlands in around 5300 BC. They formed part of the livestock kept on the first farm settlements in South Limburg. From here goats spread throughout the Netherlands. Old Dutch paintings often feature a couple of goats in farmyard scenes. They were often depicted near playing children or in front of a goat cart.


Goats are not fussy eaters. Other than grass, they also eat sticks, shrubs and all sorts of other plants. They can survive on poor ground that is unsuitable for cows. Goats are a source of both milk and meat.


The Holland Open Air Museum is home to Dutch Landrace goats, a breed that had almost disappeared by the early 1960s.


Pigs belong to the genus Sus and are known to have lived in East Asia since the Miocene epoch (between 25 and 2 million years ago). There are many different types of wild pig and all domesticated pigs are descended from them.

In the early 19th century there were two types of pig in the Netherlands: a small, prick-eared pig and a large, lop-eared pig. The former had disappeared entirely by the mid-19th century. Over the course of that century a number of other breeds were introduced to turn the lop-eared pig into an early-maturing, faster-growing pig.

This resulted in a number of different breeds, including the Dutch Landrace pig that can be seen here at the museum. You will find these pigs in the meadow behind the Kadoelen farmhouse and near the Varik farmhouse. During the winter season the pigs are kept in the sty in the farmhouse from Staphorst.


The cows we see around us today are descended from the aurochs, a type of cattle that is now extinct. It was dark brown to black brown in colour and much larger than our cows. Around 9000 years ago people in the Middle East started domesticating aurochs, as they wanted a supply of meat to hand. They quickly discovered that cows are useful for other things too. For example, they were later also used as draught animals and their milk was used to make products such as cheese and butter.


Cows became farm animals in more and more countries. Over time the cows in all these different regions took on a different appearance. A considerable variety of colours and patterns emerged. However, the purposes for which they were used also resulted in different types of cows. In the 19th century people started to talk about breeds. Animals that had the same external features were referred to as a breed.


Animals of the following breeds and colours can be found at the Open Air Museum: Groninger blaarkop, Friesian red and white, Maas-Rijn-IJssel (MRIJ), Witrik and Baggerbont.


In summer the cows can be seen wandering around the meadow and there are often calves at the children’s activity farmyard and on the children’s meadow. During winter the cows are kept in the stall in the farmhouse from Staphorst.


Chickens originate from warm regions of East Asia and are descended from the red junglefowl. These animals have long been kept by humans for their meat and eggs, and also because they are attractive creatures. The Netherlands has a substantial number of old breeds, which appear on paintings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. 


When, in the 19th century, people wanted chickens to produce more eggs and meat, almost all of the old Dutch breeds were replaced with more productive foreign breeds and crossbreeds. These crossbreeds are well suited to factory farming.


Today old Dutch breeds are being maintained by amateur breeders. The populations of some of these breeds are now so small that they are at risk of extinction. You will find the following breeds across the museum park:
the Assendelfter, Drenthe, Dutch crested, North Holland blue, Lakenvelder, Uilenbaard, Brabanter, Barnevelder, Welsumer, Groninger meeuw and Hamburg.


The museum works together closely with the Nederlandse Hoenderclub, an organisation that aims to protect special Dutch breeds of chicken.


The domesticated sheep is descended from the wild sheep. A number of different types of this wild sheep live in an area that extends from the Middle East to Asia, as well as in the eastern parts of North America. Starting from the Middle East, domesticated sheep gradually spread out over large parts of the globe. In the Netherlands people started keeping sheep in around 5000 BC. These sheep may have looked something like our (horned) Drenthe heath sheep today.


Over the centuries a number of different breeds developed from this type of sheep due to natural selection (adaptation to different living environments, such as soil type and climate) and human selection (breeding). Depending on their use and living environment, Dutch breeds are divided into heath sheep, which originated on land low in nutrients, and grassland sheep, which developed on nutrient-rich land. 

Heath sheep
In the 19th century large flocks of heath sheep were allowed to roam extensive areas of rugged terrain. This was mainly because the animals produced dung. During the day the sheep fed on the vegetation and were put into sheepfolds at night, where they left their dung. The shepherds mixed this dung with peat sods and spread the mixture over the fields, which had poor-quality soil. With the advent of artificial fertilisers heath sheep became redundant. Their numbers declined sharply and they were threatened with extinction.


You can see the following breeds of heath sheep at various locations around the museum: the Schoonebeeker, Veluwe heath sheep and Drenthe heath sheep.



The horses we see around us today are descended from the wild horse. In some zoos you can see Przewalski horses, which are very similar to the modern horse’s wild ancestor. Around 5500 years ago people started to tame wild horses. At first they were mainly kept for their meat, but people then discovered that horses were also good draught animals. Later people started riding horses too. It was not long before the speed and impressive stature of the horse led to the animals being used in wars.


Over time horses came to be selected for the qualities they offered. Some people wanted large, fast horses, while others were looking for a strong draught animal and others still a spirited warhorse. This is how different types of horse developed. Horses also adapted to their environment and this had an influence too.


In the Netherlands horses were mostly used in agriculture. You could tell from the type whether it had to work on heavy clay or lighter sandy soils. In the first half of the 20th century different horses were bred for farm work in different parts of the Netherlands: Friesland, Groningen, Zeeland and Gelderland had robust working horses with their own distinctive characteristics. Following the advent of agricultural machines, horses were no longer needed as draught animals. As a result the number of horses used for this purpose declined dramatically.


Two horses live at the Open Air Museum: Tinus, a Gelderland horse, and Omar, a Groningen horse


Children's activity farmyard

Come and see the animals at the Open Air Museum
Activiteit datum

Van 24-03-2017 t/m 30-10-2017
10:00 - 16:30 uur

Aantal personen
Before lunchtime, activities are organised especially for children aged 3 to 5. From 1 p.m. onwards all children can help the farmer or farmer’s wife with jobs in the stable.