Category Archives: Play

Anchors Aweigh, Kids, at Baltimore’s Port Discovery

[Note: This post was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, who visited Port Discovery with her family, including her 3-year-old daughter and baby son. In all the years our family visited the children’s museum in Baltimore, I never did a proper write-up, and my kids have aged out of a lot of it. But as Port Discovery recently underwent a major renovation, the timing is great for one now.]

As we await the *almost open* children’s museum here in Washington, DC, a half-day trip up to Baltimore’s Port Discovery will certainly tide you over. The Inner Harbor, and its historic seaport, provides the perfect metaphorical backdrop for this children’s museum that has, without exaggeration, something for every child, with every interest, to embark on.

Open since 1998, the museum completed a $10.5 million renovation in 2019, notably with the floor-to-ceiling “SkyClimber” and twisting slide, as well as a life-size ship facade where kids can play captain and load “cargo” on the third-story overlook. The museum has the latest and greatest in hands-on, creative play — though, like all children’s museums, things become “well-loved” so some of the 10+ exhibit spaces aren’t as brand-sparkling new as others.

If you have a preschooler in tow, your first stop will likely be at the “Store & Fill’er Up Station” which is one of the most authentic fake food shopping set-ups I’ve experienced. It’s a convenience store modeled after sponsor Royal Farms, allowing kids to fill up a grocery tote, get a pretend fountain soda, put gas in the car, and “drive.” A few levels up, “Tiny’s Diner” offers even more for the play food lovers with a large space conducive to collaborative play and parent engagement.

Perhaps the most unique exhibit space is “Wonders of Water” where my daughter’s love of squeegeeing grew exponentially with the addition of spray bottles and free-range windows. Also found here are STEM-infused water tables, a giant bubble hoop, and a musical water play (and spray) area. The most thoughtful touches are the amenities: raincoats, crocs, and a drying station for all sizes.

For those with younger toddler-age children, you won’t want to miss “Tot Trails” which is limited to children three and under. This exhibit space is set up with simple yet stimulating activities for all levels—sitters, crawlers, climbers, and walkers. Like most of the museum, STEM and arts are intertwined in a rudimentary, unintimidating way. For example, here you’ll find a classic wind tube with leaves for little ones to insert and catch with a butterfly net.

Lastly, “The Oasis” provided a much-needed wind down from the stimulation. It’s a children’s library-esque space stocked with books, cozy nooks, and exploratory play stations. By chance, we walked in just as story time was about to start—on this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend day, themes of community and connection were shared throughout the three books read. This was the perfect ending to our visit, leading to an instantaneous car nap for both of my children.

From the archives: Little Sasha serves up big sandwiches at Tiny’s Diner

Port Discovery is located at 35 Market Place on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. General admission to the museum is $17.95 for visitors ages 1+. If you think your family will go at least couple of times in a year, consider a membership starting at $140.

KFDC Tips:
* There are lockers to store your items (for free) in “The Pier” eating area — use them! The museum is three levels of non-stop movement, particularly for a first-time visitor trying to see and do everything.
* The Pier is also where you can take a snack or lunch break. Bring your own food or carry out from one of the neighboring establishments.
* There are many, many exhibits — more than mentioned here, including a bunch for grade school ages — so be ready for a long day (or plan on more visits!)
* Port Discovery hosts lots of special events and themed weekends — check the calendar for any you might want to experience.
* You could make it a longer trip to Baltimore, overnight or even weekend, and also visit the Maryland Science Center, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Industry, or tour the historic ships docked at the Inner Harbor.

 

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Filed under All ages, Educational, Exhibit, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Ongoing, Play, Weekdays, Weekend

Winter Theatre Offerings for Ages 6 Months – 1st Grade at Encore Stage & Studio!


Turn your winter into a theatrical winner with Encore Stage & Studio! The theatre company in Arlington offers class opportunities for students ages 6 months and up, emphasizes the excitement of discovering the power of imagination and storytelling for the youngest students.


Parent & Me Classes for Ages 6 months – 2 years

Share, grow and learn with your child during this special time in their life! Through creative play, movement and music, children will sharpen critical social and physical skills in a fun and imaginative environment. Parent & Me classes are held Tuesday mornings, 10:30 am – 11:15 am. Monthly registration preferred: $10 per class; $15 walk-in rate.
Register here!


Classes for Ages 3-5


Students will enjoy a 45-minute class designed to develop their confidence to share a story with a beginning, middle, and end, while working together as a group. Class titles include Adventures of Curious George and Stories & Fairytales. Saturday morning classes are held January 25 – March 7, 9:00 – 9:45 am. Tuesday afternoon classes are held February 4 – March 17, 4:00 – 4:45 pm. Fee: $110.
Register here!


Classes for Grades K-1st Grade
Students will explore the magic of movement for musicals in our Broadway Kids class. In The Tales of Beatrix Potter, students will discover the classic tales of characters such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck as they learn to act out stories, learning about life’s important lessons along the way. Saturday morning classes are held January 25 – March 7. Fee: $110.
Register here!


Classes are held at Encore’s Main Campus in Arlington, VA. Enrollment is available online or by calling (703) 548-1154.

Planning ahead for summer?
Don’t miss Encore’s Summer Camp Open House on Saturday, January 4, 2020 from 10am – 12pm! Students ages 3-18 will experience 30-minute sample classes of Encore’s award-winning camps. Open House registration is free.



