Sunday, May 22, 2011

Children's Museum of Indianapolis

After Tim's graduation in Ohio, we headed to Indianapolis to meet up with our friends who moved to Iowa two years ago. We met them on Sunday at our hotel and first went to Conner Prairie, which I will post photos of soon. Unfortunately, Caroline's buddy got sick the next day and couldn't join us here at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. ;(

This museum is the largest children's museum in the world! On the way in from the (free!) parking deck, you get a view of the huge dinosaurs which appear to be climbing into the top window of the museum's lobby/tickets area!

I guess the mama dinosaur boosted her baby up there! ;)

This was really cool: right as we were getting our tickets, we noticed these mosaics of famous paintings... made entirely of Jelly Belly jelly beans! Above is Van Gogh's Starry Night.

Here are the girls by a jelly bean Mona Lisa. These were all done by the same artist.

Here is American Gothic in jelly beans.

Before I go any further, I want to say that this museum exceeded my expectations completely! While the website is full of information on each of the sections and exhibits, there is just so much more. We spent all day here, from 10:30 until 5:00, and we could have stayed even longer if they weren't closing! So, they didn't ask me to do a review of their museum, but that's basically what I am doing, with tons of photos. Everything was hands-on, and there was so much to do for both our three year old and our six year old.

We started in the dinosaur area, which they call the Dinosphere. They have several actual fossils of dinosaurs, and what I thought was neat was how each sign showed a diagram of the dinosaur's bones and which were real fossils and which were casts. There was a lab with glass windows surrounding it so you could look in and see paleontologists really working on fossils! There was a scavenger hunt activity taking place while we were in there, and the kids all listened to a guide reading the clues and went to find the fossil which was being described. The kids all got a dino sticker at then end.

These dino heads had eyeholes so that you could see what each dinosaur's range of sight was like.

Here are two t-rex dinosaurs attacking a triceratops.

This is the fossil dig area... and it was different from any I have seen before. Most have sand, and I have seen one with tiny chunks of rubber, and the kids just shovel and sift through it to uncover the "bones." However, this one actually had tiny pebbles that are stuck together with some kind of substance and then hardened... and then the kids use hard plastic picks to really scrape away the bits of rock! They are required to wear goggles because of this, and it is slow going, like a real fossil dig would be. Cecilia is working on a panel in the wall...

...while Caroline works in the fossil pit, where there are large "bones" and space for several kids to get in.

The next section we visited was called Take Me There: Egypt. The girls checked out this floor map as we entered the room... it shows the flight from Indianapolis to Egypt.

We boarded a plane... I was really impressed by how this simulated flying! The seats rumbled like we were really taking off, and landing... and the windows were actually little monitors which showed a picture of the scenery moving past us as we landed! Very cool.

Once we were in "Egypt," the girls explored some homes... Cecilia is baking pita bread in an outdoor oven.

Then they went to the market and picked out some fruits and vegetables...

...and they took them across the "street" and into this tent.

Caroline tried on clothes in a clothing store...

...and wrote the word "peace" in Arabic (there were several templates of words to trace - I helped Cecilia trace the word for a male friend so we could give it to our friends since they couldn't come)...

...while Cecilia checked out the mama and baby crocodiles in the Nile River!

Cecilia made me a smoothie in the coffee shop.

The tea, coffee, and mint containers could be opened and smelled. Like their matching pigtails?

After we left the Egypt area, we came across this Indy 500 car and the girls posed for a photo.

The next area was Playscape... this area is for kids age 5 and under, but Caroline, just barely 6, was able to enjoy it as well. They had a water table, where Cecilia would have stayed all day if we'd let her!

This is part of the layout of the room... Caroline is in the far back, playing at a dollhouse that is a couple inches taller than she is! To the left there were sand tables, and to the right were climbing/sliding areas.

In the middle of the area, there was a playhouse with furniture and dolls, and lawnmowers and a mailbox outside. Cecilia must have decided the lawnmower was a stroller...

Next to the playhouse were these large building boards, which Daddy helped with to make a very low house (not enough long boards!).

In the back section, there is a "river" on the floor, and there were various ways to cross it: lily pads, a log, stepping stones, a bridge, and even a raft. The kids had to sit on the raft, which was on rollers of some type, and figure out how to use their hands to hold the ropes and pull the raft across.

This polar bear is set up in the atrium area between exhibits.

We had lunch in the food court... there were lots of choices. Not as many choices as the Georgia Aquarium, but also not at insane prices like the GA Aquarium, either! ;) For instance, Chris and I each got a huge slice of pizza, a side salad, and a drink for just over $7 each, and the girls had cheeseburgers with applesauce and milk for about $5 each. I considered those to be about normal prices for eating lunch in a deli-type restaurant. Much better than many museum food courts, and pretty tasty, too!

And at this point, I must say that they have thought of everything at this place! The drink area in the food court had literally 20some choices of beverages, and they had huge quantities of everything... no rummaging to find a lid for your cup. There was plenty of space to set your food while gathering condiments and such. Hand sanitizer machines located in convenient spots. In the Playscape area, they even had a basket of clothespins next to the water table smocks, just so parents could clip the smocks shut tighter if they were too loose or if the velcro wasn't sticking. There were low kid-sized toilets *and* sinks in each bathroom, complete with a low soap dispenser and signs about rubbing your soapy hands while singing the alphabet. I really think they must have gone through the museum with several families and observed what little details they could add to make everything go more smoothly!

