I have many fond memories of the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum as a child. My girl scout troop had a lock-in there (we got to sleep on the 4th level of exhibits!), we had numerous field trips… and now I get to take my boys to experience the museum as well! This post has actually been months in the making… I kept pushing it back in the schedule and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because there is so much to do and see, or because the Hands on Museum keeps changing and updating their exhibits. Whatever the reason, no more excuses!
These pictures are from a year ago, so it’s a bit of a trip down memory lane. Toby looks so little, it’s amazing to see just how much kids grow in a year’s time. And of course, Zack hadn’t arrived yet either. A lot changes in a year.
Anyways, the Hands On Museum. I wanted to share 5 reasons why we love it.
1. The museum encourages curiosity about how things work.
This is a biggie for me. Growing up, my favorite books were “The Way Things Work” and an illustrated first aid book. I was always asking: “why?” I wanted to know how the world worked. And I see that same natural curiosity in my boys. Toby asks why a lot — and I don’t want to dissuade him from being interested in how the world works… but I admit sometimes the constant “why?” question does get old. So we’ve come up with a solution — he has to ask what we call “why questions” or sentences. It can’t just be “why?” — but needs to be a complete thought. So far, that approach has worked pretty well!
2. There is a toddler room with age appropriate activities.
Before this room existed (years ago), all of the exhibits were child friendly, but many were geared towards older kids. And during the day, when the museum became filled with children, it could be tough for the little ones to explore amidst the big kids. The toddler room gives little ones a place to play …without worrying about being bowled over by older children. There’s even a baby zone, for extra little ones. We have spent many hours in this one room; Toby loves the ball whatchamacallit that has a conveyor belt, ramps, drop zones, and of course buckets for collecting the balls. Also popular? The toddler water table. Two parent-friendly features that I really appreciate are the fact there’s a family restroom right off the toddler room (so you don’t have to pack up and leave just for a potty break), and that there is always a staff person monitoring the toddler room (to keep kids from leaving with out their adult)
3. It is a great option for winter excursions.
During the long winter months, it’s tough to keep from going stir crazy inside the house. Since the Hands On Museum is about 15 minutes away from us, we would frequently bundle up and venture to downtown Ann Arbor for a fun playdate — either with friends, or just on our own. If we got out of the house as planned, we’d usually arrive just when the museum was opening. Perfect for us, as it wasn’t yet busy, and we could plan around naps and lunch. Sometimes it’s just good to get out of the house. And the Hands On Museum can be a great place to go.
4. Membership options can include guest passes.
As a birthday present one year, we got a family pass to the the Handsn Museum — one that included guest passes too. It was really nice to be able to introduce other friends to the Hands On Museum and not feel bad about finding out if they had a pass before inviting them. We like to take care of our friends, and for the small upgrade fee in our membership, this option was totally worth it. Plus, grandparents can take the kids too! I think there’s also a named caregiver option as well, but since i watch the boys during the daytime, that was never really of any concern for us personally.
5. Making memories here is nostalgic.
Most people who grew up in this area have been to the Hands On Museum themselves — and since it’s been around for so long, many local parents my age have fond memories of going to the Hands On Museum as children. It is so much fun to see your own child get excited about the same things that you fondly remember from childhood. The ambulance is a classic, as is the working cut-away toilet, and the skeleton pedaling the bicycle too. There are many new things to explore at the Hands On Museum, but one thing is sure — your child will definitely have fond memories of this place once they are grown.
The Ann Arbor Hands On Museum has over 250 hands-on exhibits that cover a variety of topics: science, technology, engineering, art, math. The Museum is open daily, and if you’re worried about it being crowded, you can always call ahead to see if there are any school field trips scheduled to arrive that day.