Touching Things at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia

All Images: Sarah Pinault

Recently, my family had the opportunity to visit the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, a long way from our regular stomping grounds. At $15 a head for every head older than 12 months, I was a bit dubious. We usually visit centers that charge $3 a person or $10 a family, so we considered this rather steep. Within 30 minutes I considered it value for money; we stayed for over four hours.

Whichever direction you choose to take first in this 38,000 square foot museum, you will be greeted with something to fascinate and entertain virtually every child in your family, sometimes virtually; you can explore space as an astronaut using blue screen technology. We had with us a twenty month old, a three year old and a pre-teen girl, she was less amused but still had fun, commenting that it only felt like two hours had passed. That’s good right? Should you take a right you will experience rainforest adventures, be able to experiment with moving water, and ride the carousel. Should you veer to the left you will enter a city where you can ride the bus, monorail or race car before jetting off into space. Downstairs is a curious mix of the everyday; a model McDonalds, grocery store and physician’s office, and the fantastical through the adventures of Alice in Wonderland.

You certainly need to wear running shoes to keep up with your child at this museum, there are so many wonderful things pulling them in so many different directions that it can be hard to keep pace. Occasionally something will hold the attention. Toby enjoyed the lily pads he could stomp on, playing croquet with flamingos in Wonderland and the metro bus he could run about on. I enjoyed watching him play on a giant keyboard a la Tom Hanks in Big, not at all pushing my own agenda.

Things that go above and beyond:

  • Displays throughout the museum of toys across the generations, I especially enjoyed the Etch A Sketch display case.
  • You can have your child’s birthday party there. One was just getting out as we arrived and the kids looked sublimely exhausted.
  • Story time in the book store, and the playhouse theater – on our visit we got to experience the jazz jamboree; every child receives an instrument and gets to join in.
  • A section devoted to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition and the railroad station that currently houses the museum itself.
  • Models made out of toys, such as the life-sized replica of the Statue of Liberty’s Arm and Torch.
  • Image: Sarah Pinault

    Despite all of this the Please Touch Museum does not mask its shortfalls very well. Though there was a staff member at every station in the building, we only received two smiles; one from the greeter and one from the wonderful man in the centennial exploration section. Everyone else looked thoroughly miserable. Staff were polite but not very helpful, the pizza cook gave away orders to the wrong people, not useful with a toddler at your heels, while the reception staff looked at me as though I had three heads when asking about an item I had misplaced. Top that off with the employee manning the carousel giving half-hearted, mis-information that resulted in a screaming child and extra five minute wait for a carousel ride – an eternity with a barely vocal toddler – and you have a very badly trained staff. I was also not pleased to get covered in toilet water when flushing but it was without a doubt, the low spirits of the employees that tried to put a dampener on the day.

     

    Yet even sour faces would not prevent me from heading back there again in a heartbeat. All three kids had a thoroughly wonderful time, and barely even noticed the skipped nap. We adults loved chasing them around, watching what they wanted to explore next almost as much. If we were there again quite soon I would be curious to see what the Expectant Parents Bootcamp on June 11 looks like. It promises to talk about things that people don’t talk about before baby. I could add a few to that list! Knowing this, I will definitely take extra care in planning our next trip, and see if there are any special events going on that we might partake in.

    All in all, a fully interactive hands-on learning experience.

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    The GeekMom blog is captained by Jenny Bristol and Corrina Lawson, and supported by a brilliant team of writers. Since launching in 2010, we’ve created a robust community of writers, readers, and media geeks, dedicated to the vision of creating a smart, savvy, social online experience for geek parents everywhere.