My family has been visiting the Please Touch Museum for 13 years now — since Donté was a toddler. It was our go-to place for year-round fun because my kids were able to be themselves. They would smile as we walked towards the museum’s front doors. When we first started going, it was at their old location in Center City. Only Ayden and I go now because the older kids outgrew this children’s museum.
When the museum moved to the Centennial District of Philadelphia at the Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park, I was beyond excited to visit the new location for the first time! It’s a massive building on a beautiful landscape! I love the architecture of the building — it’s beautiful inside and out. I also like being able to enjoy the outdoors before or after our visit to the museum. In the back of the museum, there are some benches to sit on while eating lunch. The benches are perfect to relax on while I watch Ayden roll around in the grass, circle around the trees, and collect nature finds. The front of the museum also provides plenty of space for kids to enjoy the outdoors.
The museum has two floors of exhibits allowing children to interact and use their imaginations as they play. Kids are born to be curious, and because it’s a hands-on museum, children can touch whatever they want to learn about. Each visit to this play space provides different learning opportunities. Kids thrive on hands-on learning, so this makes it one of our family’s favorite venues to visit.
Because of its size, we don’t cover the entire place the few hours we’re there. If you plan to be there longer, then you probably could. Most younger kids get overwhelmed after playing for a few hours and that’s why I suggest you stay for a brief time each visit. When I’m there with Ayden, I just follow his lead. He loves everything that the museum has to offer and will have fun in each section. He tends to spend more time at certain exhibits than others. Here are the ones he likes to spend most his time:
I’m not surprised that this is one of Ayden’s top favorites — it was on his older siblings’ favorite list as well. I would bet most kids enjoy this exhibit because it involves water play and kids usually have a blast playing in water. The Please Touch Museum calls it their little Schuylkill River. Ayden has a splashtastic time pumping water and watching it go through dams and jet streams. He learns how various forces can cause the water to flow. He likes to move the water wheels, steer the boats and rubber duckies down the river, and study how the levers and locks bring water to life.
Ayden has an interest in the daily weather forecast, so with this exhibit, he can experience the wind blowing, the clouds raining, the sun shining, and the colors of the rainbow. Another fun activity is building ships with the foam pieces. This exhibit also has a Baby Ducky Pond in the center of the space that’s perfect for babies and toddlers. It helps the little ones learn how things float and travel in water. I appreciate the museum having smocks and hand dryers in this area because you wouldn’t want your kids walking around wet during the remainder of their visit. River Adventures is a wonderful way for children to boost their fine motor and literacy skills while learning about environmental science.
Ayden loves to build, so he really likes this section! I like it, too, because he gets to build with something other than the traditional sized plastic or wood blocks, like what he has at home and school. This area is filled with big blue foam blocks in various shapes that can interlock allowing for endless opportunities for creative construction. I usually take a seat in this area and let Ayden play with the other kids in the area. Every now and again, he invites me to look at (and take a picture of) what he built. He’s always proud of his accomplishments. Perhaps he will work at an architecture firm or be an engineer one day. Just like the playgrounds with slides and monkey bars, the Imagination Playground encourages children to use their social, problem-solving, creativity, fine and gross motor skills.
Ayden finally gets his chance to drive a car and take a spin around Philly! And I get to sit in the back seat while he drops me off to work. This type of pretend play is exciting for him because he longs to get behind the wheel of my real car. It isn’t often that Ayden gets a chance to take a ride on the SEPTA bus. In fact, I don’t think he’s ever ridden the SEPTA bus, or even the trolley. He gets that opportunity here and can experience what it’s like. After hopping off the bus, we go for a stroll in the park and afterwards stop by the food vendor for some pretend lunch and play ice cream. Ayden especially likes building a car in the Touch Garage and working the mini backhoe while trying to pick up colorful balls out of the pit. The gross and fine motor, decision making, and communication skills are being utilized the most as he plays in this area.
Of course, these vary from time to time, but because it’s usually something new when we visit, Ayden spends most of his time here. One temporary exhibit that he had a lot of fun with was one that encouraged dramatic play based on familiar children books. Some of his favorite books were brought to life as he interacted with the “pages” of the stories. This exhibit strengthened his literacy skills as he became a part of the stories. I also used this time as an opportunity to find out what he remembered from reading these same books at home. Some of the books that were featured were Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault where he played with letters; A Snowy Day by Ezra Keats where he made angels and footprints in the snow; If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff where he had to find items from a list; and Abuela by Arthur Dorros where he interacted with hidden pictures and felt pieces that retold the story.
Ayden can spend half his time here because of all the various play spaces to explore. I appreciate the setup of City Capers because Ayden can relate to it. It reminds him of our own Philadelphia neighborhood and what he sees on a weekly basis. This is the section where you will find the Shoprite supermarket where kids can pretend to go grocery shopping for the family. When it’s time to put the food back on the shelves or bins, they are learning sorting and classification. And just like our neighborhood Shoprite, there’s a McDonald’s right next to it for you to grab lunch after the kids have worked up an appetite from shopping. Ayden is also familiar with our neighborhood’s shoe store and barber shop, and being able to notice these shops in the museum extends his learning.
Here you will find a child-sized Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia encouraging dramatic play as he pretends to be a doctor or a patient. Then, there’s always some construction going on in our neighborhood due to new houses and businesses being built. And, since he is interested in what construction workers do, he gets excited to drive a dump truck or play with museum friends in building a house. And Philadelphia would not be complete without a home and garden for families to enjoy. Ayden pretends to pick carrots and potatoes from his urban garden to use for cooking. Afterwards, he goes into his house to prepare dinner. Once he finishes his meal, he relaxes on his front steps while watching kids as they play.
Wow! City Capers is just like home for Ayden which makes it an enjoyable experience for him. Children will utilize their fine and gross motor and communication skills while also learning how to collaborate and make decisions with other children. In addition, as with all the exhibits at the Please Touch Museum, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) learning is happening as children play in City Capers.
Ayden is looking forward to going back to check out their new exhibit and play in the other areas. Did your family have a chance to visit the Please Touch Museum yet? If so, what is one of your child’s favorite exhibits? If not, which exhibit do you think your child would enjoy?