44. Kidcity

Kid City! Kid-Kid City!
(Google Maps Location)
March 28, 2008

(Title from the wonderful hit-or-miss “Bear City” sketches. Never seen them? For shame… Here’s your introduction.)

mq44c.jpgWhat’s taken me so long with this museum review? Bluntly: Lack of material. As every parent knows, two-year-olds can be a fickle lot. And since Damian has his certain quirks, when he’s sore… he’s sore. And during our visit to Kid City… yeah, he was a pill.

So I have very few good pictures of our boy.

A weekend visit from my sister Karin and her family (husband Brian and kids Christine, Joseph, and Rachel) brought us to the unique “museum.” It’s not really a museum per se, but they call it one and who am I to argue? Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m Connecticut’s premier museum visitor and unofficial reviewer. So… Kid City is fantastic, but again… not really a museum. (Though I struggle to come up with a better categorization.)

What they say:

“Kidcity is in the 1835 Camp-Sterns House, which served as the convent for St. Sebastian’s Church for the past 70 years. Although it’s an old house, it’s at a new site, after moving 400 feet down Washington Street in March of 1997 and spending a day stuck in the middle of the street. The house was renovated and filled with one-of-a-kind exhibits and opened to the public in September 1998.

This car was parked in the lot. Odd.

In 2003, Kidcity constructed an addition, which more than doubled the size of the museum. Designed to look like another old house which has been restored, the West building updates Kidcity with the addition of an elevator for handicapped accessiblity. The new building has three floors of exhibits, including our new science-themed area, the Space Age Roadtrip, which opened in June 2006.

The mission of Kidcity Children’s Museum is to celebrate a child’s natural curiosity by offering a downtown hands-on playspace where children ages 1 through 8 come with parents and other significant adults to learn through play. Kidcity will be a safe and enriched educational environment which fosters the development of problem-solving skills and creativity. As a child-friendly public space, Kidcity will support every parent’s effort to be the best parent they can be.”

mq44h.JPGThe museum is sectioned up into very distinct areas. Again, from the Kidcity website, they are:

The Ship – Hoist the sails and climb aboard, our clipper ship tells the story of Middletown’s heyday as a shipping port in the early 1800′s – although young sailors will be excused for imagining themselves on a pirate ship.

The Farm – Play hide & seek with the chicken’s eggs or pet the pigs at feeding time in our Farm Yard. Designed just for crawlers and beginning walkers, it’s a place for parents to let the littlest ones see what can happen when they can touch everything they want. Siblings will enjoy big-kid adventures in the nearby Apple Tree House.

mq44d.jpgMain Street – The heart of Middletown, just the right size for kids’ imaginations to run. Jump in the front seat of our VW Bug and go for a ride on Old Main Steet. At Markets on Main, tiny citizens imagine themselves shopping for fresh-baked bread, italian sausage, and salad greens at one of our Main Street Groceries, and then ring up the sale at the checkout counter. Sort the mail at The Post Office, or push the wooden trains across the railroad bridge. The classic Downtown Diner encourages kids to tie on an apron and invent a feast to serve their favorite grown-up at a nearby booth.

Musical Planet: A playground of sound from around the world, the Musical Planet has a ride-on see-saw that sounds like a rain-stick from Brazil, a mural of an African drummer that is really a giant xylophone that you can play, a Swiss Mountain that hides a bellows-powered pipe organ in a cave, and a rope bridge and monkey bars lined with Indonesian gongs.

Video Theater – Not a place to watch performances… a place to invent them! Simple camera controls are at kids’ fingertips, and there is a changing assortment of costumes and puppets.

Reading Room – We put our favorite books here, from the newest titles for babies to the classics that grandparents will remember. A great place to curl up and read, in a room that’s decorated like Arietty’s bedroom from Mary Norton’s The Borrowers.

This picture about sums up our day. Poor thing still can’t help but be the cutest boy ever. (Why does everyone with a digital camera take massively huge pictures so when I have to shrink it to barely fit on a website, all photo integrity is lost. Thanks, sis.)

