Now that spring is upon the capital city and parents are looking for activities to entertain the little ones, consider a visit to the National Children’s Museum.
The new museum picks up where the Capital Children’s Museum left off when it closed its doors in 2004 after Congress designated and renamed it as the only nationally recognized cultural and educational museum devoted to children.
Relocated to National Harbor, Md., the new, interactive 18,000 square foot museum is designed with children ages eight-years-old and under in mind.
“One of the things we do is promote child directed, open-ended play,” said NCM president, Willard Whitson. “All of our exhibits allow kids to create their own narrative.”
The museum includes two exhibits designed with specific age groups in mind.
The 3 & Under gallery aims to help little ones develop and discover their fine motor skills and stimulate their senses.
Babies ages one year and younger can experience the gallery’s Infant and Crawler Zone, while toddlers can engage in “pretend play” and navigate climbing structures surrounded the classic Sesame Street characters.
“We have a significant partnership with Sesame workshop, evident in the 3 & under,” said Whitson “They helped develop other areas in the museum. It’s the home for Sesame Street in the D.C. area.”
The Our World gallery invites older children (ages 3 to 8) to explore community and the world around them with interactive exhibits. Visitors can actively engage in their own hypothetical community through the My Town exhibits that features a pizza parlor and a campaign center. The other exhibits, Map Zone and World Cultures, uses touchscreens and collaborative maps to show kids the similarities and differences between global societies.
Whitson says the exhibits aim to inspire children to use their imagination and learn to play cooperatively. “We provide the props and sets for them to interact in a different way every time they visit,” said Whitson. “The purpose of that is to show we have common needs but there is a diverse ways we meet those needs.”
In addition to the galleries, NCM houses a 130-seat theatre that presents original productions by the in-house theater company, as well as guest performances.
The NCMs Center for Learning and Innovation, winner of the Judith P. Hoyer Award for Outstanding Service to Children, presents educational programs that reflect the core initiatives of the museum, including literacy, culture and art, health and wellness, and global citizenship.
The museum also offers a Free Family Night sponsored by GEICO the third week of each month that includes free admission to the museum and themed hands-on activities.
Since opening its doors on December 14, 2012, NCM has welcomed approximately 65,000 visitors and anticipates 200,000 visitors annually.
Open seven days a week, admission to the museum is $10 and parking is available in the National Harbor’s parking garage.
For information on hours or to plan your trip, visit (note website url) www.ncm.museum.