OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) isn’t just for older kids! This place is pretty much a homeschooler’s paradise due to all of the learning opportunities around you, and you need a year’s pass (a great gift idea!) because you couldn’t possibly see, touch, and appreciate everything there in one or two visits. Plus, they change their featured exhibits periodically and you really don’t want to miss anything. : )
Here’s a roundup of some of the things small children can do at OMSI with a few tips on how to make your trip awesome, beginning with their current (in 11/2014) featured exhibit – Animation!
The animation exhibit features hands-on ways to learn about how animation works, and there are plenty of things for littles to do there! My kids (3 and 6) spent some time experimenting with slow- and fast-motion (top right), story boards, mirrors and frames, drawing, playing with sound effects, and more. They even had old Hanna Barbera cartoons to play – ah, wonderful memories! They don’t make them like they used to… (Boy, do I sound old.)
Tip #1: Try to have at least one adult with each child while visiting OMSI.
It’s so much more fun for the child and easier for the adults if you can focus on one small child at a time, helping them with an exhibit if they need it and, of course, keeping an eye on them.
Leaving the animation area, you find yourself in puzzle heaven. Or uh.. the other place… if you don’t like puzzles. ; ) There are puzzles for all levels and ages. In each area, I found myself wishing we had more time – and that my kids had a longer attention span!
I also re-discovered my intense dislike of these types of brain puzzles.
Tip #2: Avoid the puzzles.
Just kidding! The kids loved this area.
Tip #3: Bring a sack lunch.
Immediately to the left of the check-in area you will find a place to buy coffee and lots of tables and chairs. The tables are usually pretty full around lunchtime, but if you wait one will open up. People tend to eat quickly when they have paid for a day at OMSI. :)
We brought a packed lunch and ate it in the coffee bar area of the building (they also have a cafe but it is pretty pricey), then headed up to the stairs to the Science Playroom where it’s small kiddie heaven – this is the very large room that has doors that are watched by an employee to make sure little children don’t leave without their adult. There is a sand play area, water play area, woodland exploration area (with chipmunk costumes, toy acorns, little hollows in “trees”, and more), a quiet area with books (for the introverts, my friend and I joked… secretly wishing we could go hide in there with a book), building block area, a place for very small babies (0-2) to play, and science exploration room. The most popular areas for my kids were the sand pit, especially the funnels and shovels, the water play area, and the woodland playground. We spent a lot of time here because the kids could run around freely without mommy watching them like a hawk.Well, I still tried, but I knew they couldn’t get past the employee at the door so I was more at ease.
Tip #4: If you have a little girl, don’t put stockings or tights on her for the OMSI trip.
Emma insisted on wearing a skirt and stockings and was pretty ticked when we got to the sand and water and she couldn’t take her socks off like other kids were. It was pretty comical watching her try to figure out what to do about it. I think if she had had scissors she would have cut the feet off her tights. Note to self: Keep scissors away from that child.
In another part of the building, we found so many things for the kids to experiment and play with. The most popular for us are shown below. The kids could build with different types of building toys, then hit the “Earthquake On” button to test the stability of their creation in a shaky environment. Then we caught sight of the sailing boats and my, that one we spent at least 20 minutes at. It must be very popular because they had chairs for parents there. (Thank you, OMSI!) The parts of the boats are kept in containers attached to the wall so the kids can put their boats together themselves. They can add up to 3 sails and test how differently the boat moves when you change the position of the sail(s).
Oh, the electricity room! Many, many mixed feelings here. ; ) My daughter loved it, my son hated it. You see, the theme here is electricity (surprise, surprise) and one of the main attractions is a big ball that will cause your hair to stick up on end if you touch it along with the tube with electricity that follows your finger when you touch it. The problem is, if two people touch it and then touch each other, they will get shocked… and that’s what happened. Yes, there is a warning on it. No, the kids didn’t listen to me when I warned them. Poor Isaac was so full of electricity, and looking so pitiful that my mom and I kept trying to comfort him and every time we touched him, ZAP! He didn’t trust us near him again until we left that room. Poor thing. (But so funny!)
Tip #5: Be careful in the electricity room with small children.
You can’t actually get “hurt”, but Isaac won’t step foot in this place again! :p
Another place we spent much time at was the bottle rocket area. Isaac just loved the rocket that shot into the air when you pressed on it. Emma liked the water rocket because you controlled how much water and air you put in it, then shot the rocket into the air to see how high it would go. Too cool! Keep scrolling down for a video.
Here’s an example of how the bottle rockets worked:
Ah, the paper flyers! Here is where Isaac and Emma made their own paper flyers, either out of small cone-shaped paper cups or regular paper airplanes. The kids could control how much air blew out of the large fan table and watch their creations fly. Another place we spent a lot of time at. Check out that smile on Isaac’s face. : )
Here’s a video of the kids flying their flyers. They stayed at this one for a long time, it was a definite favorite!
One more tip:
Tip #6: Bring a stroller and/or backpack if you need to!
There is plenty of room for strollers and a backpack with waters/snacks and your camera plus an extra change of clothes per kid (think water area) are nice to have on hand.
If you are ever in the Portland, Oregon area, I recommend visiting this museum – and know that this is a place that kids of all ages can enjoy!