El Salvador – Tín Marín Children’s Museum

My kids have been to plenty of children’s museums so why take them to one while we were in El Salvador? Because they’ve never been to a children’s museum in SPANISH!

I thought it would be funny to get a photo of the kids in front of this part of the entrance sign.

The Tín Marín Museo de los Niños in San Salvador is next to Parque Cuscatlán. Even though we were there on a day when most of the country was off for holidays, there was absolutely no line when we arrived. The friends we brought with us have lived in San Salvador their whole lives but had never been to the museum which opened in 1999. (We suspect because of the cost. Admission is $2.50 plus an extra dollar if you want to go to the planetarium. That’s $3.50 per person – a very good price to us, but unfortunately not affordable for all locals.)

If you’re trying to remember which famous Salvadoran “Tín Marín” is, (like I did) – give your brain a rest. As it turns out, Tín and Marín are invented characters.

Meet Tín (left) and Marín (right)

The staff at Tín Marín are incredibly nice and obviously love working with children. Seeing the way some of the young men engaged the kids at the museum was really cute.

They had a lot of fun things to do – a pretend bank, movie theater, airport, doctor’s office, dentist, volcano, fire station, art area, butterfly garden, and more. The first thing we wanted to do was check out the airplane. They have the actual cockpit and whole first class section of a TACA airplane on the property – but the tours are scheduled as “flights” … So while we waited for our departure time, we checked out a section that teaches kids about cellphone use.

Translation: "Did you know that in El Salvador there are more cellphones than people?"
Translation: "Answer calls at church only if it's an emergency."

I also took my younger son to the “doctor’s office.” A little girl seated at the receptionist desk chatted on a plastic phone. Seeing us at the window, she told us to have a seat. A few seconds later, the doctor, who was all of maybe 3 years old, came out in scrubs. He wordlessly waved us back to the exam room and my son hopped up on the table.

“Buenas tardes, doctor,” I said. “Mi hijo no se siente bien. Está enfermo?” [Good afternoon, doctor. My son doesn’t feel well. Is he sick?]

The little doctor whose head barely came above the exam table, reached up and put the stethoscope on my son’s chest and listened for a moment. “Está enfermo,” he said.

“¿Tiene medicina?” I asked. [Do you have medicine?]

The doctor opened and closed an empty drawer. “No hay,” he said. [There isn’t any.]

(Apparently we had gone to the public hospital.) We thanked the doctor and told him we’d get his medicine at the pharmacy instead.

Finally it was time for our “flight” – so we lined up. The Tín Marín guide for this tour was a very well-spoken young man and great with the kids. He would give them information and then ask them questions to see if they were paying attention. At one point he explained that you have to get a passport and a visa to travel to the United States. Then he asked the group, “What do you need to go to the United States?”

The kids obediently answered, “A passport and a visa!” … I whispered to Carlos and his friend, “or cash and a coyote.” … So we started laughing like bad kids at the back of the classroom.

Finally we were able to board the airplane. There weren’t quite enough seats so I gave mine up knowing that some of the people, (including our friend’s wife and teenage son), had never been on an airplane and this was special to them.

Carlos smiles for a photo while his friend pays attention to the tour guide.

After we exited the airplane, we went to check out the rest of the museum.

My younger son learns to hang clothes to dry.

My favorite part of the museum was the mini grocery store. They had laminated grocery lists you could use, (this teaches reading skills among other things – and for my kids, Spanish vocabulary) – but there weren’t any hard and fast rules. Kids could play however they wanted. So you get your list, (or not), go around with your little cart, get your groceries, and then go to check-out.

At the check-out, the “cashier” was so great with the kids. He would tell them things like, “Ah, you bought milk. When you drink milk you build healthy bones! Good choice!” … After everything had been scanned and put back into the cart, he told the child the “price” and then asked “Efectivo o crédito?”

“Efectivo” was a new word for me. I knew immediately that it meant “cash” but I had always used the slang word “pisto.” (And now I knew why the waiter at the fancy hotel in San Salvador tried not to laugh at me. One evening while I watched the boys swim I felt so sleepy I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I decided to have coffee delivered poolside. The waiter asked how I’d like to pay. I responded, “En pisto.”)

Anyway – the cashier asked my son “Efectivo o crédito?” – My son looked at me for guidance.