Space Age Roadtrip: Time travel back to 1962, with a twist. What if the US Space Program worked so well that when our rocketships went to outer space, they brought back company! Play pretend with us as we imagine friendly alien tourists and weird technology mixed in with the usual roadside attractions on old Route 66. The local coffee shop serves fog, the car dealership sells flying saucers, and the family station wagon is powered with bubbles. Don’t tell the kids they’re learning about science while they play!

Toddler Sea Caves: For children ages 3 and younger, this under-sea world is filled with tiny caves to explore, a miniature ballroom lined with mirrors to dance in, and a slide sized just for toddlers. This is a sock-only area to help keep the floors pristine for crawlers.

The Cornfield: We plan to plow up this imaginary cornfield in the future, but for now, we’ve tucked lots of fun activities into the maze. An incredible model railway layout can be viewed by climbing up into a hot-air balloon basket, an old-fashioned kitchen and market garden are fun places to color and play store, a block-building area inspires budding architects and a word-filled school room welcomes pre-school poets. We’ll keep changing activities until it’s time to build our next permanent exhibit in this top-floor room.

Rub-a-dub-dub, four sorta creepy babies in a tub

Since Damian wasn’t feeling it the day we visited, we’ll have to return again – and I may file a followup report. Damian’s cousins loved the place (ages 7, 5, and 2 and a half) as did pretty much every other kid that was there that day. So please don’t take our experience as a reflection on Kidcity!

For the record, my favorite part was the ship room where a magnetic track cycled around the whole room in a very creative way, and there were little magnet fish to “hook” onto the track to watch them go all over. That was mesmerizing.

It really is a cool, fun, and different type of place for kids to go and have fun for a few hours.

No Thumbs.


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Cost: $7.00 for everyone
Hours: Sun-Tue 11-5, Wed-Sat 9-5
Food & Drink? Every kid loves Tibetan food! It’s right down the road
Children? 2-8
You’ll like it if: You have kids age 2-8
You won’t like it if: You thought it was some weird city populated only by kids
Freebies: none

For the Curious:

Kidcity’s very good website

That’s it… so here are some very recent, very random pictures of Happy Damian!

Here we are, throwing rocks in our creek… playing some air guitar

If a shirt, then no pants. If pants, then no shirt. That’s our Damian!

3 responses to “44. Kidcity”

  1. honeybunny says:

    I like pictures of Damian better than reviews of books.


  2. dick hemenway says:

    They don’t all it the “Terrible Twos” for nothing. But cheer up, it only gets worse as someday they become teenagers. If you think Damian can scowl now, wait 10 years when you become a major embarrassment to him. Great review!

    Having been born in 1944 (I now understand that I am NOT a Baby Boomer though I always thought I was – they start in 1945), I am truly amazed by the number of places like Kid City that there are today, and the incredible opportunities there are for parents to provide fun, interesting and age-appropriate learning activities for their children. We had the Public Library in Beverly Mass, which, in the late 1940′s, was not really a fun place for kids. You had to be very quite and sit very still. Thankfully that has changed, and libraries are great places for kids today. You might consider reviewing some CT libraries.


  3. Jen Alexander says:

    Hi There CT Museum Quest! I’m the founder of Kidcity — thanks for visiting us on your tour of CT museums!

    As the mom of four, I certainly related to your post. As the previous comment noted, it’s worse when they are teenagers (because it is harder to pick them up and carry them to the car, and they are less easy to distract with a hand-stamp!).

    On the topic of what constitutes a museum: lots of children’s museums struggle with this debate. For my part, I think that one aspect of a museum is a place where you learn through multiple senses and are engaged on an emotional and aesthetic level. Another aspect of a museum is to collect and organize artwork or artifacts to make a particular point or offer a particular experience. I guess that I think Kidcity meets the first definition, but is less clear on the second.

    So yes, we are not quite a “museum”, but I think we are closer to a museum than to a school (on the purely educational side) or a park (on the purely recreational side). In fact, I think of what we do as creating a sort of theater or movie set to jumpstart our visitor’s imagination and playfulness — so maybe it’s more like a performance without an audience or live role play — and I could go round in this circle all day!

    By the way, I thought I’d mention that my two favorite museums (both outside of CT) are the City Museum in St. Louis, MO and the Vasa museum in Stockholm, Sweeden. Worth the trip and I bet you’d enjoy them!

    Best regards,

    -Jen Alexander for Kidcity

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