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Children's Museums

By John Kelly and Craig Stoltz
From the book "Kid-O-Rama"
Copyright 1998


There are now more than 200 "children's museums" across the country. While each interprets its mandate differently, nearly all share the thought that kids can learn things while having fun, and vice versa. Washington's major entrant, the Capital Children's Museum, is not among the biggest, newest or most lavishly funded. Still, it's worth a trip, particularly for kids under 8.

But the concept of a children's museum is continuing to evolve. More "regular" museums are transforming themselves from static displays of objects and art into kid-friendly, interactive learning centers. Others are sprouting new kid-friendly wings, rooms or programs. At the same time, commercial enterprises are beginning to get involved with play-to-learn centers. The most wholesome and interesting examples of this are in Maryland, in Rockville and Columbia, at huge and bright pay-to-play activity centers called Imagine That! and ExploraWorld, respectively.

In this chapter we include the major places designed specifically to educate kids through structured play and exploration. We also offer references to facilities in other chapters that offer a significant interactive play element.

So where's the children's museum headed? Two developments are worth noting. The staid Smithsonian, which dominates the Washington museum scene, at last report was considering plans that would significantly update its scientific, identification and explanation-based presentations with more engaging and dynamic — and, yes, kid-friendly — exhibits. Don't hold your breath, however; the change still is controversial and likely to come slowly, if at all.

The District Maryland
Capital Children's Museum Imagine That!
American History Museum's Hands On Science Room ExploraWorld
American History Museum's Hands On History Room Rose Hill Children's Museum
  Maryland Science Center
  Discovery Creek Children's Museum
  Chesapeake Children's Museum

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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