Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Little Builders and My Inner Builder

Things I was into when was little:
  •            building forts and treehouses in the woods
  •            playing Barbies
  •            play-food restaurant entrepreneur-ing
  •           recording hours and hours of a fake music radio station
  •           playing dress-up
  •           riding bikes
  •            listening to baseball on the radio
  •           playing catch
  •           building with Lego blocks
The touring group
Notice that two of those including building things. Somehow I have lived here in the DC Metro area for nearly ten years and only heard of the National Building Museum a couple weeks ago when I read a blog post about it. I put it on my list of places to take the boys soon. Then at the NOVA Live event I went to last week I met Bryana, who wrote the blog about the building museum that I read. She writes about her local trips with her daughter Chloe on her blog, Adventures with Little Bear. We teamed up and took the trip together.

The boys and I did the bus to the metro like usual, but this time we went with the boys’ buddy Andrew and he thoughtfully brought his mom Angela along. All three moms and four kids met yesterday morning in the sunny city streets in between metro stops and walked to the museum. I loved meeting Bryana’s delightful little Chloe Bear who loves to hug.

Dumbfounded at the fountain
The kids are still free—all kids 2 and under are free— and adults are $8 to see the whole museum. It will be great to one day be able to read placards in museums, but for now I know that is not in the stars for me, and I’m okay with that. I just want the kids to have fun and learn a few things on our museum trips.

The atrium of the building is staggeringly huge and beautiful. There’s a big water fountain that captivated all the kids while they had some snacks. The museum staff admit people into the Building Zone—a big room of themed toys and costumes for kids—every hour and you have to reserve a time. It is free when you buy a regular admission pass, or $3 for just the pass. (Kids under 2 are free here too.)

We snacked by the fountain, reserved a time to enter the Building Zone, and spent some time in the Lego exhibit.

The White House in white Legos
There are Lego replicas of famous buildings in the first part of the exhibit— among them the Empire State Building and Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water— but to me the part that stood out was the back half that was simply low tables with little stools and built-in trays for thousands of Legos. 12 year-old Me would have been in heaven. It must be this same obsessive trait that shows itself around gingerbread house building season—it makes me want to do everything in miniature and arrange everything precisely the way I want them. And  no one should get in my way.

You got that right.
There’s also a big flat mat about a foot and a half off the floor, divided in two, with streets painted on it, all ready for a miniature town. If someone had installed a toilet and served me regular meals, I could have lived in this room for several years of my life. We spent maybe 20 minutes in the exhibit, with the kids sporadically building and running their hands through all the blocks.

After that we did a potty stop and then spent around an hour in the Building Zone. This place is awesome. All different kinds of blocks, a book corner, costumes, a doll house, train table, trucks, and a playhouse. One wall of the playhouse is see-through, so kids can see what the inside of a wall looks like. You can see the wires and insulation.

When we were at the museum we saw several groups of school kids and other groups, but in general the place was quiet and nearly empty. We had free reign of the Lego table until right before we left when a dad  and son came in, and in the Building Zone there were only a couple other kids and parents. I look forward to visiting all the other exhibits some day, but for now the Lego room and Building Zone are perfect for the boys. Everyone was hungry, so we walked in the beautifully springy afternoon several blocks down F street to Ollie’s Trolley. The boys and I love Ollie's Trolley, but the other moms had never been there. We were sad to see that it is closed for renovations until at least March 1st, so we went next door to Harry’s for lunch.

Overall, I give the National Building Museum 5 out of 5 Shouts and 5 out of 5 Whispers. I'm trying to figure out how I can sneak away to the Lego exhibit without children and spend hours of uninterrupted bliss with my inner builder.

To read about our other local field trips to museums in the area, go here.

They boys were "building bunk beds for little people!"

So many possibilities! 

Andrew and Angela outline their building.

Building Zone!

Chloe shows Bryana how to build a dollhouse.

Clark makes the Building Zone a destruction zone.

Wall inside the playhouse

Through rain, sleet, and hail...

Chloe the master mechanic

Cal trades his glasses in for a more stylish pair.

forging the Lego rapids 

Harry's- not as cool as Ollie's Trolley, but they did have balloons...

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