What an amazing day we recently had at the Please Touch Museum. It was so fun telling my kids where we were going and that they were allowed, encouraged even, to touch everything. We arrived a little after 9 am and left a little before 5 pm. In all honestly, it felt like we opened and closed the museum with the staff. Never have we spent so much time in one place, but we are not complaining. I am thankful for the time we had there and all my boys were able to enjoy.
The Please Touch Museum invited us and other bloggers to come enjoy the museum as they kicked off their ABC Games and opened the Games exhibit. Think Olympics but with a heavy focus on kids and fun. As we waited for the games to open, we were entertained by musicians and strolling entertainers. My oldest joined other kids in tossing around these gigantic beach balls. I’ve never seen a beach ball quite so big. After a short welcome speech, the torch was lit. Kids paraded into the exhibit under a canopy of flags.
Let me tell you, the Games area was incredible. Each child was given a passport, even my soon-to-be 2 year-old. After completing each challenge, staff members stamped the passports. There were rock climbing walls to scale, tunnels to crawl through, lily pads to jump on, beams to test balance, and bars to get across. Adding to this area’s WOW factor, is their toddler fitness area. Where they found these items is a mystery. But there were toddler-sized treadmills, exercise bikes, and a rock climbing wall. It was all so gosh darn adorable.
From there we made our way to River Adventures. What child doesn’t love playing with water? I love that the Please Touch Museum is ready for over-protective moms like us who don’t want our child getting too wet. There are several hanging racks of water-resistant smocks for the kids to wear during their water play. I went with the flow (pun wasn’t intended, but isn’t it funny how it just got in there.) I let my kids play smock-free. Built at their level, my boys enjoyed channeling boats, directing water flows, and transporting ducks to different habitats. When they had an issue being wet they just spent a few minutes with the dryers. After which they would go right back to the water. LOL. Boys will be boys.
From there we slipped down the rabbit hole to Alice’s Wonderland (lower level). The boys played a very quick game of croquet. Then, we followed the labyrinths and sipped on several rounds of tea with the Hare and the Mad Hatter. This just added to my enthusiasm for the Mad About Alice Tea Party I am now offering with Fairytale Entertainment. The Wonderland area does a great job of making kids feel like they have stepped into the story. My one wish is either the walls be shorter (in height) or the pathways wider. I am not tall enough to see over the hedges and therefore was not comfortable sending my 4 year-old and 5 year-old to venture in alone. Since I do have a toddler that meant we were following behind navigating the stroller between the hedges and among the walls of cards.
We emerged from the cards and headed down the halls to the Busy Build construction site. My toddler became obsessed with driving the dump truck. (I apologize to any child who may not have gotten to handle the steering wheel or blow it’s horn and whistle.) My preschoolers busied themselves transporting cement blocks around the site via the wheelbarrows.
It was about that time that a child went missing. As I heard the staff alert each other over the walkie-talkies, my heart leaped out of my chest and went to that child. A swarm of purple-shirt Please Touch Museum staff members went into action. Before I could offer to help find the child, they had located her. Thank goodness. I am so thankful to God for working his wonders and helping to reunite this child with her guardians safely.
We headed in the direction of the City Capers and made a quick visit to the hospital (thankfully just pretend). Then, the boys took my order at the golden arches. The play hamburger looked so realistic my toddler couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t allow him to bite into it.
All this excitement made the Auer boys hungry. So we were off to the kitchen/Shoprite Supermarket area. This area makes me a bit neurotic. The areas is so large, there are several blind spots, and there are 2 ways in and out. While it is an incredibly fun area, it’s the area I fear losing my children the most. It’s probably the most popular exhibit: it certainly was the most crowded. So combine all these factors and it’s a scary area for this mom. We actually made two trips to this area; first to the kitchen, later to the Shoprite. Doing this and setting boundaries eased my worries and allowed my children to have fun. They were so adorable pushing their shopping carts and loading up on all the foods their daddy loves.
Across from the shoe store was a mail truck. I don’t know what it was but my toddler loved this just as much as the dump truck. When you visit with your child make sure you give him/her the opportunity to take a drive. Have your camera ready for some adorable shots. (Unfortunately, mine didn’t come out.)
Hidden between Alice’s Wonderland and the City Capers is the Centennial Model exhibit. There’s more to it than appears. From the electric glass doors, it looks like a museum for grown ups. Perhaps that is why it is so quiet. Go inside and discover some classic toys. There are tabled areas for kids to play with Thomas the Train and old-fashioned blocks. There is a Kindergarten playroom that dates back to 1800’s, when your ancestors went to school. It was a quiet area to step away from the busyness of the museum and still have fun.
