WHO: Globe reporter Geoff Edgers, his daughter, Lila, 10, and son, Calvin, 2
WHAT: Visiting the Discovery Museums
Boston is a museum town. I should know. I grew up here and I’ve been covering them for more than a decade. But the Discovery Museums are the only institutions we’ve got a family membership to. That’s because I view the Discovery Museums – it’s really two houses on the same plot of land, one designed for older kids, one for younger – as a kind of educational playground. When I bring the kids into the Museum of Fine Arts or Children’s Museum, we’re going to THE MUSEUM. There’s a mobilization that has to take place: A 40-minute drive, parking, and then a sense that at these fine institutions of higher learning, we better put in our time. Discovery is more like a local swimming hole. Drop in for a dip or for the day. Which is not to belittle the learning part.
There are plenty of exhibits that teach about sound, water, or gravity. But there’s also a banister made out of rolling pins, a listening tube that plays Kermit the Frog, and the big, green dinosaur out front to climb.
For us, Discovery is a perfect solution on a cold or rainy day or when we’ve got just a couple hours to kill. It’s also great when your children are separated by almost eight years. We swing over, let the kids roam, and then head home.
Last weekend, for example, we’d spent Saturday cutting down a tree in the backyard that had split during Sandy. On Sunday, Lila, Cal, and I accompanied Carlene to Newburyport, where she ran a half marathon. Then there was a two-hour gap in the afternoon before a dinner gathering. Carlene had to bake some cookies and I figured it would be easier to give her some room. I could have parked the kids in front of the TV, but knew they would prefer burning some energy in Acton.
Discovery’s front house is for little kids like Calvin. In the train room, you can dress up like a railroad conductor and toot the whistle, man the ticket booth, or load up the coal. In the ball room, you can climb a ladder onto a perch to load balls into a series of tubes and ramps that run to the floor. From here, ramble through any number of rooms where the logical (a boat with a steering wheel and pirate costumes) competes with the illogical (a long, metal bolt threaded with washers that makes a loud noise).
“Cal, we need some food,” Lila demanded from our booth at the make-believe diner.
(My favorite touch: The chrome mini-jukeboxes.)
He piled up every plastic food he could find and wobbled it over on a giant plate. Then he refused to play his role as the waiter.
“No,” Cal barked, climbing into a seat. “Only me.”
We headed upstairs, where I encouraged Lila to put on a puppet show but she seemed more interested in trying to scare Cal in the dark chamber meant for the kid performers. We hung out in the water room. Cal played with boats and rubber duckies. Lila stood in the center of a hoop on a chord that dipped itself into soapy water. She pulled up slowly to create a massive bubble that surrounded her.
And then it was time to head home so we could make our dinner date. The kids both began to complain, particularly Lila, who had lost out on going to the science-themed house. I understood her disappointment, but I assured her, as we piled into the car, that there was good news. I saw no reason we couldn’t come back next weekend.