Learn and Play
There is a special place in Greensboro that, once I became a mother, became my haven.
That place is the Greensboro Children’s Museum (GCM), located on North Church Street in downtown.
When my daughter, Lily, was just a baby, as a new stay-at-home mom, I was desperate for things to do with her just so I could get out of the house and interact with other adults.
At first, I did not even consider taking a crawling, drooling baby to the Greensboro Children’s Museum, but luckily, a friend persuaded me to try it, and we have been regular visitors ever since.
The GCM offers 20 hands-on and interactive exhibits, educational programming and special events all year long for children newborn through age 10.
The museum provides rich play experiences and a dynamic learning environment for children to explore, discover, learn, create and imagine. The opportunities for pretend play and parent-child interaction are endless.
With the rush of the holidays and then back-to-preschool, it had been several months since we’d visited the GCM, so we decided to head over there for a day of play one weekday morning in late January. The GCM had recently undergone renovations, and I was pleased to find some new and updated exhibits.
Back in those early days when Lily was just learning to walk, we spent a lot of time in the early childhood learning area. Especially for children under age 4, this cozy, safe area is filled with stimulating, hands-on learning through play exhibits. When Lily was a baby, we usually played in the “Tot Spot,” a padded area for children under age 2, full of mirrors, brightly colored items to grab and manipulate, soft textures to experiment with, and tunnels to crawl through and climb. As she moved into the toddler stage, she enjoyed the “Play Lot” with a play firehouse, little ride-on cars on their own racetrack and a miniature airplane.
Lily still likes the “Tot Spot,” but she is not content to stay there for very long. She led me around the museum and was mesmerized by all of the exhibits and things she found to explore now that she “was a big girl.”
We first had to make a stop at the newly renovated Market, part of the Our Town, Main Street area of the museum. Lily had a great time pushing around a shopping cart and “shopping” for groceries. Next, we headed over to the Theatre, where Lily got very involved in playing dress-up and putting on a puppet show. It was hard to get my budding thespian to leave the stage, but finally we visited Nonie’s House, a 1930’s replica playhouse complete with chickens to feed in the yard.
Being the toddler that she is, Lily’s attention span did not last long at Nonie’s House, but her eyes lit up when she saw Creation Station, where we spent a good deal of time painting, coloring and glitter-glueing. Luckily, they have plenty of sinks to wash up!
There are so many other exhibits along Main Street that we also stopped into: the new Pizza Pan, a restaurant where kids can serve up brick-oven pizza; Our Town Bank, where kids can practice exchanging money with real deposit slips and checks; Our Town Doctor and Dentist Offices, complete with X-rays, a dentist chair, an examination table with stethoscopes, scrubs and interactive play stations to teach kids about their bodies; and the Construction Zone, where children can learn how homes are framed, wired, insulated and finished in a half-built house.
All of these exhibits comprise just one side of the museum. We made our way over to the other side to find even more exciting discoveries, including a real DC-9 jet where Lily climbed into the cockpit and then exited down a slide (which, of course, we had to do over and over again). Around the corner, she climbed into a real fire truck and police car with working lights and sirens.
Lily also enjoyed the large sandbox, with its sailboat and replica of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, as she has been begging to go to the beach — this was the next best thing. And for all those Thomas the Train fanatics, there is an extensive train area with cars ranging from old-fashioned locomotives to sleek Amtrak trains.
And, finally, we found the Big Bubble Springs area, where Lily delighted in the giant bubbles she could make.
We did all of this and spent just two hours at the museum. You could easily spend a whole day there with your child and never hear those frustrating cries of, “I’m bored!”
Greensboro Children’s Museum
220 N. Church Street, Greensboro
Children: $6 (ages 1 and under free)
Monday: 9 a.m.-noon (for members only)
Tuesday: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Fridays: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. ($3 admission from 5 to 8 p.m.)
Sunday: 1-5 p.m. ($3 admission)
Cristi Driver is a Greensboro-based freelance writer and mother of one.