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   © Cynthia Skaggs

culture for kids

St. Louis proves museums can be fun

By Jackie Tucker

I walked into the living room and looked at my kids, lying around like miniature couch potatoes. Max (6) and Tyler (8) had spent way too many hours playing video games over the past week, and I decided it was time to broaden their horizons. So, my husband, Zach, and I loaded them into the car with the goal of discovering a bit of culture in St. Louis.

The city is brimming with music, history, art, science and so much more. We wanted to engage our kids in new experiences and stir up their curiosity about the world around them.

music that moves

“A museum?” Tyler groaned.

Zach winked at him. “You’ll like it. I promise.”

Both of my boys enjoy music. So, we knew the National Blues Museum was a good place to start. It’s a one-of-a-kind sensory experience. The sights and sounds inside the museum took us on a historic musical journey, telling the story of the evolution of blues music throughout American history. From guitars played by iconic musicians to clothing from eras gone by to the rhythm of the blues played in every room, we soaked it all up.

The highlight by far, though, was the interactive station where we wrote our own blues song then named our band—The Muddy Bog Monsters—and designed our own album cover. As we left the museum Tyler asked if he could start taking guitar lessons. I smiled and nodded. We were off to a good start.

© Philip Leara from flickr

a history lesson

Our next cultural outing was a visit to the Missouri History Museum. This time around the boys didn’t bat an eye at the word “museum.” In fact, they were pretty pumped.

With input from local families, the museum has developed the History Clubhouse—an interactive and authentically St. Louis experience that fosters a love of history. The boys’ eyes went wide as they stepped into the special gallery created just for kids.

“Can I?” Max asked the museum worker standing beside a steamboat whistle.

“Go for it!” he said. “Nothing here is hands-off.”

Max and Tyler grinned as they both took turns pulling the cord and blowing the whistle before steering the steamboat down the Mighty Mississippi. Then, we explored the ancient city of Cahokia, where we learned about the sophisticated prehistoric civilization. Max was fascinated by the fact that their ancient way of life actually had a lot of things in common with our world today. We wrapped up with a visit to the 1904 World’s Fair, where we pretended to sell ice-cream cones to all the people visiting the fair.

On our way home, we stopped for some real ice cream, and the boys couldn’t wait to tell the young lady at the register all that they had learned about the invention of the waffle cone and how it had happened right here in St. Louis.

The boys’ eyes went wide as they stepped into the special gallery created just for kids.

inspired by art

The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of my favorite places in the city, but Zach and I weren’t sure if the boys were old enough to walk quietly through and appreciate the masterful displays of art. Thankfully, though, the museum hosts Family Sundays on Sunday afternoons, where families with young children are welcome to explore.

Each month, there is a theme, and this one was Creative Creatures—perfect for my animal-loving kids. The family-friendly tour took us around the museum, where we spied all types of creatures in the paintings and sculptures in each gallery.

We wrapped up the tour with a hands-on art activity, where the boys made masks of a roaring lion and a ferocious tiger. My goal is to develop a lifelong appreciation of art my boys. Based on the grins on their faces, I was sure that afternoon at the Saint Louis Art Museum would be the first of many.

© Cynthia Skaggs

a science experiment

The next stop on our cultural tour of St. Louis was the Saint Louis Science Center. It’s part museum, part planetarium and all fun. The educational and interactive exhibits encourage young minds to explore and discover. I love that it’s a place that gets my kids excited about learning science while having a great time doing it.

Tyler loved the spaceship-like exterior, and Max squealed as he peered through the glass-bottomed viewing spots crossing over the interstate. We learned about architecture as we built our own “St. Louis Arch.” Experiencing a flight simulator in the planetarium exhibit was a big hit. And the extremely lifelike animatronic T-rex had us ready to run for our lives.

But the live science demonstration was what captured the boys’ attention the most. “Awesome,” was all Max kept saying after the experiment where the scientists made clouds out of liquid nitrogen. I think a chemistry set might be on his next birthday wish list.

In our search for culture for the kids in St. Louis, we explored four of the major fields—art, music, history and science. And with so much more to do and see, we had only just begun.

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