Big Kids Play Too

in Exhibits

A frequent question we hear is “are there things for my older child to do?” and the answer is YES!!! As a hands-on children’s museum, our exhibits are designed to enrich children of all ages as they explore, play, and learn.  Every gallery is filled with open-ended opportunities that can be geared up or down to match a wide range of developmental stages.  Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas!

Ways you can enhance their experience:

  • Joining in! Playing alongside your child will not only give them ideas on how to use the materials, but it will show them that you’re never too old to play or be silly.
  • Asking questions! This promotes thinking in new ways and can lead to bigger conversations and help make connections to the real world.
  • Offering challenges! My favorite approach by far, offering a challenge stimulates critical thinking skills and creativity. “Can you build a tower taller than this using only triangles?” It also works great when kids are behaving in destructive behavior that you want to change. “Who can fill this basket up with the most eggs?”
  • Leaving them alone! Boredom in a world of over-scheduling is a welcomed break for kids. The unstructured nature of a children’s museum provides the opportunity to be yourself and explore without a right or wrong path. And if you don’t think this is working, go ahead and try out one of the other tricks to help get the ball rolling.

Gallery Suggestions:

  • The iconic Atrium Climber challenges your gross motor skills (and courage) as you pull yourself up through the ropes to the highest spot in the museum.  It is a self-regulating design that allows visitors to only go as high as they are able to climb. Sometimes kids do need some extra encouragement or support, and that’s ok!  It is big enough for grownups to tackle and we always have a staff member at the top to help.
  • The Story Tree is filled with chapter books, costumes, and a stage to act out your own stories! Snuggle up atop the tree with a good book for some quiet time or race below to act out a scene.  This space encourages your imagination to take shape and get a little silly.
  • The Art Studio prompts visitors with creative activities that help them make connections to the real world and with other galleries in the Museum. You will typically find a table supplied with plasticine clay and wires for molding and shaping, a create station with all the basics, and an ever-changing station that ranges from printmaking to weaving. While there is an intended prompt on the table, feel free to explore the materials in your own way!
  • In the upstairs Connections gallery, you will find a space for building big and small. These materials are set out for open ended play and can be used several different ways for new discoveries every visit.  Right now, Connections is decked out with hundreds of Legos and dinosaurs. How many scenes will you create?
  • The Recycle Rebuild space is filled with fun technical challenges that can stump even our grown-up visitors. With an emphasis on reusing materials in new ways, we offer activities that can often be recreated at home!

Looking for something more structured? Check out some of our staff-lead programs!

  • Tool Time Tuesday allows children to use real tools in a safe environment with one of our educators and it’s free with admission or membership!
  • Join us for our after school drop-off class, QuestClub. Through the end of March, we will be experimenting with motors, circuits, hydraulics, and more! You can pick and choose your favorites or attend them all.
  • Fired Up Friday happens on 1st and 3rd Friday evenings, stop in anytime between 4-7pm to make a clay creation you can keep.  Either take it home that night to air dry, or opt to glaze and fire your creation in the kiln!
  • If weekends are more your thing, drop in to the Weekend Play shop for a new challenge every Saturday from 1-3pm. Our educators are always crafting exciting new experiments that can be enjoyed by both adults and big kids.
  • Interested in dropping off for a longer period of time? Parents’ Night Out is a monthly opportunity to leave the kids with us for a night of pizza and fun while you enjoy a night off! Not only do they get full range of the Museum after-hours, but our educators will be leading scientific experiments tailored around a different theme every month.

These are just a few ways to get you started. Feel free to call ahead or ask a staff member during your visit for more information!

Contributed by Andi Koller