As the school year begins, we are all looking for fun ways to inspire our children and motivate them for the learning they will be doing in the coming year. In my book, there is no better way to demonstrate how much fun science is than a visit to a planetarium or a natural history museum. Here are some of my favorites.

  • **Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Oregon: ** The Oregon Science and Industry Museum in Portland is one of my favorites. Its bright, open spaces are packed with hands-on activities that engage everyone from my three-year-old to me and my husband. Smaller hands-on science labs allow older children to conduct the types of experiments that require glasses, good reading skills, and closer supervision from museum staff. A sunny cafe serves healthy and kid-friendly dishes, many of which are made to order.

  • American Museum of Natural History At New York: It’s the largest natural history museum in the world, spanning four city blocks, and it’s the perfect place to delve deeper into anything that interests your child. If you’re visiting New York City from out of town, consider forgoing a hotel in favor of a “Night at the Museum” slumber party. Sure, you’ll sleep on a cot, but before bed you’ll tire your kids out on a flashlight-lit journey through the museum’s collection.

  • Explore in Albuquerque New Mexico: What impressed me about this museum, besides the magnificent space, was the number of exhibits that seemed to be handcrafted from everyday materials. Inspired by our visit, we returned home and recreated many exhibits, including one that endured three children over a period of five years (and it’s not over yet), a building set made of PVC pipes, perfect for building large scale creations.

  • London science museum in London: While the Science Museum in London has some excellent practical spaces, what really sets it apart is its historical collection. My children and I have found it fascinating to browse collections that show how, for example, medical technology or agricultural technology has evolved over time, to the present day. If your child is a budding inventor or loves to build, looking at the early artifacts is a great way to see how people built things from everyday materials before the silicon wafer.

  • Exploratory in San Francisco: I admit a bias in my unwavering love for the San Francisco Exploratorium. This is the science museum that I grew up visiting. This pioneering museum was one of the first to create its own exhibits that would allow visitors to explore and experience science on their own. Almost all of the Exploratorium’s exhibits are built here, and the museum’s long history has given its staff plenty of time to polish the exhibits and ensure each is engaging and informative.

Photo: iStockPhoto


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