Monday, June 14, 2010

Out with the old - Manitoba Children's Museum

Living in a city with some 6 months of winter (more some years), some of the greatest treasures are indoor locations for kids. The primary one in Winnipeg has been for years the Manitoba Children's Museum, which first opened it's doors in 1986. When I was a kid, the Museum was located in an old warehouse in the Exchange District, and I will always remember the old blue locomotive, the grain elevator, and the wheelchairs you could race around in. Today, the Children's Museum has none of those things, but it does have a real diesel engine, a giant tree and nature area, and a cool construction exhibit with trucks, gravel and spraying water.

The Children's Musuem opened up in it's current location in 1994, located in an old train repair building at The Forks Historic Site. It's main, and most impressive, exhibit is a 1952 diesel train engine and a 1910 Pullman coach car. Consequently, this is the only exhibit destined to survive the Children's Museum's huge renovation and update planned for this fall. Because the Manitoba Children's Museum won't be around much longer as we know it, I wanted to make it the subject of the first of my "Love my Winnipeg" postings.

So what is there to love at the current Museum? First up, a great mix of gross motor and fine motor play areas, with lots of adaptability for different age levels, and many benches for moms and dads to hang out on. Great bathrooms complete with kid sized toilets and kid height sinks. A coat area with hooks, hangers, or pay-to-lock lockers. Lots of snack tables, chairs and high chairs, and it is fine to bring your snacks from home. That is one of my favourite things about MCM. It is not a money grab. There are some vending machines and a gift shop, but they are both slightly off the beaten path, so you don't feel like you need to spend more than the admission cost to get in. What is more, memberships are really reasonable, so if you think your family may be a frequent visitor, that is definitely the way to go.

The Manitoba Children's Museum also has classrooms/event rooms that are used for field trips and birthday parties, and sometimes house temporary exhibits like the one about bugs showcased below, where I have fallen victim to the world's largest tick.

At this particular exhibit, sitting down causing the tick to inflate, as if it is filling up with blood. I know you're thinking, "yuck", but 9 year old boys everywhere will think it is awesome.

Visiting the Children's Museum gives me the opportunity to expose my son to a lot of different subjects, and see what he gravitates towards. We can sort of test drive materials, to see what may be a good investment for our own home. We don't have a piano, but the Museum does. They also have a fish tank, a train table, piles of costumes and a felt board. There is chalk and chalk boards, Duplo tables, big wooden blocks and many types of art supplies to experiment with. My son can have all these things without my having to buy all of Toys R Us and move it into my house.

Of course, the best things at the Museum are the ones that no one has at home, like the giant tree slide, the TV studio, the train, and the traffic light. With so much to explore, it is no wonder that Nik suggests most mornings, "Let's go to the museum!"

If you are interested in checking out the Museum yourself, you better get there before doors close for renovations this coming September. Visit their website for more information.

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