It’s called a museum, but it is so much more. It’s an expansive, colorful world filled with scores of unique play and learning experiences, all interactive and even customizable. Parents get as engaged as their children. Rarely will a visiting family touch, no less master, the experience in any single visit.
Inspired by the Dartmouth Children’s Museum, this Masphee magnet for families acosss the Cape and beyond came to life when several stay-at-home moms set out to find fun and educational places to take their kids . Dissatisfied by what they found, they decided to create it themselves.
They initially located in a smaller place in the Falmouth Mall, then moved to the current e location only two miles from Mashpee Commons. Today, more than 50,000 visitors a year enjoy the museum.
“It’s not a typical museum to watch and look, but to interact,” explains Barbara Cotton, the executive director. “We’ve jam-packed it.” There are more than 20 continuous exhibits in the museum as well as a planetarium. In addition, special programs are constantly taking place for kids as young as six months and up to 8 years old. .
Experiment with the Bernoulli Principle, which states that an increase in the speed of a fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in the pressure exerted by the fluid. When the pressure decreases inside a stream of flowing air, what will happen to beach balls.You can find out with this interactive exhibit.
You can reign the castle as a mighty King, majestic Queen or a brave Knight fighting off dragons. This area is perfect for the little ones providing large-sizeLlegos to build and pretend.
At the “Starfish Galley” you can be the manager/cook/server/customer and learn how to operate a restaurant. At the cash register, key in orders from the window. Serve your guests seated at the booth. Remember at the end of your shift to vacuum and clean up for the next day’s orders!
Rain or shine, snow or sleet, the mail at the museum will get delivered. Kids already know how to E-mail, but here they can also seei a letter travel all the way to its destination. Kids learn how the post office works to connect communities in their own state, country and all over the world.
Kids climb and explore a life-size tree house. Inside the tree, tye don hard hat, use muscles and improve motor skills by building unique creations.
Kids and parents can find their inner musician here. Play the drums and try out the little-hands piano. Mural-size sheet music to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” displays the notes. Feel free to sing out loud to the music.
ARRR! Ahoy Matey! On the lower deck, you’ll find costumes in the treasure chest then climb up to the main deck. Up on the main deck you have a view of the whole museum. There you can be the captain and take the wheel leading your voyage to buried treasure.
Explore and travel deep under the ocean in the museum’s very own submarine. It’s equipped with buttons that produce real life sounds. Take the steering wheel and discover what’s down under.
See where your Wiffle golf ball lands. Placing your ball at the start of red, blue or orange it should land in the corresponding color hole. A built-in step helps little ones reach the tallest point of the raceway. Test it out!
“What comes up must come down” Gravity is a basic force in the universe that attracts all objects to each other. Explore and test gravity at our giant gravity wall maze!
Exploregiant Geo boards with brightly colored rubber bands. Imagine shapes that can fly and bring them to life using the rubber bands and the pegs. How many different-sized squares can you make on our enormous Geo Board?
Take a story time break with your child in the stand-still reading wagon with a built in library book shelf.
Be the conductor or passenger on this stand-still train. Pretend to ride along rolling hills discovering your own destination.
Large puzzles help with eye coordination, thinking skills and solving problems. Check out puzzles that are located throughout the museum.
Take a seat at the crafting station to bring out your creative side. What will your next masterpiece be?
This is a portable planetarium available by reservation to bring to a party, scout meeting, classroom, or other group functions. Lab techs will bring the equipment, set-up, and deliver your choice of celestial program.
Learning through play
As children become familiar with these exhibits, they begin to grow and interact with them differently each time. For example, a child could use a table or display to help them stand up, and a year later, use it more educationally.
“They’re constantly expanding their knowledge and experience with the exhibits,” Cotton explains. “Their experiences are always changing, even though the exhibits don’t.”
The museum introduces at least one new exhibit annually to keep the experiences fresh and encourage families to return many times.
Technology plays a significant role at the museum, but in a very nontraditional way. Tool kits containing tweezers, scissors, a paper clip and a magnifying glass, among other items, are used as resources to develop STEM (science, technology, English, math) activities aimed at improving motor skills.
“These are all tools that have been used by 3,000 children under 4.5 years old,” says Cotton. “We forget that these are technology. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to teach the basics.”
- The museum’s Sensory Room lets children touch, taste and smell different objects by, for example, ripping apart a cotton ball. The exercise strengthens their fingers and eventually helps them hold a pencil.
- A herring run machine is very popular especially during the spring vacation week. It is a matching game that lets kids coordinate the image of a fish with a corresponding fact.
- Children can understand Cape Cod’s landscape with a puzzle where each piece is a different landmark and every one of the Cape’s 15 towns are represented.
In addition to the many exhibits, the museum schedules a spectrum of programs that parents can reliably find on particular days of the week. They are aptly categorized as Play, Learn and Grow. They are free with admission.
For example, Monday Moments include Get up and Move as well as Stories and Crafts. Tuesdays Rock feature a sing-a-long and Express Yourself with Art. Thursdays are Thoroughly Fun because there is the Science Wonders program as well as Get Your Stretch On.
Reaching into the community
The museum has established relationships beyond its walls, such as a partnership with Coonamessett Farm in East Falmouth where visitors engage in a two-hour program learning how the farm operates.
The museum’s submarine was developed in collaboration with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It’s a replica of the Alvin, which has completed more than 4,600 dives The real Alvin carries two scientists and a pilot for dives that last up to 10 hours to the depths of the world’s oceans. It actually surveyed the wreck of the Titanic.
Cotton emphasizes that the museum is dedicated to being welcoming and accessible for the whole family. Those who serve in the military gain free admittance. Lower-income families receive major discounts.
“We try to make it a very warm, family-friendly atmosphere. Everybody’s experience is different, but we always try to make it positive,” she emphasizes. “Kids are learning to socialize in a non-school setting and engage with other kids. They learn a lot and are more creative through experiencing it. People think they’re coming to play all day, but they’re learning” at the same time.
This sense of community is a major reason the museum has thrived for a quarter century, says Holly Dayton, its director of operations, who has been there since it started. She’s watched several generations grow. Some of the first children visiting today are parents themselves taking their children to the museum.
“It’s very humbling when I see people bring in their kids. It’s rewarding to see how much they love it. I have the best job in the world,” she says.
Adds Cotton: “It’s great to be a place that people want to come to,” Cotton said. “They’re a part of our fabric – they are our families.”
Things to know
The museum is open:
- Monday-Friday, 10 am to 3 pm and until 5 pm during school vacation weeks.
- On Saturday, it is open from 10 am to 5 pm; on Sunday, from noon to 5 pm
- During the summer, the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from noon to 5 pm
- $8 for children and adults
- $8 for seniors over 60
- $2 for those holding EBT cards
- Free for those with military IDs
The museum is located at 577 Great Neck Road South in Mashpee. Access directions at http://capecodchildrensmuseum.org/directions
To take a virtual tour of the museum, go to http://capecodchildrensmuseum.org/virtual-tour