After lunch, we went to one of the traveling exhibits, which was Dora and Diego. Now, I can't say that this exhibit really wowed me or was especially educational, but Cecilia loved the baby animal clinic... she scanned the animals in the scanner (which repeats, "Hi, my name is Scan... Scan the Scanner!"). Then it tells what is wrong with the animal and what to do, and they kids can find a bandage or feed it or whatever. Cecilia especially liked this jaguar.

She gave it a bath...

...and listened to its heart. Each animal had a little tag on it, which I assume was what the scanner used to identify each animal accurately.

Caroline and Chris put "acorns" in this tree and watched them go down the ramps... it either had a suction or blower device in it to move the balls up into the tubes.

Cecilia checked out the toddler garden and the shape-sorter flowers.

Then we went back to Egypt... they had a special presentation in which we could participate. The program occurred earlier in the day, but it would have been about the time when we would be very hungry for lunch! So, we were able to come back and do it at the later time in the afternoon. The museum workers were reenacting a new baby welcoming ceremony. So they began by inviting us into their "house" and offering us Egyptian costumes to wear. Caroline opted for one, but Cecilia declined.

They passed out instruments to play when we had a parade to celebrate the new baby. They also gave us little packets with Arabic writing on them and some "gold" coins inside as party favors.

Caroline was selected to use a loud metal instrument... it is like a mortar and pestle made out of brass, and you hold the handle and bang it around the inside to make a really loud noise. Their tradition is that this "awakens" the baby (along with everyone shouting and making noise), and they place the baby in this large sieve (that looks like a huge embroidery hoop) that has been decorated with lace, and they rock the baby around in it. Pretty interesting... I liked how they let the kids participate so fully, and they made it relevant to them as well by asking what sort of things Americans do to welcome a baby. Caroline said that we have a baptism and baptism party. They discussed baby showers as well. Also, they believe that the baby is born surrounded by seven angels who stay with the baby for seven days, and then at the ceremony, they "release" the angels by stepping over the baby seven times. I mentioned to Caroline that the different beliefs are interesting... that we believe a baby is born with a guardian angel too, but that the angel remains with the person for their whole life.

After the program, we went to the top level of the museum (it has five levels!) to an area called Carousel Wishes and Dreams, with old-fashioned toys. Many were just on display in this maze... I showed the girls how this circa-1970s Fisher Price Castle worked... I used to play with it as a young child, maybe at our church nursery or a friend's house (or both)... they thought the trap door was pretty cool!

This treehouse was up really high... I know, because I climbed up the steep ramp with Cecilia! The girls climbed down through a hole in the floor which led down into the trunk of the tree.

Cecilia made me some ice cream in this ice cream/soda shop.

Here are Caroline and Cecilia looking up at the bottom of the Fireworks of Glass blown glass sculpture. It goes up four levels, and underneath there is a glass ceiling so you can look up at it. The round bench rotates slowly, too!

Then we went to the ScienceWorks section. The girls found some wild animal costumes (chipmunk and frog) and put them on before going into the hollow log.

They used these machines to scoop up shredded tire mulch.

Caroline tried to work this big tractor to push around some foam "rocks."

Then she shoveled some of the rocks in what I guess was part of a construction site.

There were also a few water tables in this section too, with floodgates and a bucket on a pulley, things like that. We didn't get to stay in this section as long as we could have since it was getting close to closing time!

We did go back to the Carousel section with a couple of nickels so the girls could ride "Sandy" the horse. It was actually in front of a store from the 1950s until maybe ten years ago, when it was placed in the museum. It's a really jolting ride - they don't make these kid rides the way they used to!

Last, we went into the Barbie traveling exhibit for just a few minutes... I had to take pictures of this camper from the 70s, which I had as a child! And before I date myself as being older than I actually am, I played with it in the early to mid-80s. Somebody had a yard sale or gave it to use or something... it was not new when I got it and did not include all those hippies, ha ha! I do remember the folding chairs and the whole camper itself. The top could detach, and once we had it on the floor, upside-down, with some prongs sticking up. My brother Stephen jumped off the pool table and landed on one of the prongs, gashing the skin where his big toe began. Ahh, and that's one of my few Barbie memories, ha ha.

I also had this pool, given to us by the same people as the camper, most likely. I used it for the My Little Ponies and model horses to swim in. Again, I just had the pool... and maybe the slide and some of the fencing.

This is what caught the girls' eyes and made them want to go in: the reception desk with the poodles. It was just SO PINK, and I have girls who are mysteriously drawn to pink and girly-looking things... if I didn't see it happen, I wouldn't believe these girls came from me, ha ha, because I was not into pink at all as a kid!

And we didn't even do everything... there is an exhibit that looks good for older elementary and middle school kids called the Power of Children, focusing on the lives of three children in history. The All Aboard! train exhibit was temporarily closed/gone. But boy, this museum can fill up more than one day! I could see having a membership pass if I lived in the area. Just the 5 and under area alone could easily offer hours of hands-on activities!

1 comment:

Melanie said...

That place looks awesome. My girls had fun at the one in Chatt. but it definitely wasn't the same. On the plus side, there was NO ONE there. I guess it was the last week of school and everyone had other things to do.