Free play in the Children’s Backyard


Step back in time to a genuine and authentic backyard from a century ago. The Workers’ Museum is reviving a forgotten piece of urban culture, allowing families and school students to immerse themselves in an authentic backyard, as it appeared in 1930s Copenhagen. Cramped and narrow, filled with restrictions for children, yet with space for curiosity, play, and free imagination. 

The Children’s Backyard is supported by the A.P. Moller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Moller Foundation for General Purposes with a grant of 5.3 million Danish kroner.

In the backyard
Children’s voices blend with everyday sounds – clothes washed in tubs, trash cans emptied, cooper hammering in the workshop, and rats squeaking around outhouses. Sun rays reflect off old windows from surrounding apartments, interrupted only by rows of laundry hanging haphazardly through a narrow shaft.

An authentic experience awaits at the Children’s Workers’ Museum. Here, children and adults can explore the backyard and get even closer to the daily life of working-class families from a century ago. They can meet the grumpy man in the outhouse, try their hand at old-fashioned laundry, check for rats in the trash cans, and hide under a canopy or behind the barrels. New communities can form, and classic old games can be brought back to life. Søren Bak-Jensen, director of the Workers’ Museum, says:

“The backyard allows us to add more layers to the narrative of working-class families’ everyday life over the past 150 years. We are proud to offer a space for learning and play that, through sensory experiences, attention to detail, and scenography, allows visitors to explore history.”

A lost urban space
The Workers’ Museum recreates recreates an urban space that no longer exists in Copenhagen. The many small backyards in the 2nd and 3rd rows, which were not recreational but functional spaces for everyday tasks such as laundry and toilet visits, and perhaps even housed a small craft business or two. Crafts that have now moved into the industry or have completely disappeared.

Memories of working-class children
The archives of the Workers’ Museum is brimming with memories from people looking back on their lives as working-class children in the city around 100 years ago. The backyards play a central role in many people’s memories, as a place that was both safe and unsafe. Backyards were not originally meant for children. It was forbidden to make noise and playing ball was completely out of the question. There were unsanitary outhouses, rats, and very little space. However, despite all this, the backyard was a sanctuary where children could meet with others away from adult supervision. In their play, old barrels could become forts, and a margarine lid could become a shield. Only imagination set the limits. Søren Bak-Jensen says:

“Life in the backyard was tough for working-class children in the 1930s. However, amidst the hardships, communities flourished, imagination led to free play, and dreams of a better life emerged. We see the backyard as a symbol of the tremendous progress in prosperity that the working class has experienced since the 1930s.”

has supported the establishment of the Children’s Backyard.