The best children's museum in the country? It's in Houston
When you combine kids and museums the result is often a slightly disastrous version of a bull in a China shop. However, children’s museums around the country have eliminated the “don’t-touch” horrors in favor of hands-on exhibits. At the top of these learning playgrounds is the Children’s Museum of Houston (CMH).
Parents magazine ranked CMH the No. 1 children’s museum in the nation this week. The magazine determined the rankings by its extensive 10 Best Children’s Museums research survey.
“We are honored Houston’s efforts to create the ultimate playground for your mind have been recognized by Parents Magazine as the No. 1 children’s museum from a field of such great museums,” said Tammie Kahn, CMH executive director.
“Every day we offer new mind-blowing, family-engaging ways to learn more about this exciting, ever-changing world, and we do it in ways that will bring a smile to your face — guaranteed! It’s all about engaging our children in development of 21st Century skills in ways that encourage them to be confident learners and leaders in the years ahead."
Parents magazine researched children’s museums across the U.S. to recognize those with exceptional educational exhibits, mommy-and-me outings and festivals, healthy places for lunch, nursing areas, family restrooms and stroller parking. Parents then worked with the 300-plus members of the Association of Children’s Museums and removed museums lacking a lot for kids under 3. Then, the magazine asked the remaining museums questions to help decide the leaders.
After tallying the scores, Parents went to local moms to ask for insider tips to include in the write ups.
What makes Houston's children's museum so special? As anyone driving down Binz will notice, it’s big — Texas big. Giant-sized children statues seem to hold up the bright yellow structure, inviting families inside with smiles and outstretched arms. Especially fantastic is the water station, where kids can build aqueducts, race boats in different currents, fill up an enormous cauldron and watch it tip, while dodging geysers on outdoor stepping-stones. (Careful with the geysers— unsuspecting parents have been known to fall victim to the surprising bursts of water.)
Another favorite is the Kidtropolis exhibit, where children receive a play debit card to peruse the fruits and veggies at the grocery store or dine out at restaurants. Out of cash? Don’t worry, your little one can bring home the bacon in a variety of pretend jobs, including chef, police officer and artist. All in all it’s an incredibly realistic experience, though we imagine artists in real-life receive a bit less cash.
If the workplace is over your toddler’s head, there’s a Tot Spot for children under 2. The brightly colored play area features soft pillows, balls, mirrors and doorbells.
The CMH welcomes more than 750,000 people annually, making it the highest-attended youth museum for its size in the nation. March of 2009 saw the opening of a new wing featuring more than 39,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, including seven new, permanent exhibits: Cyberchase – The Chase Is On! (based on the award-winning PBS KIDS GO! animated series), Invention Convention,PowerPlay, FlowWorks , the aforementioned Kidtropolis, U.S.A. and TotSpot.
According to the Parents survey, the 10 Best Children’s Museums are:
1. The Children’s Museum of Houston
2. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
3. Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia
4. Boston Children’s Museum
5. Madison Children’s Museum
6. Kohl Children’s Museum
7. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
8. Children’s Museum of Phoenix
9. National Museum of Play, Rochester, NY
10. Minnesota Children’s Museum