Our family just returned from a trip to Madison, Wisconsin. It was the place I called home for four years while I attended UW-Madison. In the (gasp) decade (more like decade-and-a-half) that has passed since I graduated, I have returned to the city on several occasions. However, last week’s trip included my toddler daughter, who allowed me to see the city through a new set of eyes. Madison is undeniably a beautiful town surrounded by water (the city is actually situated on an isthmus of rock between Lakes Mendota and Monona) and steeped in history and culture, but it is also an incredibly family-friendly place, chock full of kid-friendly attractions.
One of my 2-year-old daughter’s favorites is the Madison Children’s Museum. We spent about five hours exploring the entire museum. The following are three museum attractions my daughter absolutely loved:
The museum has two floors. Part of the top floor is dedicated to all things dinosaur. My daughter’s favorite section of this exhibit was the dinosaur dig. Basically, it’s a huge sandbox littered with dinosaur “bones.” Kids get the chance to use brushes and metal rods to discover as many “bones” as possible. My 2-year-old didn’t quite grasp the concept (or perhaps she did and just wasn’t interested in completing the excavation); she simply wanted to brush all of the sand from the sandbox onto the museum’s floor (better theirs than mine). She was blissfully happy swishing sand from the dig area to the floor (bones… what bones…) while I sheepishly used a janitor’s dustpan to return the sand to its rightful home.
The Milking Parlor
This area features a makeshift barn which houses two life-size fiberglass cows. Kids make like Old MacDonald and don overalls while they brush, groom and milk the cows. My daughter had a blast brushing a black-and-white cow (never mind that she couldn’t reach past his knee). The fun continued in the Toddler Barnyard where we read animal books, tried on animal costumes and made “farms” out of foam building blocks.
When she started using the blocks as boomerangs I knew it was time to move on.
The Painting Room
The Painting Room is actually the arts-and-crafts room, but during our visit it was renamed the Painting Room because it became the site of the museum’s pumpkin painting party. We had an incredible time decorating our mini-pumpkins. The nice part about this painting room (we have been to others at various children’s museums throughout the country) was how attentive the room monitors were. As soon as the paint palettes got the least bit swirled (four kids sharing one paint palette can lead to a lot of color mixing) the friendly staff swooped down and replaced it with a new one. They were just as prompt in replacing the cups of water the kids used to “clean” their brushes.
Overall, the museum was a hit. It may be a bit tame for older children, but if you have toddlers it is an ideal place to visit. For more information on the Madison Children’s Museum, including directions to, admission prices, and hours of operation, click here.