“Mejor efectivo,” I said.

“Efectivo,” my younger son said, pulling imaginary money from his pocket and paying.

When the “cashier” went on break, my younger son took his job at the register.

I loved seeing my kids playing with native Spanish speaking children and not having any problems. My younger son checked out several children at his register and asked them “Efectivo o crédito?” – So cute.

Wait a minute. This customer looks familiar.

My youngest son is actually almost 10 years old but he’s small for his age, and he uses it to his advantage. While other kids his age feel self-conscious playing pretend, he still jumps right in and has fun.

Our younger son works to repair downed power lines.

My teenage son tried to act like he was too cool for the museum, but when he saw our friend’s son, (who is also a teenager) enjoying himself, he started playing too.

Making pupusas... plastic ones.

Is it just me or do Salvadoran teenagers feel less pressured to act “cool” and “mature” when they reach a certain age? … It was really refreshing to hang out with our friend’s teenage son. He taught my teenage son to just have fun and not worry so much about what other people might think. That’s a good lesson for everyone to learn.


  1. What a great museum! It looks much better (and bigger) than a lot of children’s museums that I’ve been to in the US. And I love that your kids were able to experience the whole thing in Español (and rocked it)!

  2. How fun! I am so glad they got to enjoy this day. It looks like you guys did too. Cool that there’s wasn’t a line on that feriado too :)

    Do you feel your kids’ Spanish is stronger now, after your El Salvador trip?

    • Amanda – I do feel the kids Spanish is stronger. We were only there for 12 days but they really expanded their vocabularies and my younger son is now mixing Spanish into his speech without being prompted. I may write a post about all this later!

  3. I took my kids to Explora in León (México) pretty often when they were little and I agree it is a great language experience and a lot of fun! Does the name Tin Marín come from the rhyme? In Mexico we say: De tin marín, de do pingüé, cúcara mácara, títere fue, yo no fui, fue Teté,
    pégale, pégale, que ella fue. It’s to choose something. Like Eeeny, meeny miney mo in English, I guess. I don’t know if they use the same rhyme in El Slavador.

    I have loved reading about your trip!

    • Ooooo, I like that rhyme! I need to learn it to teach to my kids! Thanks :) .. Maybe the museum name is from that rhyme — Will have to ask Carlos if he’s heard it before. When I asked him what “Tín Marín” meant – or who it was, he just shrugged. lol… One of the museums guides told me it was those little characters’ names but they didn’t say anything about the rhyme.

      Thanks for the comment, Jennifer!

  4. Exactly the kind of place I need to go to learn more Spanish. But I wouldn’t go unless I had children to take…I guess I need to borrow a couple!
    Loved this post and the photos!

  5. What a great museum! It looks like one that we have here in Portland. I love the little pupusa making area. We will have to stop by there when we go to El Salvador in December.

  6. That looks like so much fun! Wish we had something like this in oklahoma! =) loved all the pictures you took. Your children look like they had a good time.

  7. El Tin Marin es un lindo museo para niños y para que sus padres jueguen con ellos. Y si, el staff es sumamente atento y servicial. La mayoría son chicos voluntarios, entiendo que son horas towards las “horas sociales”.
    Y el Planetario, les gustó? A mi hijo le encantó al igual que la onda del terremoto!

    • We bought tickets for the planetarium and got in line for it, but they were late opening the doors and we didn’t want to waste time standing there since the museum would be closing soon. Me and the boy, since we had already been to planetariums before, went back to the museum and only Carlos and his friend stayed for the planetarium. Carlos said it was nice pero todos tienen que quitar los zapatos y por eso huele a patas chucas in there. ROFLMAO.

    • Oh – and you reminded me —- I am so mad that we missed the earthquake! It happened only a few days after we left. I was so upset. LOL.

      Did Junior seriously like it? Was he scared at all?

  8. I loved playing pretend when I was a kid and this museum would have been my second home! How cool!

    I’m 28 and I want to go. What’s wrong with me? :lol:

  9. What a great museum! I agree with your last part, that we are way to self-conscious here. I’m glad they had fun playing there! (We sing “de tin marín…” también. Great name for the place.)

  10. I have been wanting to take my 2 and 3 year old there, but never knew if it would be worth going, I am in La Union, and that is far for us…looks like a lot of fun though, I think we´ll have to plan a trip there!

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