Welcome to MOMS in the MIX presented by
The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Welcome to MOMS in the MIX, a Virtual VIP Insider Playgroup devoted to Chicago Moms featuring: special outings and VIP opportunities at The Museum of Science and Industry and other Chicago attractions for kids, the latest mommy news and parenting tips, Monthly Mom Blogs, best kid friendly places to eat and play, and much more.
By Elizabeth Diffin
My mom says that when I was a little girl, I would not stop asking questions. I always wanted to know how things worked, what ingredients did (cream of tartar, anyone?) and how in the world we could trust airplanes not to fall out of the sky. My poor mother occasionally – frequently? – might have been exasperated by all the questions, but I think that my lifelong curiosity has served me well. And now I try to cultivate that same curiosity in the kids in my life – I want them to never stop asking questions, regardless of how annoying it sometimes might be to us adults.
So when I saw that the Museum of Science & Industry’s latest campaign celebrates the questions in life, I was delighted. You’ve probably seen the billboards: An eye, surrounded by the words “Long Live Curiosity.” It’s spelled out even more clearly on their website: “At MSI, we’re dedicated to making curiosity feel at home. Your questions are welcome here.” So I made sure that our latest trip to MSI revolved around this theme, with experiences that celebrate curiosity in all of its forms.
“Dream Big” in the Giant Dome Theater
It’s been a long time since I’ve caught a movie in MSI’s immersive, five-story theater (which recently got a state-of-the-art projection upgrade), and this 30-minute film reminded me that it’s one of the museum’s hidden gems. “Dream Big” focuses on how curiosity works itself out in engineering marvels, from the Great Wall of China to modern skyscrapers. I loved that the film highlights female engineers, as well as those who are working in places like Haiti to help disadvantaged communities. Our family’s favorite part was the underwater robotics competition, which paired perfectly with Robot Revolution a little later in the day. One caution: The film is listed as “all ages,” but if there was an MPAA rating, it would be at least PG (it discusses perilous situations like earthquakes and drownings). Sensitive kids may be distressed by the image of a funeral, although it went right over my 5- and 7-year-old’s heads.
This temporary exhibit – it’s here until Feb. 4 – is fun both for those of us who grew up with The Jetsons and for our littles who have never know a world without Siri. The collection of ‘bots includes RoboThespian, who can talk to you; Baxter, who will challenge you to a game of Tic-Tac-Toe; and EMYS, who exhibits a somewhat-limited range of human emotions (nonetheless, “surprise” never ceased to crack us up). The highlight for my sporty kiddos was the robot soccer game – professional athletes could learn something from those little guys! And as is only fitting for MSI, there are plenty of hands-on activities to put your curiosity to the test, from trying out some coding basics to building an honest-to-goodness robot that actually moves (OK, fine, it’s technically a “Cubelet robotic machine,” but it seemed downright robot-like to me). And for kids who are into drones (thanks a lot, Amazon!), Drone Zone shows take place in the exhibit area throughout the day.
Hands-on Science Ops
In the excitement of visiting such a big museum, you might not realize all the chances kids have to put their own curiosity to work. Keep your eyes out for science carts throughout MSI, especially in the Rotunda area, where charismatic employees lead visitors through different experiments. We went with one of this summer’s hottest trends: slime. Although my little guys weren’t entirely up on the principles behind the ooey-gooey stuff (and my high school chemistry didn’t quite suffice) we had a blast combining water, glue, Borax and some food coloring to create real slime, which was then transferred to little capsules the boys could take home. But if you’re too busy during your actual museum visit to stop and smell the science, don’t worry: a slime recipe is available on the museum’s website, so you can follow up your visit with some at-home experimentation.
Let’s be real: Pretty much anything you do and see at the Museum of Science & Industry is going to appeal to your kids’ sense of curiosity. On this trip, we spent time creating tsunamis in Science Storms, navigating the Boeing 727 in the Transportation Gallery, watching the world’s largest pinball machine, and receiving electric shocks in YOU! The Experience. Next time, it will probably be totally different, but equally educational. That’s my favorite thing about MSI – no matter how many times you visit, there’s always something new to discover. So go ahead and unleash your kids’ curiosity, because if they’re going to ask “Why?,” I can think of nowhere better to do it.
By Katie Niekerk
I don’t know about you, but these days, I find it problematically easy to assume that things I think are fun, my 7-year-old son would consider downright torture. You know, “old-fashioned” diversions that I loved as a kid—activities that in 2017 sound pretty lame. I’m talking riding bikes aimlessly around the neighborhood, playing kickball, lying on the grass to find shapes in the clouds. Things that require no internet connection, no status updates. Just imagination and a willingness to favor fun over daily life for a while.
My little guy isn’t glued to our iPad or TV or whatever else, but you know how it is—at times, those things are his BFFs. So, imagine my surprise when for the past two weeks, he’s come home from summer camp every day asking to ride bikes…or play kickball…or look for shapes in clouds. These are things I introduced to him with a fleeting hope they’d stick, and to my delight, they have.
The first few times he asked, I figured it was a fluke. But when it kept happening, I was like, “OK. Time to search the archives to keep this kid engaged in something other than a screen.” And, wonderfully, what’s followed has been evenings of puzzles, board games, pick-up sticks and planting flowers.
The experience has reminded me that kids are kids. Kids with technology and video games and smartphones are still kids. Their minds relish creative freedom, and though it’s a big responsibility as parents to feed that, it’s also a privilege—and it’s fun.
Summer is a beautiful season to challenge your little ones with things you might think are outdated or extinct. Take it from me, they’re not. Children crave permission to explore the world in ways that ignite their imaginations and trigger their senses. All they need is you by their side.