Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

11 Awesome Museums for Kids

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Learning is fun. No, really. At least it can be—you just need to know where to go. These 11 awesome museums for kids are a great start. 


Founded in 1968, the National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York is one of the world’s only museums dedicated solely to the art of having fun. Both historically important and a rollicking good time, within the museum’s exhibition space visitors will find more than 72,000 toys (from teddy bears to train sets), more than 200 arcade games, a butterfly garden, a 1700-gallon coral reef aquarium, and the famous 123 Sesame Street stoop.


About 40 miles northwest of London is Buckinghamshire, the charming county in which Roald Dahl lived and wrote for nearly 40 years. It's also where The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre now pays tribute to his gloriumptious career with three interactive galleries: Boy, which traces the author’s school boy days; Solo, where you’ll find his actual Writing Hut; and The Story Centre, which aims to ignite the creative spark in all who visit.


Roam in the footsteps of the dinosaurs—literally—at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado. Walk the 1.5 mile Dinosaur Ridge Trail to discover hundreds of dinosaur tracks (some of them 100 million years old) and a dinosaur bone quarry. Or opt for the Triceratops Trail, which features its own collection of prehistoric tracks (that are different from Dinosaur Ridge’s), including what might be the footprints of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.


Douglas Muth, Flickr

Opened in 1997, Berlin’s Computerspielemuseum is the world’s first computer game museum, but it’s not resting on its laurels. The museum’s continually evolving collection boasts more than 22,000 computer and video games, including addictive classics like Dig Dug, Tetris, and Donkey Kong (not to mention gaming-related artwork, documents, and more than 10,000 journals).


Budding 007-types will appreciate the undercover nature of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. As the country’s first and only public museum dedicated to the spy game, this all-ages institution asks visitors to leave their true identities at the door (like all good spies, you’ll adopt a cover identity) and immerse themselves in the tricks of the espionage trade with access to hundreds of spy gadgets, tips and tricks from actual spies, and special exhibits like “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains.” 


Amsterdam’s Science Center NEMO is comprised of five floors of interactive exhibit space where kids can get their hands dirty and brains full. They'll learn about a wide range of fascinating topics, including the truth about puberty, the ways in which technology can combat pollution, and the secrets about extra-terrestrial life. 


The name says it all: At Philadelphia’s Please Touch Children’s Museum, hands-on experimentation isn’t just encouraged, it’s expected. Founded in 1976, one of the museum’s most unique aspects is that it’s geared toward children under 7 years old. In the museum, kids can design and construct their very own neighborhoods in City Capers, use their own bodies to create the feeling of flying in Flight Fantasy, or experience the sights and sounds of the jungle at Rainforest Rhythm. Bonus: The museum has its very own carousel, which is more than 100 years old and is housed in a dedicated 9000 square foot glass pavilion. 


It’s hard to beat an original, and when it comes to the world collection of children’s museums, the Boston Children’s Museum is one of the first (officially, the world’s second oldest) and also one of the largest. And educating today’s youth is a key component of its staying power. Through its permanent collection and rotating exhibits, the museum addresses issues of science, math, art, literacy, health, wellness, and the environment. One of the museum’s most popular exhibits is Arthur and Friends, which puts kids smack dab in the center of Marc Brown’s beloved book series and helps them to better understand reading, emotions, and problem solving. 


A deeper understanding of the world awaits at the Montréal Biodôme, which helps both kids and adults to more intimately experience the delicate nature of our varied ecosystems. Opened in 1992, the museum’s perfectly manicured exhibitions—including the hands-on Fossil Affair, which invites kids to learn about evolution—make it easy to turn a day of learning into a day of fun. 


Playing make-believe is many a kid’s favorite pastime. And at the Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine, California, they’ve constructed a teeny tiny city within a city to let kids while away the day moving among the museum’s 17 interactive exhibits, which include a beach, amphitheater, construction site, post office, and grocery store (all of which teach young’uns such essential skills as critical thinking, problem solving, organization, and teamwork).


