America’s 10 Best Children’s Museums

Stuck inside on a rainy day? Take the kids to your closest children’s museum, where they can learn about their world while having a fantastic time.

By Reader's Digest Editors
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Please Touch Children’s Museum

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Babies can play alongside their older siblings at this museum specially designed to keep them both entertained at once. In the popular Wonderland exhibit, 1-year-olds can pick out giant flowers in the Fairytale Garden while their 5-year-old siblings can have a pretend tea party with Alice at a giant table nearby. Older kids can try out musical instruments from around the world while the younger ones crawl on lily pads that make nature sounds. Everyone can take a spin on the antique carousel or take in a live theater show. Best for kids ages six months to six years.

pleasetouchmuseum.org

Kohl Children’s Museum

Glenview, Illinois
This museum is tops in pretend play. Kids can nurse sick stuffed animals back to health at the Pet Vet exhibit, work as a construction worker laying tiles, or drive through a car wash. A two-acre outdoor space offers mazes, a painting wall, and a giant kaleidoscope. Best for kids ages six months to six years.

kohlchildrensmuseum.org

Children’s Museum of Houston

Houston, Texas
Forget kiddy pools or water tables; here your children can create aqueducts, race boats, and turn on geysers in a Texas-sized outdoor play area. Kids can also learn about money by taking a temporary job as a police officer, chef, or artist and take their paycheck to the store to figure out how many groceries it will buy. For little ones under 2, there’s a Tot Spot equipped with balls, cushy stairs, mirrors, and doorbells. Fun for kids six months to 10 years.

cmhouston.org

Madison Children’s Museum

Madison, Wisconsin
Environmental awareness is the big focus of this green museum. Housed in an environmentally friendly building, it features a rooftop garden where kids can get their hands dirty planting, collect chicken eggs, and learn about homing pigeons. Those under 5 can then explore the tree house or little huts. Crawlers have their own special padded play area made from local natural materials. The entire museum is cleaned with natural products, and the café offers healthy foods. Great for kids ages six months to six years.

madisonchildrensmuseum.org

Minnesota Children’s Museum

St. Paul, Minnesota
Toddlers can feel their way around the Habitots exhibit, featuring a cave, prairie, pond, and forest. The space allows young children to safely investigate a creative, interactive, and experiential world made just for them. Animal programs let children interact with live turtles, snakes, and rats while learning about their natural habitats. Kids can also create artworks, paint their own faces, play with hula-hoops, and listen to stories. Recommended for kids six months to six years.

mcm.org

Boston Children’s Museum

Boston, Massachusetts
Pre-schoolers can prepare for the future by catching a pretend bus, putting books in a backpack, and playing school at the Countdown to Kindergarten! exhibit. From the end of May to September, 2011, the museum will feature a Wizard of Oz traveling exhibit where kids can create tornadoes, play with color prisms, and explore the Wicked Witch’s castle. Parents also can benefit. Scientists from MIT are available to give child development advice, or ask if your child wants to play a game as part of a study. Best for kids six months through age 8.

bostonchildrensmuseum.org

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Mister Rogers fans can visit replicas of his Neighborhood at this Rogers-inspired museum. The whole family can take a ride on the Neighborhood Trolley and peer through the window of the house from the “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” TV show. The museum is also home to a Curiosity Lab, where kids can take apart household appliances to see how they work (better here than at home!). Kids can even put on shows with their friends in the museum’s theater. Fun for kids ages six months to six years.

pittsburghkids.org

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana
One wing of the museum has been transformed into an Egyptian village, where children can try on Egyptian clothing, learn about the local money, and shop for local foods. But this is just one of 13 thrilling permanent exhibits. Animal lovers can help cartoon characters Dora and Diego search for baby animals in the rain forest. Stargazers can visit the planetarium. And transportation enthusiasts can take virtual train rides. Good for kids ages six months to 10 years.

childrensmuseum.org

National Museum of Play

Rochester, NY
Kids can ogle fish at a vast aquarium or follow the flight of butterflies in the butterfly garden at this upstate New York museum. The Sesame Street exhibit, with a piano kids can pound, is particularly popular. Older kids can star in a cooking show at the play TV studios and check out the National Toy Hall of Fame. Great for ages 2 to 8.

nationalmuseumofplay.org

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Phoenix, Arizona
Everything in this imaginative museum is hands-on. Burgeoning chefs can learn how to make pizzas at the kids’ kitchen, or shop like mom and dad at the market. They can also spin their wheels at the Pedal Power exhibit or create masterpieces at the Art Studio. Children under 3 have their own special area full of fuzzy balls and other fun things for little fingers to feel. Great for kids from six months to 10 years.

childrensmuseumofphoenix.org

Sources:
Parents.com, geoparent.sheknows.com, Association of Children’s Museums, News.travel.aol.com (and museum websites above)

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