We’ve had a membership to the Terre Haute Children’s Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana since our oldest daughter (now five) was one month old. We absolutely love it and think you will too!
I’ve jokingly given myself the title of the museum’s number one fan. Have I actually earned the title? Not really. I mean, I didn’t donate thousands of dollars to the museum when it was being built. Our names aren’t engraved into any of the bricks on the outside wall. I don’t help with fundraising.
But we visit the museum every week. On a good week, we’re there twice. And I know of at least ten families who are members this year at least in part because of our influence. So for now I think the self-appointed title isn’t too much of a stretch.
If you haven’t been to the museum, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, this is Terre Haute, Indiana! Our city isn’t quite big enough to justify a grand museum. And while it doesn’t rival the Indy Children’s Museum (few museums do), I’ve heard many people say it’s better than museums in bigger, wealthier cities.
Wanna know what the hype is all about? Here are the top 11 reasons why we love the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
Exhibits that Encourage Creative Play
One of the best things about the museum (in my oh-so-humble opinion) is that there are plenty of places for kids to pretend.
Downstairs, there’s the veterinarian clinic. Little ones can check x-rays and give shots to the stuffed dogs and cats. There’s also a little office area where kids can beat tap on the computer keys and answer phone calls.
By the front door, there’s currently a big train table. This is great fun for both of my girls.
On the second floor, the kitchen and grocery store are always popular places for kids to congregate. My three-year-old loves to cook eggs, pour drinks, and eat (pretend) pizza. And my 18-month-old loves to collect fruits and veggies in her shopping cart.
On the third floor (yes, there are three floors!), there’s a house that’s under construction. Kids can put on their hard hats and pretend to paint/build. While this area might have been designed with older kids in mind, my three-year-old thinks the house is one of the coolest places to play.
Right around the corner is a news station exhibit. Kids can learn about the weather and then practice filming news and weather reports. Kids love to see themselves on television!
This museum is in the heart of the rural Midwest. Why wouldn’t/shouldn’t there be an emphasis on farming and agriculture? As such, there are two really cool tractors to drive, some written info about soybeans, nursing piglets, a horse to ride, and a cow to milk.
When my girls were younger, you’d often find us in the toddler zone (the designated area for kids ages four and under). This area is fully enclosed and shoes and strollers must be kept outside. In the tot room, you’ll find puzzles, riding toys, climbing furniture, and garden tools to please and interest kids in this age range. Sometimes I feel like my three-year-old is too big for the area (as in, I have to worry about her trampling on babies) but in May when there are TONS of field trip kids at the museum, it’s really nice to have a safe place where we can get away from the bigger kids.
While we’re on the subject of fun for toddlers, we love tot time! This event takes place twice a month and is designed especially for preschool-age kids. Tot time usually includes coloring, story time, and a hands-on activity related to the week’s theme and story. We’ve made slime, designed straw airplanes, and conducted countless science experiments (complete with scientist goggles and smocks). To read more about why I DON’T want you to come to Tot Time, check out this post. 😉
ASTC Passport Program
What the heck is the ASTC passport program? Only the best thing ever for museum members who like to travel! We’ve taken advantage of this reciprocal program and enjoyed free entry into museums in Ohio, Illinois, California, Kentucky, Arizona, and even Bermuda. You can read a bit more about it in this post.
Play-Based Science Learning
Technically, this is a science and technology museum. But we’ve been to lots of science and technology museums (see my note above about the ASTC Passport Program), and not all of them are as cool as the Terre Haute museum. I love how science is weaved into playtime at the museum. Giant bubbles, a cloud ring machine, and airplanes that playfully demonstrate concepts like pitch and yaw.
Water is my favorite sensory play material. It’s easy to clean up and entertaining for little ones, so of course I love that there’s an area for water play on the second floor.
Sometimes people wonder if the museum is good for younger toddlers and babies. Parts of the museum are certainly intended for school-age kids (like several exhibits on the third floor), but infants LOVE the water table and water seats.
A tarantula, snake, and cockroaches are a few of the LIVE critters you can see on the third floor. One week at Tot Time, the museum staff brought out the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches so that the kids could have a closer look. I couldn’t decide if this was awesome or horrifying.
Gigantic Tree House
When some people think of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, they think of the tree house. And rightly so–the tree house is epic. Kids can climb up one level and slide down a big, blue tunnel slide. Adventurous kiddos can keep climbing the ropes, bypass the slide, and exit on the second floor. At the upstairs exit, there are ball shooters where you can launch foam balls into flower targets down below.
Extras That Aren’t (Always) Extra
A lot of the museum events are free for members. That means we could pet a reindeer at Christmastime, do science experiments at Tot Time, ring in the new year at the New Year’s Noon event, and come to family jammie night for free because we’re members. These events are subsidized by sponsors and help prove my next point…
Sure, it’s a sizable chunk of change to shell out for a museum membership. However, our cost per visit is ridiculously low since we go so often. Add in additional benefits like a discounted fee when you renew for two years, free admission to other museums through the Passport Program, and the extra events that you can attend for free, it’s not a bad deal. If you have trouble pulling the trigger, ask for help from grandparents for birthdays or Christmas!
Finally, no post about our beloved museum would be complete without mention of the staff. When you go to the museum as often as we do, you get to know people! And these people are good people to know. Thanks, friends, for always making us feel so welcome, helping to educate our kids, and for pouring into our community.