Let’s say you’ve been to Philly before and have visited the usual touristy and historic sites like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Constitution Center, and you find yourself back in the area but this time with kids in tow–kids who are way too young to be quiet as the tour guide talks about the history of the Constitution and who’d rather touch the bell than wonder about its crack. I say it’s okay to skip the lines on these and come back when they’re a little older (because there’s really no point battling them on this) and instead decide to have a fun kid-centric time in the “city of brotherly love”.
For our family, Please Touch Museum is probably one of the best children’s museums on the East Coast. You can easily spend a full day here (and you should!). The ground floor has a wet area to the right and is a huge crowd-drawer. My own boys went when they were around 3 years old and to this day, they still remember the little rubber duckies that they moved along on the water trough with their waterproof aprons protecting their torso from getting ridiculously wet. Since getting wet cannot be avoided, they also have dryers off to the side for wet little hands to dry off before they head to the next station. Across the hall is the transportation area where they can get on the front of a bus, ride a trolley, pretend to be an auto mechanic and change tires, sell ice cream at the ice cream truck, as well as operate a mini crane. There is also a little food stall and a picnic bench where you can serve up some light snacks and fruits to “starving” patrons. Head on over to the back and you will find their special exhibits. It is usually a tie-in with a popular children’s book or character. We’ve caught a Curious George, Chika Chika Boom Boom, and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie exhibits in the past. Since the boys were familiar with these stories, they were able to interact with the exhibits. As you move further to the back of the room, you can have your children fire off “rockets” into space! After going through the main level exhibits, it might be time to break for lunch. This museum has some of the better options for a museum cafeteria. Aside from the usual pizza and hotdog meals, they actually have good healthy lunch options which I appreciated. They offered vegetable panini which was a good alternative to a cold salad, and the food was actually delicious! They also have an eat-in area which is convenient for the little ones (as well as the adults) to catch their breath and rest up before hitting the lower level. From the River Adventure (wet area) there is a walkway that takes you down, down, down just like Alice falling into Wonderland. True enough, the lower level has a simulated Wonderland where you can have tea with the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit, as well as “paint” the white roses red (or it will be off with your heads!). Right beside it is an area that honors well-loved children’s nursery rhymes and tales like “The Three Little Kittens”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, and the “Owl and the Pussycat”. On the other side of the lower level, you will find the pretend area–pretend hospital, pretend construction site, pretend farm, pretend shoe store, pretend restaurant, and, of course, you cannot NOT have a pretend grocery store!
The next day, head north to Easton and unleash the inner artist in your child at the Crayola Experience. The tickets we bought allowed us to choose a crayon color, type in what we wanted written on the crayon wrapper, print it out, and stick it onto the chosen crayon color. We each got an instant souvenir to remember the day. The boys were also able to follow the demonstration on how the crayons were made through a live performance with Crayola characters mixed with screen demonstrations for a better view. The children also got to create their own drip art and got to be in their very own coloring page! They also used melted wax to write with and make molds for a ring, a toy car, or a critter. If your toddler is getting restless, they have a play area as well as a water area for them to take a little break from artistic pursuits. And if nothing else, there is always a place for them to get coloring sheets and just color away.
Children are allowed and encouraged to touch, feel, and experience what it’s like to be a kid in the above places. Adults need not be left behind as they also get in touch with their inner child as they “play” and color beside their young ones.