DAY TRIP: It’s a small world
MILWAUKEE – If you have little ones looking for big adventures, there’s a museum in Wisconsin that’ll have them feeling like kids in a candy shop – well, except for the candy part, but there’s still plenty of treats to be found in Betty Brinn Children’s Museum.
The museum combines fun and learning to give children the building blocks they need for a foundation of fundamental cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills.
But the museum isn’t just all about kids stuff. It also educates adults about the profound influence of early learning on a child.
To start with, the littlest visitors – those age 4 and younger – can zero in on Pocket Park, which is designed just for them and their families. This make-believe city park has a number of hands-on learning opportunities.
“The exhibit features a sensory-rich environment, including a large tree with a slide and puppet theater, a pretend kindergarten classroom, pediatrician’s office, shoe store and groundskeeper’s home, a reading nook and a special area for infants,” the museum’s communications manager, Amanda Sobczak, said.
Helpful hints also are available through digital signs, which give safety messages designed for new parents. The park area is a safe place for the smallest visitors to discover new skills and to socialize. Adults can take advantage of this welcoming area to do some chatting, too.
Visitors can learn out about different shapes, mow the grass, steer a sailboat, fish, practice tying and zipping, have a go at learning colors, the alphabet and numbers, or just relax and listen to audio stories in the summer reading area. And for the ultimate treat, there’s a sandbox where kids can scoop and sift
But the museum holds even more. Sobczak said the Home Town exhibit is the perfect place for children to learn more about the people, places and processes that make a community work.
This special gem is bound to delight the kids, not to mention adults.
“Kids love our pretend kid-sized businesses, including our grocery store, bank, service center, post office, television studio, motorcycle dealership and more, where they can explore different jobs in the community, learn about commerce and gain important academic and social skills as they play together,” she said.
Kids can open an account, make a deposit and use a pretend ATM to shop at the food market. If they’re looking for a job, they stock shelves at the market, change a tire, report the news or put on a hard hat for some work in the Tonka truck. After work, they can take a bus ride home – or if they were born to be wild they can visit a junior-sized Harley-Davidson dealership where kids can ride a stationery motorcycle they can customize by changing the saddle bags, engine components, decals and more.
Another visitor favorite – one recommended by Sobczak – is the Be a Maker Space for hands-on art activities and other collaborative projects that let kids make things. The space is open from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Our communal workshop offers a broad range of project-based activities on a weekly basis that provide science, technology, engineering, arts-design and math (STEAM) education,” she said.
Families will have the tools to build and to try new things through technology. This area is beside the Science City exhibit, which has STEM-based (science, technology, engineering, math) experiences suitable for the entire family. Sobczak said they have a refurbished flight simulator for a trip to outer space, opportunities to explore the simple machines and invisible forces, like light magnetism.
Before leaving the museum, give “Trivial Pursuit: A 50-State Adventure” a try. It’s an interactive trip around the U.S. complete with a pedal-powered riverboat going down the Mississippi and a “hike” to Old Faithful.
The museum may be geared toward kids, but it can be fun for all ages – all you have to is just tap into your inner child.
IF YOU GO ...
What: Betty Brinn Museum
Where: 929 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $10 per person, $9 seniors (55 and older), and free for children 1 and younger (prices listed are for non-Wisconsin residents)
Parking: O’Donnell Park parking structure adjacent to museum; access by elevator or stairs; $2 discount or $3 flat-rate – voucher available at museum admissions’ desk; other parking options on website
Distance: About 150 miles from Dixon
Accessibility: Accessible to wheelchairs
Information: bbcmkids.org or 414-291-0906