WHO: Globe deputy managing editor/features Doug Most’s parents and his children
WHAT: Exploring and learning
WHERE: Providence Children’s Museum
Every so often, a beam of light shines down on us and a voice says, “You are good parents. You spend many hours with your children, reading, biking, chasing, climbing, and thumb wrestling. You deserve a break.” And then those children are whisked away by loving grandparents, either to the north or to the south, and my wife and I are allowed to sleep past dawn.
When the grandparents to the south take them overnight, that inevitably means a trip to the Providence Children’s Museum, which is where they visited on a recent weekend. The reports we get back are always glowing.
The museum is right downtown off Interstate 95 at 100 South Street. Two years ago its leaders finished a $1.5 million capital campaign that allowed them to triple its room and add more of an interactive learning environment to the play spaces. One of the newest exhibits that just opened is called ThinkSpace, where puzzles, books, and activities are all about using the brain for things like tying shoes, reading maps, and packing suitcases.
There is a huge climbing exhibit, two stories tall outdoors, similar to the indoor one at the Boston Children’s Museum, that can occupy kids 4 and up for hours. On her latest visit, our 7-year old Julia said she climbed “all the way to the top” a whole bunch of times. She also raved about climbing through some dark tunnels, but said that her 4-year old brother needed some coaxing to follow her into them.
Building seems to be the big activity at the museum. There are plastic colored blocks and wooden blocks, and then there are blocks with faces and animals and other patterns that can be put together like a puzzle. There is a machine that the kids can stuff things into and shoot out, and there is a place for kids to make friends by play-acting in aprons and shopping for groceries.
Of course, we never witness any of this play because we’re too busy sleeping. But any place that can fill an entire afternoon with fun for the kids and include lots of hand-eye-coordination activities, climbing, puzzle solving, reading, building, exploring, wriggling, and tackling real-world challenges is OK in our book.