Friday, September 20, 2013

Children's Discovery Museum

Children's Discovery Museum - Normal, IL

We live about an hour away from Normal, IL. My kids have been to the Children's Discovery Museum several times, some with us and other times on class trips. They ask to go frequently, but we are members at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. With the gas and time and ticket price, I always tell them no and go to the museum 10 minutes from us. For a treat though, the family went a few days before school started.

We had a blast, and the kids showed me that they are too old for pictures. I also answered my biggest question, "is the Normal or Peoria museum better for kids?"

First, the review.

The Children's Discovery Museum has three floors. Floor one has a section for little kids/babies, a water table, a dentist chair, medical section, restaurant, train tables, and a padded area for babies. (That's a ton of kid-friendly stuff).

Baby playing with blocks.

Sometimes educational places don't have baby areas, but this museum has several.

This is large area has steps and carpeted play areas for toddlers.  

PLUS the museum has a "dirty toy box" for slobbered toys. Fabulous.

Floating demonstration.
While Ty and Za went off to explore messy and open areas with dad, baby C.J. and I had toddler areas to explore.

The elevator... why do kids love the elevator? It must seem magical to them, and they love pressing buttons. Anyway...

Floor two has a combine that the kids put balls in, crank, and then collect. They can also shoot the balls across the room, which I don't need to explain is the coolest thing ever. 

Dumping the balls in the vacuum for them to go across the ceiling.

The floor has interactive computer touch-screens for kids to learn about the food they eat. I do not agree with everything presented in these info-graphics (corn, dairy), but explained what was presented, the sponsors of the area (ahem), and what dad and I believe.

Ty milking the cow.
Sisters driving the tractor.

Much of floor two has information about farming, recycling, and compost. This is my favorite floor and my kids actually spent the majority of the time on it.

Za making music.

It also has a noise machine with cranks that allow the user to change the volume and tone.

Floor three contains large items - a walk-on piano, a drum set, a small room for crafts, a stage, and a painting area.

My kids wanted to spend the most time up here. The encouragement to paint on the walls is too exciting to resist!


This museum is huge. My suggestion is to plan how long your family can stay focused without breakdowns (about an hour for mine) and divide by three. Each floor is worthwhile, but we spent too much time on floor two. The kids were hungry but wanted to keep painting on floor three. We had to drag them out to feed them. A little bit of organization on our part, with five-minute alerts for the kids, would have helped.

I should add that the museum has a party area for food, and vending machines with some decent choices. We staved off hunger for a bit, but eventually had to leave for a pizza.

The kids loved it. I got bored watching them dump those balls in the vacuum, but hey, it happens. Which leads me to my thoughts about the "better" museum in the Central Illinois area.

Second, the decision. 

When we left, I had the Children's Discovery Museum totally sold in my head as the better choice. My kids love it and ran around, jumping from one interactive toy to another. My kids never want to leave the Peoria museum either, but even taking the "newness" of the museum they seldom frequent into account, I still believed they liked Normal better than Peoria. They might still - and it is very educational, well worth the ticket price.

Then as were buckling the kids in for the ride home, we asked the kids what their favorite part was. After they answered, Ty asked me the same thing.

"I don't know," I told him. I love watching my kids at that museum, but it is a kid museum, not catered to me. I have more fun at the Peoria museum. The kids' areas are smack in the middle of the "adult" areas. While I watch them play, I read about fish, area hospitals, or athletics.

That edged the Peoria museum up in my mind. I set the example for my kids by learning while they do - and our areas are not totally separate. My kids explore and learn at both museums, but I also learn in a "mom area" as the kids call it. Showing my kids that I enjoy learning while they explore - that is the best example of lifelong learning I can imagine. I wish Normal would add some parent material so parents can set the same examples there.

I was not compensated in any way for this post.