Make time to catch a show in the Please Touch Playhouse Theater. David Hutchman, Theater Experience Manager is amazing! Last year, it was a play about pirates that had kids excited to eat vegetables. “What’s a pirate’s favorite vegetable? Arrrsparagus.” This year, it’s a play about Pinch Bear. This play is deceptively clever. When it started David was having us follow the story of a bear so small it couldn’t be seen. I remember thinking “give me a break. Am I really going to watch a 30-minute show about a character I can’t see?” Shame on me. What a wonderful play this turned out to be with a very inspiring message for kids. I was once again blown away by the imagination and creativity of David and his ability to get important messages to our children and us. Please make this a must see when you visit the Please Touch Museum.
When we returned to the first floor, we enjoyed a ride on the Dentzel Carousel. It’s a very child-friendly merry-go-round with moving horses on the inside, stationary ones on the outside, and benches for sitting spread throughout. Each animal was equipped with a safety belt.
From the carousel to the Roadside Attractions my kids took great joy operating a crane, directing the metrorail (my shy child calling out “ALL ABOARD!”), navigating a Septa bus, operating as a mechanic, and driving the family car.
Then, we blasted off to the Flight Fantasy space area. Yes, the hamster wheel was there. As were the boats, feather tubes, and rocketships, all fun exhibits. But gone was the bike you could pedal into the air. When we tried it last year, my kids struggled to reach the pedals. This year, I was looking forward to seeing their delight as they pedalled to new heights. It was very disappointing that it wasn’t there.
Equally disappointing was the Flying Machine and Program Rooms. I remember last year kids building their airplanes, preparing them for liftoff, and launching them from great heights. On this visit the exhibit was closed and appeared to be under construction. :(
Our last visit to the Program Room also felt more engaging. There were more squishy things to feel, touch, and create with. This year was different. While I appreciate the new trucks, blocks, balls, hoops, gears, and play-doh my kids got to play with, they were delighted, I felt let down. On a day like today when they were showcasing the museum I wanted more. I wanted the cool recipe cards they had last year. The ones that showed how to make play dough, slime, and oobleck. I wanted the fingerpainting area to have trays of different colors not 4-5 trays of that green/brown color you get when all the colors get mixed together. I wanted a staff person to show my kids how to make the olympic rings on the paper, not create a sheet of green/brown. I mean that was supposed to be the point of the painting area, to tie into the olympic games. Yes, my kids had a blast there. But the activity didn’t accomplish what the Please Touch Museum wanted it to.
We did take a break before the lunch rush to eat our brown-bagged lunch in the Please Taste Cafe. It has a large seating are with delightful murals. There is additional seating in the carousel area and entrance area. After playing all day, we returned to the cafe to refuel before the ride home. I was pleased to be able to pick up a slice of pizza for $2.50 and a pretzel for $.88. The staff was especially courteous which was nice to see at the end of the day.
What trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the gift shop? It was a wonderfully imaginative place with toys for every budget. There were books with Legos; chairs you could build, then color; kits to assemble; rockets you could launch. I purchased a Please Touch Museum squishy ball for the toddler and 2 inflatable globes for the preschoolers. Now my sons really could have the “whole world in their hands.” :) But let me tell you there was a whole lot more I wanted to bring home.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the special toddler areas throughout the Please Touch Museum. There is 1 adjacent to River Adventures, 1 to City Capers, 1 to Wonderland, and 1 inside ABC Games. I have mixed feelings about them. I think they are a great idea. If I was attending alone with my 2 year-old we would have participated in those areas more. However, most of them are just too far away from the bigger-kid areas. If my kids split up between the two areas, I couldn’t safely watch any of them. This is why the toddler area in the ABC Games area, is such a great idea. Here all the kids could play on age-appropriate toys and be in my field of vision.
Getting around, with the exception of Wonderland, I found the museum very stroller-friendly and wheelchair accessible. There is a wide ramp that connects the floors at one end and an elevator at the other end. The bathrooms have the special walls that provide privacy but also allow you to enter and leave without having to wrangle a stroller between heavy doors.
The Please Touch Museum is adjacent to it’s own parking lot. You pay for parking inside with your admission. All in all, we had a fabulous time. Obviously, I mean we were there for 7-8 hours and the kids were never bored. :-D Now it’s your turn, go check it out for yourself. Go make memories, go touch.