The Museum of Science is a paradise for any kid who ever wanted to push a button and see what happened. Some of the exhibits are specifically aimed at children, but even those with a wider audience in mind have lots of hands-on opportunities for fun and learning. Here are my favorite exhibits when visiting the museum with kids.
The Museum of Science, straddling both Boston and Cambridge, is a museum experience that will grow with your kids. Infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers can cut their teeth on the museum through the Discovery Center (pictured), which advertises itself as a space for infants to eight year olds. In my experience, it seems to be more popular with the younger half of that age set. The Discovery Center has a gated area specifically for non-walkers, live animal exhibits, animal skeletons to assemble, and several different experimental stations. My son's current favorite is the series of modular pipes that you can rearrange to suck ping pong balls up to be spat out somewhere else. The Discovery Center opens at 10:00 and tends to reach fire code capacity by 10:15, so be sure to get there early!
The museum has a lot to offer kids who have outgrown the Discovery Center as well. Kids of all ages will scamper up and down the Soundstair, a set of musical stairs that uses photoelectric sensors to detect movement on the stairs. As you go up and down the stairs, it plays musical notes.
On the Lower Level, transportation obsessed children can look at models of cars and trains throughout history in the Machines and Transportation exhibit. I never knew there were steam powered cars! The models are neat, and the placards attached to them are interesting, but there are no hands-on activities in this section so it is best for kids who are old enough to be interested in collecting facts. Across the way from the transportation exhibit is the Dinosaurs: Modeling the Mesozoic exhibit. I have yet to meet a kid who doesn't love dinosaurs. The Museum of Science has a Triceratops skeleton and a full-size model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex to wow small children with their enormous size, plus a number of smaller model skeletons along with comparisons to modern birds and reptiles.
Level One is chalk full of interactive exhibits that kids will love. Along with the previously mentioned Discovery Center, this floor is home to Math Moves where kids can use their bodies to explore mathematical concepts of ratio and proportion. With enormous chairs, shadow play, and blocks there are lots of fun ways to explore math. You can imagine flying to the moon in a scale model of the Apollo Command Model in the To the Moon exhibit--crawl on in and watch footage of the moon landing. Level One is also home to the Theater of Electricity where families can watch museum staff sit in a metal cage as it is repeatedly struck by lightning. Grown-ups, you can reserve the lightning theater for your wedding if you really want to see the sparks of attraction that make your relationship.
Level 2 is home to the new Hall of Human Life exhibit, where you can see a replica of a Homo erectus fossil, consider controversial questions of human biology and genetics (Should you have your baby's DNA sequenced?), and learn about your body and health. This is probably the most interactive of the museum's exhibits, with more than 70 ways to participate in generating knowledge. When you enter the exhibit you can get a wrist band with a bar code on it. Scanning that barcode allows you to measure things like the efficiency of your walk (I apparently burn 104 calories walking, which more efficient than I expected given that I am 8 months pregnant), the size of your instep, and more.
Science in the Park is a great exhibit for kids with a lot of energy to burn. Located on Level 2, the exhibit is essentially an educational playground. Kids can learn about balance, speed, and leverage while running down a lit up track, swinging on the swings, or balancing with a friend on a teeter totter. Or you can skip the lesson and just let them run off their energy before returning to other, less active, areas of the museum.
These are just a few of my favorite exhibits, and almost all of the exhibits have some level of interactive displays. In addition to the exhibits, the museum has live presentations on a range of topics including live animals, new scientific breakthroughs, and science as magic. For preschool children, there is even a live animal story time. Throughout the museum are drop-in activities about engineering, investigation, and laboratory science. Be sure to check out the museum's schedule for information on when these presentations and activities occur.
Tips for your visit:
- Lockers are available for $1.50. The lockers only take quarters but there is a change machine by the lockers.
- You can bring strollers into the museum, but not into the Discovery Center. There is stroller parking outside the Discovery Center. A small, folding stroller is probably best.
- The cafe is not the greatest and the prices are, like most museum cafe prices, higher than you would pay for the same food elsewhere. They have a pizza and pasta shop, a burger and sandwich shop, and a taco shop. The museum doesn't seem to mind if you bring your own food though, so that maybe a better option if you want to save some money or just eat better food. The Cambridgeside Galleria Mall is also just an 8 minute walk away; their food court may have more appealing options.
- You can nurse anywhere in the museum. If you want somewhere a little quieter you may want to sit in the areas used for presentations if it is during a gap in the presentation schedule.
- The museum is located right by the Science Park station on the Green Line and is also a short walk from the Community College Station on the Orange Line. Be aware though that the walk involves going over a long, windy bridge which can be rough in cold weather.
- The museum does have a parking garage, but it often fills to capacity at peak hours. The museum recommends arriving early if you want to have parking.
- Your local library may have passes for free or discounted admission to the Museum of Science.
1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114
Museum Hours: January 1 – July 4 and September 2 – December 31 Saturday – Thursday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Friday, 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Summer Hours: July 5 – Labor Day, September 1 Saturday – Thursday, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm Friday, 9:00 am – 9:00 pm