Children’s Museums Offer Learning Experiences for Kids of All Abilities

by Carrie McLaren with 13 comments

22-accessible-road-trips-guideAuthor Candy Harrington is the author of several accessible travel guides, including her newest title, 22 Accessible Road Trips; Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (www.22AccessibleRoadTrips.com) featuring driving routes across the United States with wheelchair accessible sites along the way.

Her guides are fantastic for all abilities and filled with great information, travel tidbits and beautiful photography.

I’ve known Candy for years and today I’m excited for her to share her favorite accessible children’s museums throughout the United States.  I know you’ll find these sites interesting too!


Moms just love children’s museums. I mean how can you resist  a place that not only keeps your child busy, but also offers a good hands-on learning experience?. But what if you child has a disability?  Can they still participate in this fun and active learning  process?. Gladly the answer is an enthusiastic yes, as children’s museums across the country are working hard to make their exhibits accessible to kids of all abilities. And although I’ve visited hundreds of accessible children’s museums, there are a few that stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

Indianapolis

My hands-down favorite children’s museum  also happens to be one of the largest in the country. But just because it’s big doesn’t mean that it’s not accessible.  Quite the contrary. From the wheelchair-accessible carousel on the fourth floor to the first-floor Dinosphere, there’s something for just about every interest and ability at  the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Indianapolis-Kids-Museum

 The Dino Dig area is one of my favorite exhibits, as it allows kids to dig for fossils. And although the giant sand pit isn’t wheelchair-accessible, kids with mobility issues can wheel up to the wall and discover the same fossils that are buried in the pit. It’s a great hands-on learning experience. And if that’s not enough, they can also watch real  paleontologists at work, and even ask them questions about what they are doing.

Another fun and educational exhibit is Take me there Egypt, which begins  with an airplane ride across the ocean. And the good news is, there’s level access to the aircraft, so everybody can enjoy the experience. Once you reach Egypt, you’re treated to the sights and sounds of this African country. Not only does this exhibit teach kids about another culture, but parents seem to really enjoy it too. And don’t miss the ride in an accessible tuk tuk through downtown Cairo. Wheelchair-users can just roll up to the back seat and watch the passing scenery projected on a screen in front of the vehicle. It’s almost as good as the real thing – only it’s a whole lot safer!!

Rockford

Children’s museums aren’t just limited to big cities, in fact the Discovery Center Museum in rural Rockford, offers an impressive collection of accessible activities.

There is barrier-free access to all areas of this interactive museum, which features exhibits rooted in math and science. Inside there’s everything from a robotics lab and a weather exhibit to the Body Shop which focuses on genes and heredity. There’s even a tot spot where the little ones can enjoy role playing in the pizza parlor, vet clinic or grocery store. All of the exhibits are wheelchair-accessible; and as the marketing manager pointed out, “When new exhibits are designed we have accessibility in the forefront of our thoughts.”

Rockford-kids-Museum-

photo credit: Charles Pannell

Outside, things are just as accessible in Red Rock Discovery Park, a unique play area with a definite science twist. There is a ramped boardwalk leading to all of the exhibits, including the sand pendulum, water wheel and weather station; and even a wheelchair-accessible pathway through the caves. In short, access is top drawer at the Discovery Center Museum —  inside and out.

Houston

Last but certainly not least, I just love museums that present special programs for kids with specific disabilities, who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the museum. And in that category, the Houston Children’s Museum gets top marks.

Granted there is barrier-free access to the 90,000 square feet of interactive and educational exhibits; however the Houston Children’s Museum goes one step further by holding a special Sensory Friendly Day for kids with autism.  Scheduled for August 20, 2012, this special day allows autistic children to enjoy the museum in a quieter and less crowded setting.

Houston-Kids-Museum-1

Photo caption: Charles Pannell

On Sensory Friendly Day the doors will be closed to the general public, which results in a comfortable, protected and accepting environment for everyone.  There will be no music in the museum, and sound reducing headphones will be available for those that need them.  Additionally, the Fresh Cafe will be closed, so parents are encouraged to pack along favorite foods and snacks. This is not normally allowed during regular operating hours; however the museum staff recognizes that food choices can be an issue with some autistic children.

Admission to Sensory Friendly Days is just $5, and for  more information or to register, just give Lydia Dungus a call at (713) 535-7238.

 

And if you can’t make this event, rest assured that it will be repeated, as it’s very popular. On the other hand, if you’d just like to visit during a quieter time, museum employees recommend stopping  by on Tuesday through Friday after 1:30 PM. Either way, don’t miss out on this fun, educational and very inclusive museum.

Known as the guru of accessible travel, Candy Harrington is the author of several accessible travel guides including the classic Barrier-Free Travels; A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (www.barrierfreetravel.net). Here newest title, 22 Accessible Road Trips; Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (www.22AccessibleRoadTrips.com)  features 22 driving routes across the United States with information about wheelchair-accessible sites, lodging options, trails, attractions and restaurants along the way. It’s a  great resource for Baby Boomers, couples, families, or anybody who wants to hit the road. Candy also blogs about accessible travel issues at www.barrierfreetravels.com.

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    Comments

  • Ashley @ Mama Of All Trades


    I have a few friends I’m definitely going to be recommending this book to. They are intimidated to visit certain places because of mobility issues. Thanks for the great post!

    • Carrie with Children


      Awesome! I’m so glad to hear it, Ashley! Thanks for reading

  • Jenn @therebelchick


    Thank you for the recommendation, this books sounds perfect for every family – especially those with special needs kids. :)

    • Carrie with Children


      Thanks for reading, Jenn! I agree – this book is perfect for ALL families!

  • ConnieFoggles


    Very useful information. I’m actually reviewing this book to since I’m disabled and use a scooter to get around for long distances.

    • Carrie with Children


      Oh that is great you are reviewing the book, Connie! I’m sure you’ll find it very helpful. Candy really knows her stuff – I hope you enjoy it!

  • Tesa @ 2 Wired 2 Tir


    These all sound like fantastic museums. I’m glad to hear they have something for all children. I’ve heard wonderful things about the Indianapolis museum and would love to visit sometime.

    • Carrie with Children


      We have friends that live in Indianapolis and they always talk about how much they love their museum. It does sound really fantastic!

  • Maryann


    Ive been to the museum in Indiannapolis, it is a great time. My boys really enjoyed it.

    • Carrie with Children


      I’m so glad you and your boys enjoyed it, Maryann! It sounds like a fantastic museum. Thanks for reading!

  • candy harrington


    Thanks for all your nice comments about my work! FWIW, I also just found out that the Indianapolis museum has a “healthy choices” menu in their museum restaurant for kids. They are the first children’s museum in the country to do this, and I think it’s awesome.

    • Carrie with Children


      That is great news about the new menu, Candy! Thanks for sharing the news and thanks for this great post too!