It’s been a joy to watch the revamped Seattle Children’s Museum come back to life, says acting director Alissa Rupp. The museum reopened on April 2 after two years in a pandemic-induced stasis.
Older children remember visits from the before times and are eager to return, Rupp says, while for younger kids, it may be one of the first times they’ve socialized with people outside the confines of home or daycare. To Rupp, it’s profoundly cheering to watch it dawn on them that “it is a big space, and it’s all for them."
For the uninitiated: The Children’s Museum is a tiny world tucked away in Seattle Center, with interactive exhibits designed to help kids learn through play. Various installations, from a Sound Transit train table to enormous building blocks, invite kids to get hands-on. And new additions like Neighborhood Paws, a simulated vet clinic that allows kids to wash, dry, and perform “X-rays” on stuffed toys, have proven immensely popular, according to Rupp.
Amazing Airways also made its debut with the April 2 reopening, pushing young ones to hone their observational and experimental abilities with a series of fans and tubes that issue seemingly random bursts of air. Using scarves and pom poms to direct and visualize the airflow, children can work together to determine the underlying pattern. Getting kids to learn through this sort of tactile, self-directed engagement is what the museum is all about, Rupp notes.
Other changes include a refresh of Orca Cove, the area for kids under three. Little anglers can cast their lines at the dock, while others can serve fish and chips and other make-believe seaside fare at the neighboring cafe. Another is the kiddie equivalent of one of those trendy immersive exhibits in the updated story circle area, where enormous illustrations from Olympia-based paper cut artist Nikki McClure’s 1, 2, 3 Salish Sea sprawl across the walls, providing the sense of being inside the book.
While the museum is open again, it's still a large, high-ceilinged space which facilitates social distancing, Rupp emphasizes. Masks are also required every day from 10am to noon, allowing peace of mind for parents with children not yet eligible for vaccination or with other hesitations about unmasking. The museum encourages parents to plan ahead and make reservations as it is still enforcing capacity restrictions.