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Best Kept Secrets of the Brooklyn Children's Museum

Best Kept Secrets of the Brooklyn Children's Museum

Welcome to children of all ages, as well as their parents and caregivers, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is the perfect thing to do for families in Brooklyn as it is an educational, entertaining, and engaging learning environment for kids. Whether you come from one of the surrounding neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy, Flatbush, Prospect Park, Prospect Heights, and Brownsville or you are coming from other Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Park Slope, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bay Ridge, Dumbo, Sheepshead Bay, Bensonhurst, Downtown Brooklyn, on Sunset Park, the family trip will definitely be worth-while fun for all ages.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum will take you and your young one through the cultures and environments of your Brooklyn backyard. The museum, founded in 1899 as an alternative to existing museums, was the world’s first children’s museum. It took the world by storm as it revolutionized the way visitors interact with museums, emphasizing participatory exhibits for children and focusing on leaning through hands-on experiences. It remains New York City’s largest cultural institution designed especially for families. The Crown Heights-based museum continues its original mission as it serves 275,000 children and caregivers annually with its diverse range of exhibits and programs. 

Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s Permanent Exhibits

In addition to a rotating exhibit, the museum remains one of the only children’s museums with a permanent collection in the United States, with six separate exhibits.

World Brooklyn

World Brooklyn is the first permanent exhibit you will come across when entering the museum. In an effort to have children gain an appreciation and understanding for their community, they are free to play in kid-sized shops based on real ones in Brooklyn. 

In the International Grocery Store, children have the chance to carry a miniature shopping cart or basket while picking out fake fruits, meats, and dairy products. In the Mexican Bakery, children can pretend to buy traditional pastries such as concha, mona bread, or pan de muerto, or they can act like they are making it themselves! In the Afrikan Market, kids have the opportunity to try on traditional West African jewelry and clothing, design and make traditional patterns, or even build a chair commonly found in West Africa. The L&B Spumoni Gardens Pizzeria and Restaurant mimics that on 86th Street in Bensonhurst. Here there are tables and menus set up outside and a kitchen and food prep station inside.

Located in the World Brooklyn Exhibit, the Don Paco Lopez Panaderia gives children an immersive experience into the real, local Mexican bakery located in Sunset Park. There is also a location in Manhattan.

 

Neighborhood Nature

Just a few steps away from World Brooklyn, you will find Neighborhood Nature. With many subsections, this exhibit focuses on the environments and habitats of the animals you can find in your Brooklyn backyard.

With a pretend garden, children can use plastic shovels to plant vegetables while learning about sustainable food and living. Take a walk outside to the greenhouse and garden. Turn the corner to find a beach, with a large sandbox and stations for children to design their own shell. Throughout the area, find live turtles, snakes, bugs, and more, as well as dioramas of bigger animals such as racoons or bald eagles.

Collections Central

On the second level of the museum, you will find Collections Central which is a much smaller and quieter section. Here children are able to learn about the elements of design such as line, shape, texture, and form while looking at traditional African art as real examples. While you are here, you will also see artifacts such as an elephant skeleton, as well as learn about the uses of objects such as bamboo and solar power.

Totally Tots

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A special play area for children younger than 6 and their caretakers, Totally Tots provides young children with an area to explore using all of their senses, from feeling and playing in water to moving things to hear the noises they make, and browsing a book in the reading corner.

Color Lab

The Color Lab, only open for public programs and sessions on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, holds a rotating exhibit of work and materials, focusing on that of Afrofuturism in the African-American, African, and Afro-Caribbean cultures. Museum staff hosts 45-minute workshops and events in the Color Lab, which offer children of all ages the opportunity to experiment with, make, and celebrate art.

Sensory Room

With an aim to be an inclusive space for children of all ages and abilities, the Sensory Room was originally designed to serve those on the autism spectrum. Open Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons, this area engages children to explore their senses in an interactive and hands-on way through activities such as quiet reaching, materials exploration, music making, and physical movements and challenges. 

Visiting Exhibits at Brooklyn Children’s Museum

While the permanent exhibits are the main attraction, the museum also has visiting exhibits. Through Sept. 2, Brooklyn Children’s Museum is hosting Native Voices: New England Tribal Families as a visiting exhibit gallery. Through videos, photos, and activities, children will be able to experience the daily life and learn the history of five Native American tribes from New England. Past interactive and special visiting exhibits have included Block Party, Heart and Seoul, Children of Syria, and Wilderness Camp, among many others.  

Special Events Hosted at Brooklyn Children’s Museum

With events such as Drag Queen Story Hour, Open Houses, and events for holidays such as Eid al-Fitr, Brooklyn Children’s Museum hosts can’t-miss events and programs. It also hosts an annual Spring Benefit, an adult-only takeover of the museum to support children and families in Brooklyn and beyond. For more information about what is happening now, check Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s special event page.

Know Before You Go

The nearest subway stops (3, A, C trains) are approximately a 10-minute walk away at Kingston Avenue and Nostrand Avenue stops. You can also take the B43/44 bus to St. Marks Avenue or the B25/45/65 to Brooklyn Avenue. 

The museum is accessible with many ramps, elevators, and wheelchair handrails on most staircases.

Strollers and bags are permitted, but there is a coat check that will keep your items safe while you explore.

Restrooms are located on the first level right when you enter the museum and get your ticket. Two more, which are gender-neutral and family-friendly, are located upstairs and are accessible by elevator. A breast-feeding station is also available outside the first level restrooms.

With free Wi-Fi throughout the museum, you are sure to never miss a message.

SPARK, an art and play space located in Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo, is run by the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. The space is designed for children ages 6 months to 6 years, featuring a Brooklyn Block Lab exhibit, daily art and design workshops, music classes, birthday parties, and more.

Details of Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Location: 145 Brooklyn Ave., Crown Heights

Admission: $11 per person; free for BCM Members and children younger than 1

Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday, 10am-5pm; Thursday, 10am-6pm; Saturday-Sunday, 10am-7pm

Birthday Parties and Events: Yes! 

For more information: brooklynkids.org

Main Image: Walking from Brooklyn Avenue, the outside of the Brooklyn Children's Museum towers over the street with bright colors.
All photos by Allison Ingrum.