Yesterday we took a long, overdue field trip to the Strong National Museum of Play and had a WONDERFUL time!!! Oh my goodness it was so much fun! We have never been there before and really weren’t sure what to expect but it was absolutely awesome!
My mom (who will be moving to North Carolina at the end of this year) had told us quite awhile ago that she wanted to take us there but things/life kept coming up and we never made it out there. Sooo, my niece from North Carolina (who is the same age as my 2nd youngest) was up here visiting for a week and my mom said we HAD to do this field trip when she was here and I’m so glad we did.
My niece is such a character and almost everything she says makes us all laugh LOL. So needless to say, yesterday was even more fun since she went with us. I was also grateful to spend some time with her since she does live so far away and we haven’t seen her in almost 6 months. 😦
Well it was about a 2 hour ride each way for us and it really wasn’t too bad. My youngest (15 1/2 months old) got fussy/stir crazy the last 30 minutes on the way there but still, he didn’t act up that much.
I was pleasantly surprised with this museum since it was all INTERACTIVE! They had tons of hands-on activities for kids of all ages to participate in. I could not even begin to describe all of them in this post because there are just too many. Even for my young toddler, they had little “pitstop” like areas within the “big kid” sections that you can play with your little one and they can get out of the stroller to stretch their legs, climb on soft mats, and play with toy balls, cars, and other toys. Let me tell you, that was wonderful since we all know how toddlers can get bored just sitting in the stroller watching everyone else run around and have fun. They also had little “guest rest” rooms scattered around that was like a small living room where you could go to nurse your baby, change a diaper, or just “regroup” for a few minutes with your children. There were several “craft stations” in each exhibit for visitors to stop and make different projects. I thought everything was really well thought out.
We were even permitted to bring in our own bagged lunches and water jugs/bottles and eat within their food court. That definitely helped to save on $$$! It was also nice that they had plenty of rest rooms throughout AND they were clean too!!! 😉
One of my favorite exhibits there was the One History Place where the kids could go back in time to colonial-like days and use real items to pretend to churn butter and then pour the butter into wooden molds, use the old wood stove oven to bake loaves of bread and cookies (they even had a LARGE selection of plastic food items in each exhibit area to make the playing/pretending even more realistic!), then pump water from the well (NOT real water though for obvious reasons) into the barrel to wash the dishes and scrub the clothes, then hang them to dry. It was fantastic!
Then they had a “radio station” so the kids could be d.j.’s and broadcast a news announcement, record their own talk shows, or take requests to play favorite songs. They loved listening to themselves on the speaker system as they used the microphones and pushed different buttons which made sounds like a drumroll or applause from a live audience. I was laughing so hard as I listened to all the funny things the kids came up with!
There was a “news room” where the kids could sit at the desk to report the news, point to the large world map as they forecasted the weather, or be “behind the scenes” as the cameraman turning and moving the tv cameras. It was so much fun to watch them act out as well. There was a “theater stage” area complete with a curtain that opened and closed, plenty of dress-up clothes and props to use for their production, and a “sound area” where they operate the spotlights and sounds/music for the performance! In most of these special areas, there were VCR’s where you could insert your own video tape to “record” your child(ren) as they were pretending/playing. I didn’t know that though or else I would have made sure I brought one.
There was a giant “reading adventureland” where the kids literally ran around as they visited different climb on/walk through scenes such as Cinderella (complete with dress-up ballgown and pumpkin coach), gingerbread house, Jack and the Beanstalk, and so much more…SO MUCH MORE!
There was a very realistic “post office” where the kids could make their own postcards and/or letters and then mail them as they sort other mail and packages, put them on the conveyor belt to be carried to the truck, or place them in appropriate “p.o. boxes”! There were even keys to use to unlock the p.o. boxes to retrieve your delivered mail…such wonderful detail here! There was a FABULOUS “Wegmans Grocery Store” just for kids!!! WOW! Kids were given a pouch of play paper money to use as they walked in and then they chose a shopping cart to begin shopping. All of the items/products were incredibly realistic looking. They could weigh their fruits and vegetables in the produce section, choose meats from the butcher’s block area, pick out breads and pastries from the bakery, and shop up and down different aisles for their groceries. When they were ready to “checkout”, they would switch roles as they became the cashier, unloaded the cart and put items on the rolling conveyor belt, and then “scanned” the UPC bar-codes!!! They had real cash registers to “cash out” customers and themselves on. Each order was made complete with a real, printed cash register receipt, which listed their items and shopping total on. It was so neat to watch these kids shop around and push these kid-sized shopping carts!
Ok, in summary, I’ll tell you what my favorite exhibit was…it was called the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden and it was phenomenal!!! I’ve never experienced anything like this before! It was a separate exhibit/admission but priced very reasonably. After watching a brief video on butterfly etiquette (safety lesson), we were lead into this enormous area which was like walking into a tropical world/rain-forest, and immediately, we were surrounded by butterflies!!! We saw butterflies flying through the air all around us as they’d visit plant after plant, clinging to beautiful flowers as they sipped nectar, sitting in plates of fresh fruit as they ate, or perching in a tree to rest. It was INCREDIBLE!!! Guests were permitted to walk around this indoor garden for 20 minutes while accompanied by the “garden host”. The host was very knowledgeable and answered the questions we had. It was a gorgeous garden full of plants and small water ponds…I didn’t want to leave! The butterflies landed on us and we were in “awe” of their beauty. They have over 800 butterflies and moths from around the world there! There was even what they called a “chrysalis case where they display and identify the different chrysalises found throughout the garden. In that same case were the newly emerged butterflies resting as their wings dried and strengthened. It was such a memorable experience!!! I just cannot even express how exciting this butterfly exhibit was!
The ONLY thing that went wrong was the fact that we forgot to bring our camera to capture our special moments with. 😦
So, even after the 2 hour ride home, I felt so blessed to have been able to enjoy this special day with my family. It was truly a day I hope I’ll never forget! Thanks Mom–from all of us! 🙂