This week we explored the Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum.  What a blast!  With Wes (my hubby) on holidays for 10 days (hooray!), we’ve been trying to find interesting things to do with the family.  We considered the Science Centre in Toronto – then quickly changed our minds when we realized how far we’d have to drive in rush hour traffic.  (It only took us 40 minutes from Dundas, ON, to get to Waterloo).  For those of you who are looking for something comparable to a Science Centre but more geared towards kids – this place is fantastic!  Thought I’d share some photos and thoughts about our day.

The main room had several gross motor skills activities – building blocks, giant legos, a living wall you could explore, a shadow making screen, two large aquariums, etc.   Wes helped our children build a huge tower out of giant Legos.  Audrey was so proud of the fact that it was the “tallest tower I ever seen, Mama!”.

The museum also had a sensory room for small children/babies (had to be under four years of age and with a parent).  The room was literally padded, with a “no shoes” policy and beautiful water machines bubbling bright colors and pretend fish.  Alex (20 months) was in awe.  I thought this was a nice touch as it’s often hard to find refuge in a big, noisy Children’s venue when you have tiny ones that need a safe place to crawl or just require more quiet space.  There were several crawling babes and toddlers who were very content with all the beautiful and stimulating imagery.

A couple other neat things to note – there was a craft at 11am that had kids making their own rockets, a really interesting planetarium-type show in a dome, where we saw stars, constellations, and planets of all kinds (very cool), and a virtual pond that was a moving screen on the ground that actually reacted visually when you stepped in it.  As a Mom, I also really appreciated that we were able to bring our own lunches, snacks, etc.  There was a large, open eating area on the main level with plenty of tables, chairs, highchairs, and even a microwave if you wanted it.  (There was a cafeteria-style restaurant available but there was an open “bring your own food” policy, which is so lovely and rare!).

There’s no doubt which part of the museum was the kids’ favourite.  They spent almost an hour playing at the water station where they could build a dam, redirect channels of fast flowing waters, and watch how the boats reacted to the experiments.  Alex absolutely loves water, so by the end, he was so drenched we had to change both his shirts and dry his hair!

Simon and Audrey loved engaging with Daddy as they played with the rectangular plastic pieces and created different effects on the currants and movement of the faux river.  I actually think Wes liked this as much as the kids did, if not more…

TIPS FOR MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR MUSEUM TRIP:

  • Arrive when they open, work backwards.  We we there right at opening time, and the place was already full of school-aged kids on class trips.  I’m assuming on a Saturday it would be equally as busy with families.  Naturally, the school groups started at the front of the museum and worked their way back (or up in this instance).  I suggest starting at the furthest point (here it was the 4th floor) and work your way down.  This way, you’ll have more space (and peace and quiet!) to explore, and your children will be able to really delve in and get more hands-on.
  • Don’t worry about ‘doing it all’.  Kids learn best and have the most fun when they are able to uninterruptedly enjoy what they are engaged in.  Our children wanted to explore one tiny area of a 4-floor museum for 1/3 of the time we were there!  My husband and I had to actually look at each other and outwardly reassure each other that it was “OK” if we didn’t get through everything.  As long as children are experiencing and learning, that’s the idea.  We allowed our children to linger at any given station for as long as they wanted.  This resulted in absolutely no melt-downs from being pulled away from something intriguing, and our children walking away absolutely gushing about the things they found most fascinating.
  • Loosen up, get dirty, and have fun yourself.  One of the things I most admire about Wes (my hubby) is his ability to roll up his sleeves and literally dive right in with the kids.  Wes had fun building dams and canals, helping Simon build a reinforced house at the “Earth Quake!” station, and I had a blast “recording” a song with Audrey in the audio booth, testing out the structure of various bridges, and many other fun activities.   We both kicked back and day-dreamed in the planetarium with our sleepy kids laying on our tummies.  Because we were relaxed and having fun, everyone else was calm too, resulting in a great family day for all.

(Our family in the Cosmic Mania section of the Museum)

The only part of the museum we weren’t overly thrilled with was the “Cosmic Mania” section.  It was made to sound so neat but was actually very disappointing.  I’m not upset we put out the extra $9 for our family to see it, as we enjoyed some of the area, but, in all I thought it was much more geared to adults with countless pictures of historical space explorations, a video about science and space, computer games and various artifacts.  Just didn’t score huge points with our munchkins – not interactive enough for them.  I think it would possibly be more appealing to older children.

All in all, with three children under six, it’s not always easy to find really fun, reasonably-priced, educational, and accommodating places to visit.  I’m happy to say, the Waterloo Children’s Museum definitely fit the bill.  Sure, nothing is perfect, but we had a really fun, surprisingly stress-free day.  I’d certainly recommend it for a family outing with the kids!  Their website is:  http://www.thechildrensmuseum.ca/web/.

All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.

~Martin H. Fischer

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