Check out the museums. Amsterdam is a wonderfully cultural city for those who care to look beyond the clichés. The Rijksmuseum, the national museum, is a massive storehouse of art, crafts and history, with plenty to see by Dutch Old Masters Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Vermeer, but also a fantastic collection of Asian art. Children's tours are restricted to group bookings, but there's a family activity book in an English version.
Walk a short distance from the Rijksmuseum in its home on Museumplein to the Van Gogh Museum, where a multimedia family guide designed for those with ages 6–12 gives an insight into the work of the famously tormented genius.
Take teens to he Rembrandt House Museum, a little more centrally located, a building where the painter lived and worked before going bankrupt. It's not as child-friendly as the previous museums, but older kids may be interested in Rembrandt's etchings and in the carefully reconstructed period interiors.
Take older kids for an eye-opening, consciousness-raising history lesson at the Anne Frank House, where the young Jewish hid out from the Nazis with her family, as described in her 'Diary of a Young Girl' (the original of which is among the items displayed). Temporary exhibitions are held here too, on issues such as discrimination and freedom of speech. Beware that queues for the museum can be very long – advance online booking is recommended. [If you find the cost of museum visits totting up, it may be worth investing in a Museumkaart, although kids go free to many of the city's museums.]
Explore Amsterdam's distinctive network of canals – either a hop-on hop-off touring cruiser, or better fun for kids, a four-seater 'canal bike' (essentially a pedalo) – Stromma offers hire, route suggestions and rain shields, or else group tours on various themes.
Discover Nemo, the city's wonderful 'hands-on', ship-shaped science centre, designed for children 3-13. It's not cheap, and you'll need a full day inside to see everything over the five storeys and get your money's worth, but there's a gigantic rooftop where you can run amok against great city views (it becomes a magnet for sun-bathers in summertime). You can picnic there or elsewhere in the museum, or there are several eateries. In Dutch school holidays Nemo gets extra-busy but does offer special events, including science displays and workshops.
Decide for yourself about Artis Zoo – somewhat run-down and with some enclosures of a size that many visitors will deem unacceptable (smaller urban zoos are not the place for elephants, for instance), but offering a good if very expensive day out by virtue of its also housing a planetarium with daily shows, an aquarium, a zoological museum, a geological museum, a children's farm and a great playground.
Explore the Vondelpark, generally considered the city's best. In summer, it's' a haven for cyclists and Rollerbladers and there's lots of open-air theatre, while on Queen's Day (April 30) there's a family-friendly celebration here, including games and activities for kids.
When the weather lets you down, head for TunFun, a popular, huge and very central indoor playground for ages 0–12, while for older kids, the Amsterdam Dungeon offers the same schlocky fun as its counterparts in London and elsewhere, with historical twists – Rembrandt's Secret explores the iconic painter's dark side, while Crime and Punishment traces the story of the 16th-century 'Council of Blood'.
Venture out to Muiderslot, a medieval castle 12km southeast of Amsterdam, with falconry displays and great children’s trails and activities.
Seek out local beaches in fine weather – Zandvoort can get very hectic, but there are some very family-friendly stretches to the north of IJmuiden.