I can't believe we've lived in Philadelphia for nearly four years and hadn't been to the Academy of Natural Sciences until recently. When I heard that they were hosting the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit through March 30th I figured the time for a visit was now. So many friends have gushed about the museum and I've been meaning to check it out...but not until I heard that they were roaring, moving, life-size animatronic dinosaurs did I buckle down and put a visit on our calendar. Leo is SOOOOOO into dinosaurs right now.
We made plans with some friends (Dresden and W) of ours and headed out to meet the dinosaurs. We met up by the giant T-Rex on Logan Circle - and that thing is impressive. The kids were in total awe of it - if a touch nervous, but they seemed ok. That is until I stepped away from the stroller to snap this picture...Zoe didn't want me to leave her side.
When I bent down to comfort her, Leo whispered in her ear, "Don't worry, Zoe, the dinosaur won't eat us." Followed up with a tense and very earnest, "Right, mama? They aren't going to eat us. Right?" I think it was more for his own reassurance than Zoe's.
At that point I suspected that perhaps the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit might be a bit too intense for them. Still, we did head there first when we got inside the museum. We took a few steps into the exhibit, but it was a touch overwhelming for them, so we didn't get to check it out in any detail...but from what I could see it was awesome. At this point, we parted ways with our friends (W, Leo's friend, is only a year older at 4.5 and he loved the exhibit), so they could still explore the dinosaurs.
Since we didn't get to see Dinosaurs Unearthed, Dresden was kind enough to share a little bit about her and W's experience:
There was an imaginary threshold that was crossed at some point within my son's fourth year of life. I have since learned from friends who have older children that not every child passes this threshold, but if they do there is no turning back. It is just best, as the parent, that you simply embrace this new world. And so it came to pass that we went from a household to not knowing a single thing about dinosaurs to being a household consumed by dinos. On our playroom rug a plastic T-Rex is on the same team as a beat up Darth Vader and, well it is best that we not examine the intricacies of pre-k play much further.
When I found out that dinosaurs were coming to Philadelphia I got so excited because I could not wait to tell my son and see his reaction. I watched the twitter stream of The Academy of Natural Sciences and followed along virtually as the exhibit arrived and was installed. Telling my son that we were going to get to SEE dinosaurs was a moment on par with Christmas morning.
Before going to the exhibit we watched a video trailer every morning while eating breakfast.
The actual exhibit was really fun for him. I worried he would be nervous or frightened once we were right there next to them, but he cheered. He loved being able to control parts of the dino's body and look at every part. We lapped around the exhibit three times total and each time he found something new. He probably would have liked more hands on activities, but it was our first time to the Academy of Natural Sciences and we enjoyed exploring other areas.
(Note: Not only are my kids on the young side, but Leo is on the sensitive side. I've talked to several other parents whose 3-4 year olds that have really enjoyed the exhibit and have heard rave reviews from parents of older kids who were "over" dinosaurs but were captivated by this exhibit.)
While our museum companions were checking out the Dinosaur exhibit, we went across the hall to the butterfly garden. It was exactly what we needed - calm, beautiful, warm and peaceful - after getting a tad worked up.
Both Leo and Zoe loved the exhibit and getting to see the butterflies up close. We've been to a few butterfly exhibits in the past and this one had the most active butterflies of any we've seen before. It was a lot of fun. The docent at the exhibit was very knowledgable and shared a lot of information about the types of butterflies and their life cycles with the kids. He did a great job of explaining things in a way that a three year old could understand as was evidenced by how much Leo remembered that evening when telling jb about our visit - he told her all about what the butterflies eat and how they avoid predators.
We met back up with our friends at the Outside In exhibit which is a nature discovery center for children. (Right now it's closed for renovation and I can't wait to go back and see how they've updated it.) Leo was captivated by the sand, I was impressed by the active beehive (the bees go out through a tube in the wall to gather pollen!) and Zoe made friends with a turtle.
There was so much more to see than we could tackle in one day. I think I'm going to add it to our museum membership wish list because we could spend hours there now, and there is so much for the kids to still grow into.
Disclosure: The Academy of Natural Sciences provided our admission to the museum and Dinosaurs Unearthed Exhibit. All opinions are my own. Except for Dresden's...those are obviously hers. :)