They’re big. They’re fierce. They’re back. Real prehistoric giants unearthed. The new Dinosphere® is Now Open -You’re in Their World.
There are five new areas to explore and seven different programs to experience.
By Kandy Derden
Museums are no longer collections of dark, drab, old, boring artifacts which can’t be touched. In fact, many museums are designated as being specifically for children where hands-on exploration is not only permitted; it is encouraged!
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis claims to be the largest in the world. I haven’t been to any museums outside the United States but I can safely say it is the biggest and best I have seen in my twenty years as a travel writer. When it comes to learning, the Children’s Museum is where opportunity creates desire.
The experience begins long before entering the door. Contrasts in history from prehistoric dinosaurs to modern day astronauts are visible outside the buildings. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what it is, but an interesting historical art object is situated in the parking garage which encourages learning from the moment of arrival.
The first section we visited housed several dinosaur skeletons. However, from watching the smaller children present, the most interesting part for them was in the Dinosphere Art Lab. This area quickly captured the attention of every toddler by having them design and color a dinosaur. The next step required the help of a parent as they scanned their artwork. Soon they were able to watch on a large screen as their animated creature virtually roamed the earth. What a way to inspire creativity and promote imaginative play!
Children who are a bit older will be better able to visualize the massive size of these beings as they see the fossilized footprints alongside the skeletons. At the same time, they can hear the sounds of animals moving through the area or listen to the trickle of a nearby water source. A few might even notice some of the scents which were present during this historical period. To complete the sensory excursion, handrails are outfitted with a special textured grip so visitors can feel and comprehend the length of these magnificent creatures.
The ocean-themed section gives the illusion of being underwater. Rather than simply having murals on the walls, the sea life is interactive. Be captivated by the school of fish which follow your movements.
Take time to observe the sky in the Cinedome. Watch the planets and stars in the night sky along with the moon followed by sunrise and daylight in which the weather changes, including a thunderstorm. The entire cycle repeats every twenty minutes.
This area is also the location of the scientist’s lab where paleontologists continue to work with the bones unearthed from a dig site in Wyoming. These researchers are ready and able to answer any questions you or your children may ask.
Any time can be turned into a teaching moment and the best way to illustrate this is with the water clock. Rather than gears and dials, the time is displayed with tinted water flowing through multiple clear tubes into large beakers. Watching the gentle motion and flow of the water is mesmerizing and relaxing, not to mention scientifically educational.
Even the displays in the Miniature Masterpieces section have been turned into a teaching game by including “I Spy” objects. Viewers discover amazing craftsmanship and historical architecture while searching among the various rooms in each detailed space.
For elementary aged children, the most popular place to be was the Scooby Doo Mansion Mayhem adventure. Various checkpoints within this interactive section provided ‘clues’ to help them solve a mystery. Participation is key to this story as they visit each scenario and search for the information. Perhaps it is hidden behind a picture, a door or a secret panel which can only be opened by finding the correct combination. Smiles on the faces of children who solve the puzzle attest to the sense of accomplishment they feel. The final checkpoint is a place to customize your celebratory photo.
While this is specifically a children’s museum, there are several sections which are of particular interest to adults. Such is The Power of Children: Making a Difference® exhibit. This powerful, yet touching display tells the story of how four children changed the world in a positive way. The acronym WAVE is used to focus on their words, actions, voice and education. While some of the content may not be suitable for small children, their stories serve as an inspiration to others.
Space does not permit me to describe everything located within the walls of this exploration collection but please indulge me as I list a few. Playscape is a secure toddler playplace available for families with children five and under. The top floor is home to a carousel upon which parents and children may ride.
The National Art Museum of Sport is not the only artistic section; be sure to notice the Fireworks of Glass sculpture which is visible from all levels of the main building.
Check the website for current information about special exhibits which change periodically in the museum.
Not all museum attractions are located inside. The Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience is located at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Although this section could easily be mistaken for an amusement park, it is so much more. It is actually an outdoor fitness center using multiple sports activities. The equipment and spaces are designed and sized for all ages and heights of children. The purpose is more than filling time and getting a little exercise. It is an opportunity for young people to be exposed to a variety of sports, giving them a chance to try it and find out if it is something of interest they might choose to pursue. Most know a little about football, basketball and baseball, but there is also tennis, hockey, soccer and racing. A fitness path with various exercise suggestions encircles this seven and half acre playground of sports fun.
One of the most notable features is The Pete and Alice Dye Golf Experience. Small-scale designs of favorite classic golf holes designed by Pete Dye are re-created complete with various turf heights, bunkers and realistic looking water hazards. This gives youngsters the chance to learn the basics of golf as they grow. Courses available begin with a toddler sized course, an introductory course and then two signature putting courses along with a putting practice area.
While exploring all these options, be sure to visit the Fantasy Tree House of Sports. Inspired by Disney’s Tree of Life, this tree is large enough to allow multiple children to play inside while adults explore the various giant pieces of sports equipment sculpted into the exterior.
What a wonderful way to spend time together as a family!
Anyone hungry? There is an area within the sports complex where you may obtain a snack, beverage or picnic meal. For more options, check out the Food Court inside. It boasts all sorts of kid-friendly food choices along with plenty of options to suit adult taste. Then on the way out, allow plenty of time to browse through The Children’s Museum Store. There’s a reason why it isn’t called a gift shop or a souvenir shop. Most of the items inside are designed to stimulate, encourage, develop, educate and inspire your most precious loved ones: your children!