How to Explore the Museum of Science With Kids of Different Ages and Interests

A parent walks into the Museum of Science. Strolling along on one side is a 4-year-old boy. On the other side is his 9-year-old brother. With a little planning, it's not as difficult as it might sound to make this day work out for everyone. Here are some tips to keep everyone happy at the Museum of Science when there's an age gap or varied interests with kids.

On the surface, the Museum of Science appeals to intellect, which differs greatly for kids depending on their ages. However, at its core, the museum also nudges emotions from different angles. A toddler may be excited just so see a fuzzy chicken hatch out of an egg at the Bees and Chicks exhibit, while a fourth-grader may be drawn in by the biological mystery of how that life started.

First stop: Science in the Park. It's rare to see sad face at this exhibit, located on the third floor near the top of the escalators. An indoor playground of sorts, kids of all ages can find something to do (work with weights, spin as fast as possible, balance on a see-saw) and also burn some energy while racing against other children.

Stand in the shadow of T. Rex. Various editions of the T. Rex statue have been the calling card of the museum for probably 40 years – and for good reason. Visitors flock to the the Tyrannosaurus, which is huge, as are neighboring fossils of other prehistoric reptiles. Aside from being at the feet of T. Rex, it can also be cool for kids to see the big, bad dinosaur from other angles, including from the corridor to the parking garage.

Forget the loud stuff if a toddler is tagging along. The Theater of Electricity and Mugar Omni Theater come to mind. Parents who bring a full range of ages into the electricity show may soon face the difficult decision of leaving with a young one after the first bolt’s sound rattles the youngster — versus letting the older kids stay on their own or canceling the show for everyone. Likewise, the Omni's booming sound system and steep inclines may be overwhelming for little kids.

Visit the 4-D theater. Even a kiddie-themed 4-D movie (they're only about 15 minutes long) can be fun for everyone. 4-D theaters provide a 3-D film complete with dorky glasses, while providing the “added dimension” of unique special effects, such as being splattered by an animal's snot in sync with the movie. 

Explore the Discovery Center. This fun area just outside the Mugar Omni Theater entrance is designed for children up to age 8, with a lot of age-appropriate activities. Younger kids will enjoy donning bee wings and squeezing into the oversized honeycombs, while the older crew can check out a skeleton, live turtles in an enclosed water tank, and cool physics experiments just up the stairs.

Take a quiet break with the birds. Hidden away on the lower floor of the Museum of Science is the underrated Bird's World, which features life-like scenes of birds and their habitats. Youngsters will get a kick out simply seeing such a variety of birds, while older kids will enjoy learning some interesting facts about their winged friends.

Save human-themed discovery for older children. The Hall of Human Life is an intriguing exhibit at which visitors grab a bar-coded wristband, scan their info, and interact at stations about food, the body, and culture. Kids from later elementary grades on up will be interested in seeing how their answers measure up to those of other visitors in the museum. However, toddlers may be far more interested in seeing how many wristbands they can swipe from the automated machine and throw all over the place. 

By the way, if you're in the neighborhood of the museum at the border of East Cambridge and Boston's West End, you can check out for free a crazy, roller-coaster-like sculpture featuring pool balls being transported along tracks, pulleys, and swings. The sculpture recently got relocated near the Mugar Omni Theater entrance, with no admission required to view.

Directions: The Museum of Science is along Route 28 in Boston between Leverett Circle and the Gilmore Bridge. Take the MBTA Green Line to the Science Park station. 
Admission: $$. 
Hours: Saturday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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