Kids who love trains will relish the opportunity to descend into one of New York City’s late, great subway stations (it was decommissioned in the 1920s) and immerse themselves in all things train at the New York Transit Museum. Opened in 1976 for the country’s Bicentennial celebration, the museum has managed to maintain the public’s interest for nearly 40 years now, thanks in large part (no doubt) to such cool collection pieces as a 12-seat bus, a child-sized trolley, and a refurbished 1960s “Fishbowl” bus cab.

Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images
How a London Museum Is Preserving a Chunk of the 143-Ton Whitechapel Fatberg
Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images
Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images

When UK officials learned of the 143-ton Whitechapel fatberg mucking up London’s sewer system, their first concern was getting rid of it. Now, the curators at the Museum of London are figuring out how to best preserve a chunk of the monstrous trash mass so as many visitors as possible can see it.

As WIRED UK reports, the museum's exhibition, titled "Fatberg!", launches on Friday, February 9. It features a congealed mound of fat, hair, diapers, wet wipes, sanitary napkins, and condoms that was salvaged from the Whitechapel fatberg shortly after it was discovered beneath the streets of London in September 2017. According to the exhibition’s curator, Vyki Sparkes, no one has ever tried preserving a fatberg before.

The garbage globs, which form from grease and oil poured down sink drains, attract debris ranging in size from candy wrappers to planks of wood. Just a small piece of one can provide a fascinating glimpse at the waste that ends up in city sewers, but displaying a fatberg for the public to view poses logistical challenges.

In this case, the fatberg piece was set out to dry for seven weeks before it was transported to the Museum of London. The resulting item has the consistency of "parmesan crossed with moon rock," according to CBC News, and is roughly the size of a shoebox. Outside of the moist environment of London’s underbelly, the solid chunk may continue to dry out and crumble into pieces. Mold growth and sewer fly infestations are also potential issues as long as it's left out in the open.

The museum curators initially considered pickling the fatberg in formaldehyde to solve the aging problem. This idea was ultimately nixed as the liquid would have likely dissolved the whole lump into loose sludge. Freezing was another possibility, but the museum was unable to get a hold of the specialist freezers necessary for that to happen in time.

In the end, the curators decided to display it as-is within three layers of boxes. The clear cases are meant to spare guests from the noxious odor that Sparkes described to CBC News as a weeks-old diaper smell that’s simmered into something more like a “damp Victorian basement.” The exhibition closes July 1, at which point the museum must decide if the fatberg, if it remains intact, should become a permanent part of their collection. And if the mass doesn’t end up surviving the five-month show, obtaining another one to sample shouldn’t be too difficult.

[h/t WIRED UK]

dvdbramhall, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
London's Foundling Museum Will Temporarily Replace Male Portraits With Artwork of Women
dvdbramhall, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
dvdbramhall, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Foundling Museum in London owes its existence to women. A group of 21 women petitioned to open the Foundling Hospital, the UK's first children's charity, in the 18th century, and today the museum celebrates its history. But you wouldn’t know the important role those women played in the hospital’s origins from looking around the museum’s all-male picture gallery.

Now, in honor of the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in the UK, the Foundling Museum hopes to change that. The institution is raising funds to swap the portraits of men on the walls with those of women, The Art Newspaper reports.

Thomas Coram founded the hospital for babies at risk of abandonment in 1739, but he didn’t do it alone. In order to receive a Royal Charter from the king to open it, he needed to gather enough signatures on a petition. The men he approached weren’t interested, but when he started reaching out to women he received a much different response. Charlotte, Duchess of Somerset was the first to sign her name, and many more duchesses followed her lead. The only evidence of these “ladies of quality and distinction” is a page in his notebook listing their names. The museum’s portraits of male governors, however, are displayed prominently.

This year marks the centenary of women’s right to vote in the UK, and the museum is using it as an opportunity to exalt the women who have been written out of the hospital’s story. They’re seeking £20,000 (about $28,400) to gather portraits of the women currently scattered around the nation and hang them in place of the men who have dominated the portrait gallery for centuries. For the women whose portraits have either been lost or destroyed, the museum will display reproductions or empty frames in their honor.

The Foundling Museum hopes to run the "Ladies of Quality and Distinction" show from September 21, 2018 to January 13, 2019 if they successfully raise the funds they need. Either way, the museum plans to host additional talks and displays through the year in honor of women’s suffrage. You can donate to their campaign here.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]


More from mental floss studios