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by CG News Desk

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The Children's Museum of Manhattan has expanded up, down and sideways. By enclosing its courtyard, the museum was able to build a new entrance, with a huge stroller-friendly ramp on one side and steps on the other. The new lobby includes an expanded gift shop with carefully selected educational and fun items.

Two new exhibits at the museum focus on both younger children ("Word Play"), and older kids ("Body Odyssey"). "Word Play", for kids infant-4, encourages language development in a playful environment. A "pen" for the youngest visitors includes mirrors, big cushions, and plenty of board books. There are textures to explore and buttons to push. A popular attraction is the animal sounds; push the button near the horse and hear it neigh. Another enclosed area has tunnels and soft climbing surfaces; the kitchen gets kids working together, sorting out foods, cooking and serving meals. Preschoolers can mail letters or use the big slide. And throughout the exhibit, signs offer parents clues about how to enrich their child's learning environment.

Until "Body Odyssey" opened in March, the attractions for children over age six were limited. Now there is a fun, kinetic environment where they can explore skin, and the digestive, respiratory, and blood transport systems.

The highlight of the exhibit is the giant tongue, which kids climb up; then they go through the digestive system, shooting stomach acid and helping churn food through the intestines. At the end, kids can open a drawer to find the waste product of the digestive system, commonly found on sidewalks throughout the city. Another "gross-out" is the giant scab, which children are encouraged to pick. Accompanying text explains the purpose of a scab and why it should remain in place. Kids can also learn why they burp, and study the germs found on human hands. Children can explore the workings of the respiratory system by crawling inside giant lungs; they learn about asthma and how to manage the disease. "Body Odyssey" is on display through May 2000.

The Children's Museum is considering still further growth, with a possible rooftop garden. Unfortunately for those who like a snack, there are no plans for a cafe. The museum, at 212 West 81st Street, is open 10am-5pm, Wednesday-Sunday. Admission is $5, $2.50 for seniors, and free for babies under 1. Call (212) 721-1234 for information on special programs.

- Judy Antell

Sure, adults can write about children's museums, but the adult perspective is quite different from the child's. Museum veteran and second grader Hallie Brown gives us her thoughts on the Children's Museum of Manhattan:

Need an interesting place to take your kids? Start off at the Children's Museum. I've loved it since I was a baby. Until I turned six. Then it was boring. But when I saw this new exhibit, it was great!

Kids will love the tunnels of their body. The lungs and throat will amaze them. There is a slide with blood cells, cushiony to sit on. A bike sits in a corner with a TV. It may surprise kids, but it's true, your body needs exercise.

With computers and a play kitchen, CMOM has lots of things to amaze your child. The exhibit teaches kids to eat healthy foods. There are notes and tips on leaving scabs alone. And there's poop in a drawer!

If your kid enjoys tunnels, then let them crawl through a tunnel of their body.


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