Category Archives: Indoor Play

A Sneak Peek at the New National Children’s Museum

[Note: This post was written by new KFDC contributor Emily Moise, who attended the National Children’s Museum Family Celebration with her daughter for a first look at what’s to come this winter.]

The wait continues for a much-needed and overdue children’s museum in the nation’s capital — but it will be well worth it. Originally slated as the grand opening celebration, this past Saturday’s Family Celebration at the National Children’s Museum was instead a sneak peek at the learning disguised as amusement park-like fun that will be made available to the public this holiday season.

Hundreds were dazzled with modernized, interactive STEAM exhibits in what is positioned as the first children’s museum-slash-science center. Believe it or not, Washington, DC, with its plentitude of museums and culture, is the only major city without either.

The National Children’s Museum is making up for lost time with new-age ideas and social impact-focused goals — plus tons of creative play spaces for even the littlest ones. Kids can learn physics through Nationals-branded pitching and batting exhibits, explore the technology of filmmaking with SpongeBob, and discover their superpower with the Climate Action Heroes roadmap.

The pièce de résistance may be the miniature car race track that teaches kids principles of design and engineering with high-speed excitement. After tweaking and adorning their wooden cars, kids watch as a mechanical lift raises their vehicles to the starting line. Ready, set, go… cars race down the track, lights flashing, and the most aerodynamic one wins. Overhead a screen shows detailed stats from the races. Barring a long waiting line, kids can experience the cycle of design, test, re-design.

There is also a Tinkerers Studio, set up like a 21st century classroom, which will be home to school and group field trips, as well as workshops and unguided open studio hours. Equipped with everything from colored paper for art projects to laptops for creative coding projects, the Studio will allow kids to combine the tools of STEAM to create and learn. Notably, teachers from Title I public and charter schools in Washington, DC can request free field trips, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

And all of this was just the lower concourse level. The main level will boast the Dream Machine entryway, a two-story slide that transports visitors to the wonderland of exhibits, a playzone, café, and gift shop. There appears to be much work left to be done to make all of this visitor-ready, but workshops are already being listed online for early December, which are free with general admission. (Admission will be $10.95 for children over the age of one and adults, and membership packages are expected to range from $75 to $150.)

Due to the Nationals’ World Series parade coinciding with the Family Celebration, another similar sneak peek day may be offered prior to opening. Stay tuned to the National Children’s Museum website for updates on the opening, events, workshops, and more!


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Filed under 2019, 2020, All ages, DC, Educational, Indoor Play, Museums, Weekdays, Weekend

Giveaway: Enter to Win Eight Free Classes with MOCO Movement Center!


With the cold months ahead of us, many parents will be seeking indoor places for their kids to play, and MOCO Movement Center is one to put on your list! Located in Kensington, MD, it’s a pediatric therapy practice as well as an athletic center, offering movement classes for children of all ages and abilities.

Morning classes for children ages 3 months to 5 years are hosted daily Monday through Friday. MOCO Motion helps kids acquire foundational skills such as jumping, skipping, climbing, and running. Move and Groove is designed to encourage a child’s natural musical abilities in a safe, fun, and supportive environment while exercising. Kids in Motion has children and caregivers participate in early learning and preschool activities while having fun in the obstacle course inspired gym. And Sporty Tots focuses on foundational sports skills for toddlers.

MOCO Movement Center also offers individual training for children, developmental screenings, and birthday parties. Visit the website to learn more about all of their services and take a virtual tour, and be sure to enter the giveaway below for a chance to win 8 weeks of classes!

MOCO Movement Center
5268A Nicholson Lane, Kensington MD 20895
301.770.KIDS (5437)

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Giveaway: For a chance to win eight (8) weeks of weekday morning classes for your child age 5 or under at MOCO Movement Center, simply leave a comment below telling me her/his favorite sport or physical activity. The winner will choose the class, and their child will attend once a week for eights weeks (new students only). This giveaway will run through October 16, 2019, then a winner will be picked at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!


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Filed under 2019, Babies, Class, Giveaway, Indoor Play, Maryland, Preschoolers, Professional Service, Toddlers, Weekdays

Tips for Visiting Smithsonian Museums with Young Children (Ages 0-6)

[Note: This is a Guest Post contributed by Jennifer Liao, local mom and founder of Family Trip Guides. As my own kids are now well past the little kid stage, Jennifer brings a fresh take on navigating the National Mall’s museum scene with younger children.]

