Learning by Doing
Dig for a dinosaur. Pretend to be an earthworm. Stand in a butterfly garden. Send a Morse code message. Or run a bulldozer. If kids created a place where they could do cool stuff like this, it might look like the Indianapolis Children's Museum -- the world's largest of its kind.
At this rather unusual exhibition, you won't see the customary "don't touch" signs or watchful guards. Here, kids are encouraged to put their hands on everything. And there are zillions of ways to do that in seven zones for playing and learning. Among the most popular:
This is the coolest section of the museum. Here, older kids can go on fossil digs, build and sail their own boats, or perform heavy labor at a makeshift construction site by loading foam rocks into a dump truck.
- All Aboard!
More than 100 toy train sets on display will mesmerize the junior engineers in your clan. They'll get to play Choo-Choo Charlie too, operating the controls, switches, and signals or dressing up in station masters' jackets and selling tickets.
At this kinder, gentler area, kids under 6 can bury their hands in a sand dome, pretend to be trolls or butterflies in a fantasy forest, and paint pictures to take home. There's even a dedicated "crawl space" for tots under 2.
While the children are busy, take a quick tour of the museum's outstanding artifact collection. A mastodon skeleton, a Chinese lion mask, a classic electric guitar, a Native American beaded bag, a full-sized polar bear, and a wire sculpture made by a child in Zaire are just some of the 105,000 objects collected since the museum opened in 1925 (not all artifacts are exhibited at once).
Exhibits are always changing, so check the Web site before you go. Tip: Arrive early or late on weekends -- the museum reaches its peak around noon. And on cold or rainy days, stay home. The crowds can become very large.