Tots on top: Special events lure little ones

It is a rainy Wednesday afternoon when three-year-old Katie, accompanied by her mom and baby brother, ducks into the Virginia Discovery Museum to play. Katie likes the dress-up area best: She clomps around the Showalter Cabin exhibit in glowing green high-heels (just a few sizes too big) sporting a blue and purple tutu over her Oshkosh overalls.
But when her group is called for Toddler Time, she abandons her chores and loses the heels to hurry back the Rainforest Hallway to the Party Room.
Toddler Time is one of several weekly “drop-in” programs offered at the museum offering kids ages two (or a bit younger) to four (or a bit older) the chance to make a simple craft, create a little music, do a little dance, or learn something about the world through their senses.
“Kids have a lot of fun with this,” says gallery manager Peter Clark. “Wednesday is our busiest day.”
In fact, some families make a Wednesday visit to the VDM a regular part of their weekly routine just because of Toddler Time. Participation in the day’s project is included in the price of admission. Kids sign up at the front desk when they arrive and are gathered up in groups of eight (adult supervisors and younger siblings are also welcome to tag along) so they can glitter and glue or bake and sew or jump into a big box of cotton batting or little wooden beads just to see how it feels.
Each week’s project has a different theme and is designed to last about as long as a toddler’s attention span (around 15 minutes). At the end of it all, kids usually leave with a memento of the experience.
Another weekly drop-in program, Poetry Club, gives creative writers ages five and up (there are even some teens who attend this one) the chance to work on simile, metaphor, and onomatopoeia. This group meets on Tuesdays all year round. Come September, the Magic School Bus, a third drop-in, will roll back into its usual Thursday afternoon slot with hands-on science fun for kids ages 4-7.
Emmett Boaz, who once worked at Michie Company just up the street from the museum and who visited a time or two when his now-grown son was young, says a visit to the Discovery Museum, “beats the hell out of picking apples, which is what I was doing when I was 10.”
We’re not so sure we agree (we’ll be doing pick-your-own fruit next week), but the Discovery Museum is definitely a sweet treat for kids, especially on a rainy summer day.

The Virginia Discovery Museum is on the east end of the Downtown Mall. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 1-5pm. Admission is $3 for kids, $4 for adults. Members get in free. The first Sunday of every month is pay-what-you-wish day.