New Series: City Kids – The Building Museum

City Kids is a new series written by Caroline. Caroline lives in Takoma, DC.

The National Building Museum is often overlooked. In a city packed to the gills with free museums, why pay for one? Especially when I’ve wandered through in the past; it’s a pretty building, but doesn’t seem to have a lot going on at first glance.

That first glance is deceiving. Any parent or caregiver who has been cooped up with a little one can tell you the value of having a safe, interesting, and large space to let that little one blow off some steam. The Building Museum is a convenient go-to.

The main atrium of the Building Museum is ornate and cavernous. It’s a warm winter respite with enough space for kids and office lunchers to each do their thing without bothering the other. When we went on a Thursday, there were foam blocks to play with in addition to open running space and a cool fountain.

Continues after the jump.

Just off the atrium is the Building Zone. This is aimed at kids ages 2-6, but would be interesting and safe for any little one who is big enough to be aware of their surroundings. The Building Zone featured a sandbox with digging toys, a fully furnished playhouse, a reading nook with books and puppets, and an area with jumbo-sized Lego and foam blocks.

On a weekday afternoon, this area was busy but not overly crowded. Museum staff limits the number of people who can use the Building Zone at any time. Eager parents wielding digital cameras were more of an issue than the kids themselves.

The Building Zone admits people at one-hour intervals. An admission fee is required for visitors over age two.

PLAY WORK BUILD is an exhibit running through mid-November of 2014. There were four areas with different attractions, all of which would be interesting to visitors of a variety of ages.

Adults and bigger kids will enjoy (and may feel nostalgic) with the table of Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs. Smaller visitors will enjoy eating them. A second area had a large lit table with small foam blocks and tubes. A third padded area featured massive foam blocks. During our visit, a group of school-age kids built a house. In other places, large tubes and pool noodles jutted from the walls. Lastly, there was an interactive computer graphic projected across a 30’ x 15’ expanse of wall.

Visitors of all ages were engrossed in the various areas of the exhibit. It was nearly empty on a weekday afternoon. The only down side, personally, was that I had to mind a toddler, and I couldn’t build my own fort out of foam blocks.

Admission required for this exhibit for visitors over age two.

The Building Museum is a great resource for a day with the kids, or if family or friends with kids are visiting. The toddler review panel (sample size: 2) gave it two grubby thumbs up, and then promptly fell asleep. That earns thumbs up from parents too.

The National Building Museum

401 F Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

Metro Red Line (Judiciary Square).

Stroller-accessible entrance at G Street.

Who: Activities for babies through teens, and also engaging for adults.

When: Monday–Saturday, 10 am–5 pm; Sunday: 11 am–5 pm. The Building Zone closes at 4 pm. PLAY WORK BUILD runs through November 18, 2014.

Cost: $8 for adults, $5 for youth, students, and seniors, $3 for Building Zone only. Free under age two and for museum members. Free access to atrium, café, and shops.

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