I started taking my kids to the Smithsonian museums as a tactic to survive the long summer, but it turned into the highlight of the season! We set a goal to visit all 12 Smithsonian museums with my then 2- and 5-year-old and made a passing grade of 8 over the summer and finished this past year. At first, my goals were to escape the suburbs and enjoy the free, world-class museums, but I wasn’t prepared for how much we would grow to love our visits! Now my kids regularly ask which museum we’re going to this week: The Dinosaur One? (Natural History), the Vehicle One? (Postal Museum), or the Inventions One? (American History).

Channeling Julia Childs at Wegmans Wonderplace in the American History Museum

The museums sparked so much curiosity and wonder in my kids that it became contagious. They were excited to share with kids and adults alike about what they discovered that, by the end, we were bringing neighbors with us on our museum trips. I started to get lots of questions from my friends about taking kids into DC by themselves, where to park on a weekday, and food options outside the museums. So, I started texting my tips to friends, which turned into emails, then ultimately created Family Trip Guides for the top five museums.
I love lists so below are: 1) My 3 favorite things about visiting Smithsonians with young kids, 2) Trip tips, and 3) Favorite museums for this age.

Exploring the African Art Museum

My 3 Favorite Things about Visiting Smithsonians with Young Kids

1. Following Their Wonder: I LOVE watching kids’ faces light up when they explore something new! I often follow behind my children when we first enter a gallery and listen to their oohs and ahhs and have them lead me to what they want to explore. Most recently, in the African Art Museum right behind the Smithsonian Castle, my 3-year-old was so transfixed by the beautiful gold exhibit from the Wolof in Senegal, commenting that one necklace looked kind of like a cupcake!

2. Free = No Pressure/No Guilt: All the Smithsonian museums are free which relieves a lot of the pressure to “see everything.” If you need to leave because of nap time or a tantrum, you have a guilt free pass to do so. We used to live in Chicago where the Field Museum is $26 for the basic admission per person so you wanted to get your money’s worth, i.e. you stayed awhile, even if the kids were no longer into it. The Smithsonians can be a great pop-in destination whether you live nearby or not.

3. Connection: Visiting a museum with younger kids requires a lot more attention for the parent or caregiver (why is Obama’s portrait at toddler-touch-level at the Portrait Gallery?!), but it leads to incredible moments of connection with your child. My kids help me live in the moment and see the wonder in the nature, art, and artifacts.

Don’t miss the Volunteer Carts for extra exhibits (and stickers!)

My Top 3 Trip Tips for Visiting Museums with Little Kids

1. Go at the Right Time: Parents and caregivers all know that timing is everything with this age group. Pick the time when your child will be the least tired, hungry, and overstimulated. For my kids, that’s in the morning, but I know some parents who visit museums after an afternoon nap. I aim to get to the museum right at 9:45am to get parking close to the museum (often right on the National Mall!) and get in line five minutes before the museum opens at 10am. This is my “magic time” before a lot of the school and tour groups seem to arrive around 11am, and tourists later in the afternoon. It gives my kids a couple of hours to enjoy a much less crowded museum and make a clean exit for lunch, either a picnic on the Mall or at an eatery close by. (I have 20+ food options categorized by each museum on my blog.)

2. Go to a Little-Kid Friendly Museum: There are 12 museums and an amazing National Zoo as a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world! All of them are special and wonderful in their own way, but for this age group, I would highly recommend focusing on the most kid-friendly of them (see below), especially if you will need good changing tables and nursing areas.

3. Avoid the Gift Shop: Confession time… my kids have never been to a museum gift shop! I think my daughter knows they exist, because we had to walk by one and I diverted her to another gallery. We really avoid the gift shop because, as all parents know, it can be a drawn-out negotiation that takes time and energy I’d rather be spending on the exhibits. So, instead, I have included Gift Shop Alternatives for each age group and for each museum in my Guides. A few ideas for little kids: If you’re near the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall, take a ride on the historic Carousel — for $3.50 the only dilemma is which animal to ride. If you’re at Natural History or Air and Space Museums, ask the information desk where the Volunteer Cart is for the day — they might be giving out free stickers. If you’re near the Postal Museum, get a food treat at Au Bon Pain, Shake Shack, or another place in Union Station.

Start a stamp collection at the National Postal Museum!

