Exploring museums with babies and toddlers can be tough. You want them to experience it and learn, but you don’t know if they are old enough for it. It’s kind of like getting excited about a toy, but your child isn’t really developmentally ready for it yet. As a former history teacher, I have an intense love for museums. I have taken my daughter to several in her short year of life; however, that was probably more for me than anything else. We are now entering into the beautiful transition of the interactive and curious stage where my daughter wants to touch, see, and investigate everything. This transition called for some hands on museum learning at a local museum.
Regardless of where you live, there is bound to be a great children’s museum or two within a short driving distance. Here in Oklahoma there are a few great museums either dedicated to kids or that have an awesome section focusing on reaching children and their curiosities. The Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman, OK has a wonderful discovery room for children of all ages and it was a blast to explore. Kids really are like sponges; therefore, every opportunity to introduce any sort of hands on learning is significant. You never know what a child will remember, no matter how young or old.
At the Same Noble Museum, the “Discovery Room” was unique because its main focus was on natural history, but it also included several great learning tools for children of all ages so no child would be left out. Upon bringing my daughter in, the staff brought out special toddler toys for her, just in case some of the other items were of lesser interest. There were books, puzzles, magnets, natural wood building materials, and so much more.
As we explored, the best part was that it made the museum come to life in a sensory way. There was a table that focused on one of the museum’s exhibits. It was about the Mississippian and Caddo Native American Cultures. There were some amazing sensory items to explore. My daughter got to handle an animal bladder, some bison fur, a bone, porcupine needles, and more. For her it was truly a sensory adventure and she thoroughly enjoyed it. For older kids, I imagine it would truly bring some of the history to life. It’s one thing to read about Native Americans using animal bladders for water jugs and it’s another to hold it in your hand.
As we continued to explore, she got to pet some taxidermy animals including and extremely soft beaver and a small bobcat. She watched live turtles swim in an aquarium, looked at the stuffed hawk and other birds that were on display, and watched older children dig for bones in the archaeology area.
While my daughter is only 13 months, this was a very stimulating experience for her and one I would highly recommend to others. There were aspects of this discovery room that I did not feel she was ready for that piqued her interest and others that I thought she would love that didn’t seem to intrigue her at all. Beyond being a great sensory experience it was a learning experience out of the ordinary that has had a lasting impact on me (and hopefully her as well)! I highly recommend looking into kid-friendly museums in your area.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!