Sunday, October 25, 2015

This little girl is turning FOUR!

Our baby, Vagabond Kid, is turning four, which means she is not really a baby at this point but more of a small human. She has opinions, she is strong willed and is proficient in advocating for herself. She is also quiet, caring and responsible.

What a lot of people don't realize, after our three weeks on the road in 2014, we opted to travel more because of her. As a fairly introverted child she naturally stepped out of her shell on the road. I wanted to do it again this year and WOW, what a huge difference. She jumped into new situations immediately and would run off at the campgrounds to play with other kids. Now that we are back, not so much. Traveling opens her heart and mind for which I am grateful. Next year our trip will likely focus on her interests. 

Favorite food: meat, mac and cheese.
Favorite colors: pink and blue.
Favorite animal: Xiong mao, chiens and the elephant. 
Hobbies: hiking, beach bumming, skiing, dressing up like a princess, getting as dirty as possible;)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Field Museum

Jay was on a business trip in Chicago so we stayed with him for a few days. In other words- I'm cheap and the company was paying for the room... And the girls had not seen their dad in nearly two months! It was great and Jay was able to join us here and there while we explored. 

This museum is FREE with the ASTC reciprocal program and it is a fantastic addition to the program! We did pay for entry to Vikings, which I would not recommend with kids under five. I don't feel it would be interesting to most children that age.

Upon entering we asked how long it takes to get through the museum, we were told about 3 hours for most people... We were there from open to close (summer hours) and still missed the wildlife halls.  I think most people pick a few exhibits and move on. Unfortunately or fortunately, we seem interested in everything at this age. 

My kids are learning to strike poses. 


A1 is pretty interested in anything that can be found in the ground from artifacts to fossils or even rocks... So I should not be surprised when she was overly excited about a table of trilobites! This exhibit has so much! We were passed by countless people who seemed to be there for the Dino's, we spent three hours in this exhibit. 

If we had a boy, he would have been named Darwin;) 

Deforestation! This was fun! 

Maori House! 

Odin in the Viking exhibit:) 

A sled for A2! 

At the end of the day Jay joined us for an hour. We saved Egypt for the end of the day. I think it was special for A1 to share it with him. The volunteer was great and showed us around the entire lower level! 

Mummies and canopic jars! Mummified cats and falcons:) 

A child roughly her own age. 

A boat- a very rare find, but hey- you need transportation in the afterlife:) 

Pros: quality exhibits, well laid out, science, nature, diverse exhibits, ASTC reciprocated! They know their target demographic well, adults! Fantastic staff and volunteers! 

Cons: potentially overwhelming or boring for young children. 

A1 rates it a 10 out of 10. I'm rating it a 9/10. The children's section is lacking, IMO but the workers are fantastic! They allowed us to leave after the last entry to grab Jay from the entrance because he did not have his DMNS membership card.

Terre Haute Children's Museum

Admittedly, we would have never visited Terre Haute if it were not for a friend recommending this CM. Either way, I'm happy we did. While both of the girls had a blast at TCM of Indianapolis the day before... This was fun. We arrived 30 minutes after opening and left 30 minutes prior to close. It was not busy which was surprising for a Saturday but there were kids to play with. 

I would highly recommend this as a fun and low key place to gather. 

Best part, it is free with the ASTC reciprocal membership and the parking on the street is free as well! 

The playscape was fantastic! 

The weather exhibit was fun! A1 enjoyed taking on the role of weather man and A2 enjoyed the snowdrifts. 

Pros: Well maintained, playful and has a variety of exhibits. Best for ages 2-9, I would guess. Free parking, ASTC reciprocal. 

Cons: Street parking requires moving the car every few hours. There may be better parking but we were told to park on the street when we called.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

When we started planning this trip we knew we had to visit The Children's Museum of Indianapolis simply because it is the world's largest. We started planning the day before looking at the museums website which I highly recommend. There is a section for tips and it lists which exhibits are free but require tickets, mainly the play and planetarium. There are several talks, mini demonstrations and more throughout the day but the museum in itself is huge! Knowing this we sat down and discussed each exhibit and planned our day around each child's interest and talks or activities. The two of them picked one exhibit together and each of the them choose two exhibits which were guaranteed, another two which would be attempted and anything else was a bonus. They were not allowed to complain about exhibits they did not pick. I highly suggest this with multiple children. 

