Saturday, June 15, 2013

Blocks, Bubbles, and The Big Circus Robbery

We met up with some friends at a children's museum yesterday. It was a fun and blessedly air-conditioned outing.

With the heat of summer steadily pounding heavier and hotter everyday (heat index of 111° yesterday! NOT EVEN CLOSE TO KIDDING), the great outdoors around here veers uncomfortably close to actually being barbecued. So indoor, and inexpensive ($20 for me and the kids) activities are true sanity savers.

We had a really good time. It's not a huge place, but the exhibits are fun and really well designed.

We spent quite a while at the Bubble Zone. The ambulance. The dentist office. The toddler stations with blocks, Mr. Potato Heads, dominos, Legos, and trains. And we all liked the little café, where Grace immediately felt at home in her chef's hat, bossing everyone else around. Not meanly, but she was definitely in charge. Kit was in love with the dishes, especially the cups. Especially after all the other kids moved on and she had them all to herself!



 
 
 
 
 
 


We always have trouble in the morning and had a little over an hour to drive, so we ended up arriving nearly two hours after most everyone else. My kids were just getting started, but after an hour our so, our friends finally had to leave since they had some very hungry explorers. A few had brought some lunch which they ate outside, then came back in to keep playing. But we didn't get to visit cuz we had kids going every which way.
 
The next stop for my tykes was the miniature Winn-Dixie for some groceries. This was hands down Grace's favorite place in the whole museum. She LOVED it!  She would peruse the isles slowly, make careful selections, and filled her cart like an expert. And even more than that she LOVED ringing up her groceries on the cash register. She even got me a bouquet of sunflowers! She would have stayed there all day.
 
 

 
 
 

 
The transition from the café to the store was more than Kit could bear though, and she totally melted down. Finally Zak was able to get her interested in a package of fake donuts, and though she was very sensitive for a long time, she did follow him around and help put things in the adorable teeny tiny grocery cart. But every chance she got she bolted out of the swinging doors and off toward her favorite spot. The bubbles.
 
No, not these bubbles, though she did enjoy this station a lot.
 
 
 

 
But it was these bubbles that she would have stayed at all day. She ran back to this spot multiple times throughout our visit.
 
 

 

 
I finally contented her with playing in the walled in toddler area in the middle of the building so that I could keep an eye on her in there, Grace in the grocery store right next to it, and Zak as he flitted from one activity to the next so long as he could still see me.
 
Zak found his happy place in the newsroom. They had a real camera that broadcast his antics onto several screens throughout the museum. Needless to say my little ham was in hog heaven! He liked it in there so much that Grace even brought her picture she was coloring in there so I could keep an eye on everyone at once.
 
 
 
 

 
I finally told them one more room, and then we had to go cuz my stomach was about to eat itself. So we returned to the Circus Room that we had visited earlier.

It was empty when we arrived which was perfect because Zak and Kit both needed to get some serious energy out. Zak wrestled with the giant stuffed animals, though I mediated so that he wouldn't get crazy rough. Kit made herself a little circuit of jumping off the little boardwalk, trotting in a semi-circle back around to the beginning of the walk, and then skipping down the walkway to the end. Jump, trot, skip, repeat. And repeat. And repeat, repeat, repeat.

I knew we had hit our tolerance threshold the moment that Zak "robbed" Grace's cash register. She stepped away to get something and he raced over, emptied the entire drawer and started to run through the room, cackling a maniacal laugh, and tossing handfuls of bills in the air. She was chasing closely behind, shrieking horrified cries of injustice, and finally dissolved into tears at the complete lack of control. Kit, hardly noticed as she completed her circuit for the umpteenth time, she merely slowed her pace and cast the occasional raised eyebrow in their general direction. Yeah, they were done.
 
I gave them a five minute warning just as Grace recuperated her stolen funds and placed them back in the cash register, which she had earlier taken to the snack booth so that she could sell both snacks and tickets instead of having it spread out in two separate booths. It was right about then that about six or seven other kids made their way into the room and gladly assumed roles as customers, and performers in the tiger act that Zak had moved on to creating.
 
 
 

 
Since my kids had seemed to have gotten out the majority of their frustrations and energy during "The Great Circus Robbery", I went ahead and let them play awhile longer as everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves very nicely.

It was during this time that we had our only negative interaction with anyone else there, and the kids I'm sure probably don't even remember. I probably only cared because I was tired and my stomach had now moved on to attempting to consume the rest of my organs.

The whole intent of the entire museum is to spur imagination and help kids become familiar with real life scenarios in a fun and no pressure way, but some people sure know how to stifle that. Take, for example, the 'No'-Lady, that works there, who walked in while the tiger act was in full swing and the concession stand was bustling!

 
 
 
"This is a great show! Even better with my fifteen-scoop ice cream cone!!"


'No, no...don't play with the curtain." (I'm fine making sure my kids follow the new rule, but I'm confused, why there is a curtain hanging within reach of children inside a museum designed for children to touch everything if they are not supposed to touch it?)

'Oh no! You don't have your shoes on! Better put those back on!' (He took them off to put on the clown shoes provided in the costume area. I kind of thought that was the whole point. Right? Hmmmm.)
 
'Uh oh! You're missing your shoes too! That's no good!' (She couldn't possibly have really been directing this at my one-and-a-half year old, even though she was saying it to her. It really felt like a not-so-sugar-coated reprimand toward me. I ignored her. My baby needed a well deserved break from her shoes, and this was the most practical room to give her that break in. And again, the only dress up stuff that I saw was in this room. Maybe she just got done trying on clown shoes herself, Lady!)
 
 
 

 
Then she really annoyed me.

Does it really matter if the cash register is at the ticket booth or the snack booth? Apparently it really mattered to her.

That's good Lady, interrupt a free flowing game that multiple children are playing and cooperating in together, happily imagining and creating, so that you can feel better by moving the most integral piece of equipment (said cash register), and telling them that 'it needs to be over here, so that they can buy tickets over here'. (They were having no problem buying tickets and snacks at the snack booth. They really had everything totally worked out.)

All of their progress and flow completely dissolved and the game came to an abrupt and completely unnecessary end, because an adult walked in and decided for them that they weren't playing thier game right. None of the other parents had seemed the least bit disturbed by the way the kids were playing. Most of them were enjoying the show or helping kids get costumes on. I didn't see any signs that said "DON'T MOVE THE CASH REGISTER". Aren't these things designed to be played with? Ugh, so aggravating.

At any rate, the children began to disperse and I informed mine that our minutes were up. We packed up and headed home.

Overall, we had a good lot of fun, and beat the heat at the same time.

Many museums offer either a discounted or free day once a month or so. If you want to find out if any do where you live, just type "free things to do in (your city's name)" into your search engine. You might find some really cool stuff to do!


 
  
 

Stay cool, people! 

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