Taking a Toddler to the Museum! ...Can We All Have Fun?

In my imaginary album of favorite scenes, I always find myself like in a movie, taking my little ones to the museum and having that sublime time, in which everything is perfect... We walk through galleries and galleries admiring dinosaurs and Homo Sapiens. My girls delicately, whisper smart comments about those creatures and I smile graciously.
Reality hits me in the head and I come back from my utopic land... What was I thinking?? Yeees, only in the movies people go to a museum with kids that never get tired of looking at things they don't understand or kids that never need to run desperately to a toilet.
In true life, things are not so whimsical. However, you can prepare ahead of a potentially disastrous time and actually, have a great day. Recently, I took my three-and-a-half year old Zoe to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and the experience was pretty close to the ones in my dreams.
The first decision I made was to not to make it a family trip. I have had plenty of frustrating occasions with two kids pulling me in opposite directions and even my husband acting up. So this time, it was Zoe and me alone. Second, I reminded myself that those days, when I was single and could walk the museum from opening till closing, were over. Now, on a less ambitious adventure, I navigated the Museum's website before the trip, picked a couple of exhibits, chose a children's program and found a fantastic place I had never seen before, the Discovery Room, a corner of the museum especially designed for kids and even, for those adults with a curious inner child. That was it! A "planned" visit to the museum really made a big, big, difference.
Once at the Museum, before we got into any exhibitions, we took care of the basics, the restroom, the snack and any possible request "her majesty" could have... We strolled the "Fossil Halls", the "Hall of Human Origins" and just when Zoe seemed to have had enough of those "monkeys with boobies" as she called our "ancestors", it was time for "Wild, Wild World" , a one-hour program that gave us the perfect break to rest our feet and learn with fun.
The Museum of National History, keeps a calendar with many activities for children, but when it comes to the littlest ones, the options become narrow. This monthly program offers a unique learning experience by bringing live animals to the theater and showing them "up-close and personal" to the kids. The February show presented "Awake at Night" with Rob Mies, a really entertaining talk about some "party animals" who refuse to sleep at night and hunt for food after dark.
Next "Wild, Wild World" on Saturday, March 27th will present "Predators".
Happy still, we walked a little and stumbled upon "The Discovery Room", an awesome classroom-lab of the 21st century loaded with hands-on artifacts, puzzles and specimens for children to explore. The design of this place is fantastic!! It is interesting enough to keep your eyes occupied, while your little one searches for petrified insects in a gigantic replica of an African baobah tree or assembles a life-size cast skeleton of Prestosuchus, another replica of some prehistoric reptile. Free passes for 40-minute timed sessions are offered at the entrance of this room.
So, in answer to my original question ...Can we all have fun when taking a toddler to a museum? Definitely, yes!! As a final tip, keep moving constantly while at the museum, rather than parking yourself and looking at a specific thing for too long. Most toddlers are not reading yet and forcing them to observe the same object for a while can just blow their fuse.
Are you feeling adventurous?...Planning a visit to the Museum of American History this weekend? ... How about a dose of Lizards & Snakes: Alive!!. Exhibit opens on Saturday, March 6th... Good luck and have a great time there!!

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