National Geographic: Treasures of the Earth was the first up exhibit. A1's pick because she had been asking to visit a Tut themed exhibit. 

To her surprise it also introduced the concept of underwater archaeology in more depth.

Put together King Tuts sarcophagus! A1 really wanted to do this alone (cough- mom forced sister into it) but several kids kept grabbing pieces. I suggested her being firm and asking other kids to wait patiently. To my surprise, she did and the other kids (and parents) were respectful of that choice!

All done! 

When learning about Ancient Egypt (we spent roughly 60 hours learning about Egypt!") A1 was interested in the canopic jars. It was nice for her to see the size approximations and what they looked like. A1 appreciated the museum feel to the Children's Museum. It would give parents something to do and it allows the museum to grow with older kids.

I mentioned the museum has talks, while visiting family, A1 watched a documentary on the terracotta soldiers, she was excited to attend the talk. It wound up being a little basic so we skipped the Tut talk later that day. 

Archaeology dig. 

The girls completed the terracotta soldier puzzle together. 

A2 chose dinosaurs and the train exhibit. The train exhibit wasn't spectacular so we moved on pretty fast. 

Leonardo the Mummified Dinosaur was pretty special though:)

The girls have a friend who was inspired by Chihuly and passed the passion along to A1 at a birthday party. 

A1 chose the China exhibit as her second choice. Both of them loved it equally! They learned about food presentation, the opera, caring for panda's and even did a little water brush painting. 

The science exhibit they chose together, it was crowded and in my opinion equivalent to most other children's museums nationally. 

Their toss up exhibits they missed were Power of Children (8+) and Playscape (pre-k) but neither were disappointed because the day had been so full. 

We loved the museum but the two things I would like to see are longer hours and reciprocity. For a family of three to visit we paid $58.50 for admission... But all of us loved our experience and the staff was outstanding so I'd rate it an 8/10. 

I'm knocking two points off because I think it can be a little overwhelming for younger kids from what I could tell. Also, another point because I think they could be open 9-6 and it would make it less rushed in the summer when more people are visiting. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Flint Children's Museum

Once upon a time in a land far, far away was a town called Flint. It thrived under General Motors presence, they nicknamed it "Vehicle City" as the name "Motor City" had been taken by Detroit.

And then the crime rates soared when GM abandoned the city more or less... At some point in this time I assume the Children's Museum lost many donors.

It's okay. I had been told by someone it was great. My guess, they don't visit many CM's.

What we liked:

*The beehive
*Free with ASTC membership

What we did not like:

*It didn't seem very clean or well cared for.
*Best for children five and under.

Why does the play food look like it is molding? Can plastic mold?

In the hive. I thought this exhibit was well done and in general pretty fun. 

Overall impression. I would rate it a 4/10. I'm happy we did not spend money to visit but if you live close by it could be nice for reciprocal benefits if you travel. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ann Arbor, MI Hands on Museum

This past week we decided to visit a few children's museums... Four to be exact. Our first stop was the Hands on Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan which is FREE as a reciprocate member of the ASTC. I believe it also reciprocates with ACM but all of those are discounted to 50% off.

What we liked:

*It was clean, well cared for and fully functional. Not one exhibit was out of order which we have seen a lot in the past.
*The toddler area was fabulous (although chaotic and older kids are not encouraged to help.)
*It is part of the ASTC. - Whenever we visit a free museum we donate if possible to help them care for their facilities.

What we disliked:

*I was told to park on the street by staff when we arrived. However, the street parking is metered and only allows you to park up to two hours from what I could tell. When I left to find parking, it took close to 30 minutes and was a five minute walk back to the museum.

Trilobyte digging.

A2 weighs more than a rabbit and less than a lobster.

The toddler area has it's own ball machine and water table.

Ready! Set! Disrupt tornado!

This exhibit is better, IMO than the water table at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. (AKA- the world's largest children's museum.)