So, on a teacher workday my four year old and I headed on over. There's a really convenient lot next door to the museum and while it cost us $6 for the several hours we were there, I was happy to pay it for the convenience and since the museum was free, the overall cost was still pretty low.
We were lucky that we visited on one of the first two Tuesdays of the month because on those two days they have a great Time for Tots program for 3-5 year olds. You can register online for the hour long program and it only costs $3. It was a well-organized program that includes a little group lesson, a craft, and a story. This time, we were learning about musical instruments, specifically those featured in bluegrass music. So, the kids got the chance to see, touch, and hear the instruments. Then, they each made their own paper banjos. We finished the lesson with a trip up to the actual museum to see a blue grass exhibit and read a book. My son had a great time and both of us learned a lot.
After the Time for Tots, we wanted to explore the rest of the museum. So, the first thing that we did was head up to the lobby. Up there, they have a kiosk with signs about their backpack program. You simply take one of those signs up to the information desk, hand them your driver's license, and you are given a backpack full of activities for 3-5 year olds for a given section of the museum. We had a great time with the Native American backpack. It had a guidebook for navigating you through the exhibit, and games, items, puzzles, and more that you could get out and explore at various points of the tour. It was perfect for getting little ones in to the museum. Simply take the backpack back at the end of your visit to get your ID back.
Once we gave back the bag we explored the rest of the museum. Even without the backpack my son still enjoyed looking at the rest of the museum. They had desks with people explaining various artifacts, items to touch, a few interactive scenes, and a LOT to look at. I feel like we had a lot of fun and learned a lot!
What we liked: We loved the Time for Tots as a way to introduce the younger kids to history in a fun and engaging way. They program was also well organized and well thought out. The backpacks were great and made the rest of the museum accessible for them as well. In addition, admission to the museum was free! The location next door to the Museum of Natural Sciences means that you could definitely spend the whole day exploring in that area basically for free (except for parking).
What we would change: For children under the age of 3, I feel like the museum is not really very appropriate. In addition, without the backpacks, the 3 and 4 year olds could wear out pretty easily. It is a bit tricky to find the entrance of the museum. It's actually up some stairs facing the Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Time for Tots is in one of the classrooms downstairs.
Website and other important information:
Address: 5 East Edenton St., Raleigh, NC 27601
Hours: Monday-Saturday-9am-5pm, Sunday-Noon-5pm
(The musical instruments from Time for Tots)
(making the homemade banjo)
(listening to the story)
(the backpack kiosk)
(an interactive NC display-my son really liked this.)
(an exhibit where you could milk a cow...moo!)