At the Please Touch Museum kids can not only touch, but play and (shh!) learn, too. (Photo: courtesy Please Touch Museum)
Kids have a tendency to touch things. The cat’s tail. Their younger sibling — annoyingly on long car rides. But you won’t have to tell them to stop at Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum, which encourages this very natural kid behavior. It’s been named one of the best museums for kids in the country by Parents Magazine and others thanks to a perfect blend of education and play. This isn’t one of those places for standing at attention and using inside voices. So, go ahead, cut loose and color outside the lines, while the kids learn a little something along the way.
Where a Kid Can Be a Kid and Whatever They Want
A 40-foot replica of Lady Liberty’s arm and torch made from toys and kid-friendly art is just the first exhibit of many waiting at the Please Touch Museum, which seems to have something for the tiniest of tots (6 months) to school-age kids (7 years old). Little ones under three have their own designated spaces to explore and play like Nature’s Pond and the Front Steps. Bigger kids can learn the ins and outs of what keeps Philly going in the City Capers exhibit as they play doctor and construction foreman among replicas of the city skyline. Flight machines throughout history have been rendered playthings in Flight Fantasy, and your little pilots can use their abundance of energy to power them. The Centennial Exploration exhibit puts children in the train conductor’s seat on a trip back in time to witness the birth of contraptions we still use today, and River Adventures explores all things aquatic.
Let Them Entertain Them
The theater scene in Philadelphia is on a par with the best, but the dramatic nuance of Madam Butterfly is lost on the average six year old. The Please Touch Playhouse Theater is a cure for the fidgets with shows tailored for child-performer interaction, complete with props and puppets. This charming theater for kids can comfortably fit up to 150 spectators, and the carpeted seating tiers put youngsters close to the performers. The Playhouse Theater is the only place in the city staging children’s theater year-round. Most places are going to charge for an “extra” like this, but it doesn’t get any cheaper than free at the Playhouse.
Skilled musicians and dancers from Philadelphia and beyond are employed with the goal of educating and engaging through the Music and Movement program. Native American drums may bring life to a tale of adventure, while impromptu ballet sessions in Hamilton Hall show passersby why the Please Touch Museum experience is so different from other museums. A musician in residence, supported by The Presser Foundation, helps guide and develop the program.
Fuel Up at the Please Taste Café
A full day at the museum usually calls for a pit stop for a quick snack. Most would assume that museums that cater to kids are also going to cater to a not-so-sophisticated palate, but it’s not all about the sugar rush at the super convenient (and aptly named) Please Taste Café. Choose from a variety of soups and salads, build your own pasta, or be sure to satisfy the kids with pizza and hot dogs. The absence of a deep fryer keeps the cafe in-line with the Please Touch Museum’s values, aiming to educate children on healthy choices and nutrition.
Go ‘Round and ‘Round on the Historic Dentzel Carousel
Most galleries are populated with plaques reading, “Don’t Touch,” but the Please Touch Museum shucks this convention yet again and invites visitors to ride the Dentzel Carousel in Woodside Park. The opulent artifact was created in 1908 and has gathered dust while sitting in storage for 40 years, although it flirted with Smithsonian-level curation. Some figures were donated to the American Museum of Natural History, but full restoration didn’t come until 2005 when the Please Touch Museum acquired the ride. The carousel brings delight to hundreds of kids every day for just $3 a ticket.