If you’re not familiar with the term “children’s museum” you might logically assume that it is a modified educational museum with paintings and works of art that would interest young people. While children’s museums are certainly geared towards youth, they are non-profit entities that combine the arts and science to help nurture a love of lifetime learning. The designation is more of a technical one for tax identity purposes, so the word “museum” may be a bit misleading or confusing. Here’s what you can expect to find at a children’s museum.
Whether made up of high-tech, wall-sized monitors with interactive flat panel displays or kid-sized grocery stores or fishing ponds, the cornerstones of children’s museums are their exhibits. The goal is always to simplify a broad concept like farming, space travel, or exchanging money. The key is to provide tactile, hands-on activities that qualify as both play and teachable lessons. Many children’s museums include water tables to teach about weather and physics, or Rube Goldberg machines that demonstrate laws of motions and physics.
Many children’s museums will schedule experts in different fields to give demonstrations that allow children to experience arts and science firsthand. Perhaps a local artist can draw caricatures while explaining their process. Or a local television meteorologist can give a live forecast and experiment to explain barometric pressure or changes in temperature. A local magician can even put on a show! If children are engaged, they are learning.
Beyond demonstrations, many children’s museums will host open houses or themed fundraising events (they are non-profits, after all). These can be wonderful family outings that meld fun and education. One popular one is New Year’s at noon, where families bring young children before noon on New Year’s Eve to pretend they are seeing the year change. They wear pajamas, count down, and toast with apple juice or fruit punch.
Children’s museums are a great way to instill curiosity and knowledge with young people. Check to see if there’s one close to you today!