Like many residents of Baristaville, my wife and I moved to NJ from NYC because Essex County seemed to have more to offer our then-future son. We often forget that there are top-notch kiddie attractions back on the other side of the Hudson, which made our recent trip to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum a solid reminder that even a kid too young to take in visual art or live theater can find a great cultural attraction in New York.
To get to the BCM, you just go through the Holland Tunnel, across Canal Street, over the Manhattan Bridge, down Flatbush Ave, across Atlantic Ave, and make a right on Brooklyn Ave. (Or you can get directions at the BCM website; beware the auto-play music when the site’s main page opens, though.)
Once there, the surprisingly low admission (currently $7.50 per person, with many ways to get in for free, like an ACM membership) gave our family full access to two floors of exhibits that put a Brooklyn spin on many of the standard children’s-museum tropes. In the World Brooklyn section, the grocery play spaces are keyed to the borough’s many ethnic neighborhoods, and Neighborhood Nature features locally resident plants and animals. Kids can learn about Mexican baking traditions, Chinese New Year, hearty marine life, and more.
Our son went nuts for the MTA bus he could “drive” and the cork-filled “nature dig,” and even the more sophisticated exhibits featured crawl-able tunnels and low-set observations windows that caught his 2-year-old attention.
But nothing prepared him for Totally Tots, a sub-section of the BCM that should make it a must-visit attraction for parents of younger kids. This sizable area is reserved for 5 and under only, and features a room of water games, musical instruments, a low-set sandbox (featuring blue sand that’s easy to ID on skin and clothes!), a reading nook, an art room, and lots more to safely engage little ones. I’m pretty sure my son would still be playing with the trucks in the sandbox if we hadn’t dragged him away.
The museum also includes a cafe, a theater, and a calendar full of events…none of which we even got to in our hour and a half visit. The museum’s setup made it so easy and appealing for kids to focus on individual exhibits for a while (rather than flitting from spot to spot), that you’re unlikely to do a full A to Z in one visit.
(Photos: Jennifer Hsu)