Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Boston Children's Museum

Before our trip to Boston, I'm not sure that visiting a children's museum would rank very high on my list of things to do while on vacation. Don't get me wrong--I love a good children's museum. Visiting the Children's Museum of Indianapolis is one of my favorite day trips with the arrow. And we adore Kidscommons here in Columbus, Indiana as a great mid-week or bad weather boredom buster. But when I'm traveling, I prefer to see and do something completely unique to that locale, something we can't do where we live.
Boston Children's Museum
But after three busy days seeing some of the sights in Boston, most of which were probably more appealing to 30-somethings than 2-year-olds, we wanted to spend our last day doing something that the arrow would really enjoy. By now the high temps had me ruling out anything outdoors, and so we retreated to the cool and kid-focused Boston Children's Museum.

Here are some of my favorite aspects of the Boston Children's Museum:
  • There was a real focus on everyday life in many of the exhibits. Sounds boring, right? Not to a toddler who has often watched his mom brush her hair but never had the chance to do it himself. (That's a mannequin, not me. Do you really think I'd let him come at me with a hair dryer?)
  • Boston Black exhibit at Boston Children's Museum
  • It was actually pretty relaxing. The first area we visited was called PlaySpace, and it was ideal for families with babies and toddlers. There were plenty of benches and seating for adults to sit and watch their little ones play, as well as an entire padded area just for little crawlers. Because many of the exhibits throughout the museum are nearly completely enclosed, we didn't have to do much chasing or hand-holding: something we had done A LOT of in the days prior. We also parked our stroller in the museum lobby, and didn't find a need for it for the entire visit. We were ALL happy to get a break from the stroller!
  • PlaySpace at the Boston Children's Museum
  • Since I now have traveling with two on the brain, I was particularly pleased to see an enclosed kitchen/relaxation area for those families with babies (also in the PlaySpace area). There were rocking chairs perfect for nursing, a microwave to heat up food, a high chair, etc. I can imagine more than one mom has breathed a sigh of relief when she saw this amenity.
  • Kitchen in the PlaySpace exhibit
  • The arrow had a chance to explore interests. He has been really into musical instruments lately, something that as parents we want to encourage. Yet we don't have room in our budget (or in our house) to purchase gobs and gobs of new toys. At the Boston Children's Museum, he could bang on things like this amazing steel drum and test out other unique musical sounds throughout the museum. There were also exhibits focused on water, sand, construction equipment, etc. (In other words, pick any of the typical toddler/preschooler delights, and you'll likely find an area perfect for that child.)
  • Boston Black exhibit at the Boston Children's Museum
  • There was a strong educational focus. The arrow starts preschool this fall (more on that to come), so we made sure to stop by the Countdown to Kindergarten exhibit so he could get a sense of what a classroom looks like. To our surprise, this was by far his favorite exhibit in the museum. He loved going to the different stations and seeing what he could try.
Countdown to Kindergarten exhibit at the Boston Children's Museum
The Boston Children's Museum probably isn't for everyone. It's geared toward younger kids. I would guess children 7 or older might not find much here to hold their attention for very long. (Trust me, as a mom of a 2-year-old, I'm not complaining about this. There are many other attractions in Boston that would be perfect for older kids, so I was thankful for a toddler/preschooler paradise.) I was also hoping to pick up a unique toy or souvenir for the arrow in the gift shop as a memento from Boston (we had managed to avoid any such purchase thus far into the trip), but I found the offerings disappointing.

I did appreciate the food choices for lunch, though. The museum has an area for brown-baggers, an attached Au Bon Pain, and the famous giant Hood milk bottle just outside the front door in the warmer months. After many meals on this trip that consisted of french fries and a few bites of hot dog, it was great to visit the Au Bon Pain and get the arrow something healthy to fuel him until dinner.

All in all, we found the Boston Children's Museum to be a great spot for a few hours of arrow-focused fun. I learned on this trip that visiting a big city can be taxing on a young traveler--in and out of a stroller, waiting in lines, lots of commotion, etc. I think I'll incorporate children's museum visits into future travel plans as a good option for when energy and patience (parents and toddlers') begins to wane.

If You Visit:
The Boston Children's Museum
308 Congress Street, Boston (Nearest T stops are South Station and Courthouse Station)
Cost is $12 for all visitors over the age of 1. (Babies are free.)
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and closes at 9 p.m. on Fridays.

This post is a part of Mondays are for Dreaming at The Mother of All Trips. We're dreaming of more children's museum fun in the future: in Boston, near home, and around the world! What are your favorite children's museums?

PS: If you want to know more about how we filled five days in Boston with a toddler, see my Boston Trip Report. Or you might be interested in my tips for visiting a children's museum.

Disclosure: While HomeAway covered many of our travel expenses for our trip to Boston, we paid for our admission to the Boston Children's Museum and all opinions are my own.