Children's Museum

Currently Closed

A small boy plays in Waterplay exhibit.

Tips for Before and After Your Visit

Use these prompts and questions to help children experiment in each exhibit and to inspire post-visit activities and exploration:


  • Ask questions. In this exhibit perception is not always reality. What optical illusions can you find here? How do you feel when you enter the Gravity Room?  Why?
  • Explore the collections. Some people keep their collections in their attics. Look around. What kind of collections do you see here? What collection would you display?
  • Try new things. If you have visited us before, think of new ways to approach old favorites:
  1. Next time you are in the Gravity Room, challenge yourself to come up with new ways to travel across the space.
  2. Step into the Shadow Room and capture your shadow. Jump, dance and move.
  3. If you have tired the Virtual Puppets, now create a show. What voices will you use?  How can you work with your friend? What story will you tell? 


  • Plan ahead. The Backyard is open seasonally so make sure to check its web page or call ahead to see if it is open.
  • Play outdoors. Outdoor play encourages you to use your imagination, interact with natural materials to develop skills and explore the world around you. How do you like to play outside? How is playing outdoors different from playing at home or in school?
  • Try new things. If you have visited us before, think of new ways to approach old favorites:
  1. Experiment with dirt. Put your hands into the bubbling mud in Animated Earth. Turn the handles on the side of the tubs and see how air pressure impacts the movement of the mud.  Smocks can keep you dry and there is  water for  clean up when you are done.
  2. Explore cause and effect.
  3. Experiment with the path of water at our Allegheny Waterworks sculpture.  How can you change the flow of the water?
  4. Investigate how the sun can create energy when you remove the flap at Solar Music.  What happens to the bells? Why?
  5. Jump on the Musical Swing Set.  What happens when you swing? Why?


  • Work together. The Garage is a place where visitors come together to experience hands-on-learning. Build and race a car, design a wheel or drop a parachute. During your exploration ask these questions:
  1. What is going to happen?
  2. What did you observe that happened?
  3. Why do you think that happened?
  4. How can you change what happened?
  • Play with real stuff. How does what you are doing in the Garage connect with your everyday life?  Where do you find wheels and simple machines like the pulley system at home?
  • Try new things. If you have visited us before, think of new ways to approach old favorites:
  1. Experience the pull.  How do the magnets work in the Magnetic Car Park?  Where else you have used magnets?
  2. Explore history. The building that houses the Garage was once the Buhl Planetarium. The Zeiss projector rose from the center of the floor to project the sky shows. What else do you see that might be part of the planetarium's original design?
  3. Collect data. There are many places within the Garage where you can keep track of your trials. Record the landing spots for your parachutes, analyze the path of your ball in the ball maze, and compare the speed of your wheel designs.   Did you see patterns in your data? What conclusions did you make? What would you do to further your investigate?


  • Explore an urban garden. Investigate the plants in our garden. During your exploration, ask questions:
  1. Which plants do you recognize?
  2. Which plants have you eaten?
  3. How is the Museum garden different from other gardens that you have seen?
  • Plan a garden. Think about what you would plant in your own garden.
  1. How much space will you need?
  2. How much sunlight will you need?
  3. How will you get water to the plants?
  • Try new things. If you have visited us before, think of new ways to approach old favorites.
  • Talk to a garden expert. Before your next visit check our web calendar for a Garden program. You could learn about the planting process, how to build an urban garden or how to prepare the bounty of the garden for your table.


  • Get on the floor. Small children see the world differently.  In the Nursery exhibit, put yourself to their level and see the exhibit and its components in a new light with their eyes. This will give you a better understanding of how to help facilitate their play in the exhibit.
  • Have a quiet moment. Take the time to relax.  Visits to the Museum are fun but can be tiring. Use some of the quiet spots in the Nursery to sit together and read a story or talk about your visit.
  • Try new things. If you have visited us before, think of new ways to approach old favorites:
  1. Add storytelling to the Train Tables. Ask what the train is doing; help put words to the actions; put the actions together to form a story.
  2. See the meaningful side of block play. Introduce mathematics and geometry to the block area by counting, creating patterns, and talking about shapes.
  3. Explore cause and effect. Investigate the spinning of the Light Circles. What is different?  Explore the 9-foot Ball Maze.  What do you notice when you place the ball in different locations on the track?


  • Get dirty. Don’t hesitate to become fully involved in your art.  We have smocks to protect your clothes and plenty of soap and water to wash up when you are done.
  • Focus on the process not the final product. The learning and fun is in the effort that goes into making the art, not necessarily what it looks like when you are done. What tools did you use? How could you use them differently? Art is another language. What were you trying to say?
  • Try new things. If you have visited us before, think of new ways to approach old favorites:
  1. Try color mixing at the easels, what colors can you create?
  2. Silkscreen both the positive and negative image of your design. How are the images the same and how are they different? Which image do you prefer and why?


  • Be the star of the show. Theater is an outlet for imaginative, dramatic play where you can express how you feel about different situations in a safe, non-threatening way.  Act out your emotions, the movements of your favorite animal, or bring a story to life.
  • Be an all-star audience.  Plan to visit during one of our Theater performances. For upcoming events, visit the Museum website. When being part of the audience it is important to be respectful of the performers.  Please give them your full attention and make an effort to enjoy the entire show (from start to finish). Remember that they can hear and see you too!
  • Try new things. If you have visited us before, think of new ways to approach old favorites:
  1. Be on the radio. Did you know the Museum has a real radio station in the theater?  Saturday Light Brigade, located in the back of the theater, offers open studio hours. For more information visit them here.
  2. What is a puppet? The Museum has a large puppet collection and part of it is housed in the Theater.  How many different kinds of puppets can you find here?  A hand puppet? A rod puppet, shadow or marionette puppet? You may have to look in other areas of the Museum too.  Are puppets only used for entertainment?  How do you use puppets?


  • Play with real stuff. How are the pipes like the plumbing in our homes?  Where can you see whirlpools in nature and in our homes?  What about locks, dams and fountains?
  • Get wet. Hands-on-experiences can be the best kind of learning- it creates a lasting and meaningful foundation for later theoretical learning. Don’t be afraid to get a little wet, there are raincoats and water clogs to help keep you dry!
  • Try new things. If you have visited us before, think of new ways to approach old favorites:
  1. Think ahead. Talk about water-related careers and job responsibilities. What does a plumber or boat captain do?  What about a life guard, a sanitation engineer or a fisherman?  What other water-related jobs can you think of?
  2. Investigate the science behind water.  Explore how gravity affects water pressure by building a pipe system or a dam. What do you see? How can you influence the flow of water?