My 3 Favorite Smithsonian Museums with Young Kids

1. National Postal Museum: This was the surprise favorite of our whole family during our summer challenge and definitely the “easiest” of the Smithsonians with kids. It has wonderful hands-on exhibits and the largest collection of stamps in the world — and they let you take a few to start your own collection! My 3-year old son calls this the “vehicle museum” because it houses a real train, a stagecoach, and an 18-wheeler truck to climb all around. The museum is located right next to Union Station, making it perfect for metro, parking, and dozens of food options from Shake Shack to Chipotle! 

2. American History Museum: This museum has so much to offer for all ages, plus the best enclosed play area for smaller kids. Wegman’s Wonderplace feels like a real museum (because it is!) with paintings and artifacts behind child safe glass and at their eye level. It is created for ages 0-6 and includes a kid-friendly bathroom, a nursing room in the back corner, a volunteer-staffed gate to keep kids inside, and an amazing kid-sized replica of Julia Childs’ kitchen! (Note: Wegman’s Wonderplace is closed Tuesdays.)

3. American Indian Museum: I love this museum because our kids don’t have much interaction with Native American cultures, and the museum does a great job at welcoming kids to learn more. We love the kids’ area called the imagiNATIONS Activity Center on the 3nd floor and The Mitsitam Food Court (which means “Let’s eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway peoples). It’s an extension of the museum with foods from different regions. (Note: imagiNATIONS is closed Mondays.)

I hope something in all these lists sparked interest in taking your kids (or neighbor kids!) to one of the amazing national treasures we call Smithsonian Museums.

Thanks so much, Jennifer!

KFDC community, what are some your favorite Smithsonian Museums? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jennifer Liao is a mom of two curious kiddos in Fairfax County who unabashedly loves museums. She created FamilyTripGuides.com to help other families have great visits with their kids. She also loves cooking with her husband and long bike rides.






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Filed under Babies, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Gradeschoolers, Guest Post, Indoor Play, Museums, Preschoolers, Toddlers, Weekdays, Weekend

Hands-On Fun & Learning Experiences at KID Museum


I have no good excuse for not visiting KID Museum in Montgomery County before this summer. The space that provides fun, innovative learning experiences for young makers has been around for several years, and I’ve been aware of it, have even promoted some of their events on the blog, but until a few weeks ago, had never actually been there. Sure, it’s not exactly down the street from me, but still…no excuse.

That’s because KID Museum is a pretty awesome place for kids, especially those who enjoy hands-on activities that encourage invention, creativity, experimentation, and discovery. Located on the lower level of Davis Library in North Bethesda, it’s generally comprised of a large open space with activity stations and Maker Studios, with workshops that offer opportunities to implement and enjoy all of this and then some.

When we were invited to take a tour one Sunday back in July there were kids and parents doing everything from building ziplines to constructing marble mazes out of cardboard to creating balloon cars to making Calder-inspired mobiles and much, much more. The whole place was buzzing with excitement as children and adults worked on their projects and tested them out or tinkered with a variety of materials and tools. Staff — Maker Educators and high school Apprentices — are at each station to demo projects and help kids as they need it, all of them friendly and enthusiastic.

This is all open to the community for drop-in visits on weekends from 10am – 5pm ($12/child, membership options also available), and KID Museum offers more scheduled programming to school groups during weekdays and to kids in Kindergarten through 9th grade after school and during summer, winter, and spring breaks. During those in-depth programs, kids can build skills in coding, robotics, engineering, and more.

Visit the KID Museum website for more information about their ongoing programs for kids and families.

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FutureFest
Every September, KID Museum hosts FutureFest, one of the DC area’s largest, free family festivals where kids can spark their imagination and families can celebrate their collective power to invent the future through all kinds of exhibits, demos, and live performances.

A few highlights:
* KID City: Participants will build a city of the future — from the ground up — for a one-of-a-kind, immersive experience. Light up a high-tech street, construct a sculpture using 3D-printed bolts, race a vehicle down the maker highway, and more.
* Cultural Crossroads: Explore cultures that shape our community, from China, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Korea, and beyond, through hands-on activities, collaborative art installations, and live music and dance performances.
* Innovation Expo: Discover technologies and innovations that are transforming our world and inspiring the next generation of innovators. Glimpse the future of Work & Play, Space & Exploration, Food & Sustainability, and more.

FutureFest takes place on September 15, 12-5pm, at Veterans Plaza and the Silver Spring Civic Center — One Veterans Place, Silver Spring MD 20910.


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Filed under 2019, All ages, Educational, Exhibit, Festival, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Special Event, Weekend