Learn more about Encore’s offerings for students in elementary through high school by visiting www.encorestage.org.


This post is sponsored by Encore Stage & Studio, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will be of interest to KFDC readers.


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Filed under 2019, Babies, Camp, Class, Educational, Gradeschoolers, Music, Play, Preschoolers, Professional Service, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Where to Play on the Weekdays: April 30 – May 4

Kids love the animal encounters at Oxon Hill Farm



Monday – Play the day away at Clemyjontri. The brilliantly colored, sprawling playground in McLean, VA, accommodates kids of all abilities with all kinds of climbing structures, swings, and other apparatuses that encourage activity and imagination. Hours are 7am to dusk, and admission is free.

Tuesday – Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first regularly scheduled airmail flights at the National Postal Museum! Join them for the launch of a new exhibition, Postmen of the Skies, and special activities, including a first-day-of-issue ceremony for two new stamps at 11am. Kids can also enjoy a scavenger hunt and air mail themed board games. Admission is free!

Wednesday – Spend the nice day at The Wharf in Southwest DC. The in-ground fountain will keep kids cool on the 80+ degree day, plus there are scoot toys, swinging benches, and more fun they’ll enjoy. Grab a bite to eat at one of the many eateries there (Shake Shack, Taylor Gourmet, and Dolcezza Gelato are good pick with kids). And be sure to stroll all around to take in the pretty waterfront views.

Thursday – Visit the animals, roam the lovely grounds, check out exhibits of old farm machinery and local history, and enjoy activities in the Visitors Center at Oxon Hill Farm near National Harbor in Maryland. Hours are 8am – 4:30pm, and admission is free.

Friday – Spend the day at Flower Mart, the annual spring festival presented by the All Hallow’s Guild of the National Cathedral. Don’t let the name fool ya — along with plant sales and floral and horticultural displays, there is tons of fun for all ages. Music and entertainment, games and rides, tasty foods, the All Hallows Guild antique carousel, and other activities will delight the younger set. Admission is free, though concessions and some activities will cost a fee. Read about one of our experiences at the fair. (KFDC tip: The Beauvoir Playground will be open to the public that day since The Cathedral School is closed, so take advantage of weekday play there!) And May the 4th be with you. 🙂

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Filed under 2018, All ages, Animals, Annual, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Farm, Free, Maryland, Museums, Outdoor, Park, Play, Special Event, Spring, Virginia, Weekdays

Badlands Play Space Offers Mountains of Indoor Adventures



Having go-to places for indoor recreation is essential, in my opinion. And when one offers everything from active play to creative explorations to learning experiences to relaxation, you definitely want it among your picks.

This is Badlands Play Space. The brand new facility in Rockville, MD, is a one-stop shop for adventures that take place inside. Nature-inspired and full of interactive pursuits for children 2-13 years old, it’s a place where kids can exercise both their bodies and minds in a variety of ways.

Designed to look like the outdoors, a mountain of faux boulders and “grassy” hillside are the centerpiece of the space with a green turf-covered floor. This is where kids can be active. They can climb up rocks to the peak or ascend using ropes, then whiz down slides. They can run up slopes, then roll down them or slide through a tunnel. Little spelunkers can crawl through a cave and emerge on the opposite side.

A path made to look like a dusty trail loops the mountain, and when we visited, a few kids were giving each other rides in a double wagon they fashioned together in the building area (more on that below). Real birch trees line a section of the path, with another small play area on the other side. Guests can walk across a footbridge, hop among tree stumps, and balance on “fallen” tree branches. A little rock garden adds to the outdoor aesthetic.

Beyond the mountain is the Workshop, a spacious room filled with all kinds of stations for creative and constructive activities. Kids can craft parachutes to fly in a wind tunnel, build marble runs, mold clay, play in a giant bin of LEGOs, and design with a variety of materials supplied. Staff are there to help and encourage innovation. And a nature film playing on one wall offers inspiration, too.

Right on the other side of a glass wall from the Workshop is the exhibit area, which will change out periodically. Right now it’s a lovely butterfly garden filled with plants and flowers, chrysalises on view, and, of course, butterflies.

There is also a building room where kids can do even more tinkering. There are wooden parts that fit together, crates to stack, and other materials to create everything from forts to those double wagons. And right next to that room is a theater with comfy seating and a large screen, where kids can chill out as educational programming is shown.

They keep accompanying adults in mind, too! A cafe is located right next to the mountain, so parents and caregivers can hang out while they watch the children play. It’s also convenient for a snack break or lunch.

Badlands isn’t just a destination for everyday play, it’s also a place for special celebrations. There are four fantastic, spacious pavilions available for parties, and they’ll take care of everything from the food to decor to leading the kids in play. For further information about birthdays email events@badlandsplayspace.com.

Ready to play the day away? Badlands is located at 5200 Randolph Road in Rockville, MD. Admission is $22.50/child and $12.50/toddler per day, and they offer memberships and monthly rates which make for big discounts! Hours are 9am – 6pm Tuesday through Sunday.


Disclosure: Badlands hosted us for a play session, so we could experience the play space, however, all opinions expressed here and any decisions to write a review are entirely my own.


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Filed under Eats, Educational, Indoor Play, Maryland, Ongoing, Party, Play, Weekdays, Weekend