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.

Charles Dickens Museum Highlights the Author's Contributions to Science and Medicine

Charles Dickens is celebrated for his verbose prose and memorable opening lines, but lesser known are his contributions to science—particularly the field of medicine.

A new exhibition at London’s Charles Dickens Museum—titled "Charles Dickens: Man of Science"—is showcasing the English author’s scientific side. In several instances, the writer's detailed descriptions of medical conditions predated and sometimes even inspired the discovery of several diseases, The Guardian reports.

In his novel Dombey and Son, the character of Mrs. Skewton was paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak. Dickens was the first person to document this inexplicable condition, and a scientist later discovered that one side of the brain was largely responsible for speech production. "Fat boy" Joe, a character in The Pickwick Papers who snored loudly while sleeping, later lent his namesake to Pickwickian Syndrome, otherwise known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

A figurine of Fat Boy Joe
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Dickens also wrote eloquently about the symptoms of tuberculosis and dyslexia, and some of his passages were used to teach diagnosis to students of medicine.

“Dickens is an unbelievably acute observer of human behaviors,” museum curator Frankie Kubicki told The Guardian. “He captures these behaviors so perfectly that his descriptions can be used to build relationships between symptoms and disease.”

Dickens was also chummy with some of the leading scientists of his day, including Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and chemist Jane Marcet, and the exhibition showcases some of the writer's correspondence with these notable figures. Beyond medicine, Dickens also contributed to the fields of chemistry, geology, and environmental science.

Less scientifically sound was the author’s affinity for mesmerism, a form of hypnotism introduced in the 1770s as a method of controlling “animal magnetism,” a magnetic fluid which proponents of the practice believed flowed through all people. Dickens studied the methods of mesmerism and was so convinced by his powers that he later wrote, “I have the perfect conviction that I could magnetize a frying-pan.” A playbill of Animal Magnetism, an 1857 production that Dickens starred in, is also part of the exhibit.

A play script from Animal Magnetism
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Located at 48-49 Doughty Street in London, the exhibition will be on display until November 11, 2018.

[h/t The Guardian]

Inside the New Oprah Winfrey Exhibition at the National Museum of African American History

The National Museum of African American History and Culture has shown millions of visitors artifacts from black history, from Nat Turner’s Bible to Michael Jackson’s fedora, since opening in Washington D.C. in 2016. Now, there's a new reason for guests to visit the institution: This month, it launched an exhibition dedicated to the life and impact of Oprah Winfrey, Afro reports.

The exhibit, titled "Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture," traces the life of the iconic philanthropist and media personality. It starts with "America Shapes Oprah, 1950s–1980s," a section devoted to Oprah's childhood during the civil rights movement. It's followed by "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which highlights her 25-year talk show, and a final section called "Oprah Shapes America," which looks at the evolution and influence of her work. The exhibit also features Oprah memorabilia, such as a model of her childhood church, costumes from her films Beloved (1998) and The Color Purple (1985), and the red suit she wore when she gave everyone in her studio audience a free car.

Oprah was one of the people who helped make the National Museum of African American History and Culture a reality after it struggled to get off the ground for decades. She was the museum's largest donor before it opened and has given a total of $20 million to the institution.

Oprah toured "Watching Oprah" with her best friend and CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King before it opened, and wrote on Instagram, "Seeing everything under one roof brought tears to my eyes."

The exhibit is open now through the end of June 2019.

Oprah exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Oprah exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Oprah exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

[h/t Afro]

All images courtesy of Smithsonian.


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