The Children’s Museum of Manhattan
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is not what you’d expect from its name. When you think of a museum, you probably think of lots of reading, displays behind glass and static exhibits. Not here. CMOM (as it is known), on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is five floors of fun, interactive activities and educational exhibits for you and your kids.
You’ll enter the building on W. 83rd Street, behind the colorful, wavy railings. Buy your tickets, check your coats and strollers and then follow the yellow brick road to hours of exploring.
My husband, Douglas, and I visited the museum on a recent weekend with our 3-year-old daughter, Ava. We started our day on the first floor in “The Wizard of Oz” exhibit. I don’t know how many young children have actually seen the classic 1939 movie, but the kids here seemed to enjoy seeing the lovable characters and parents can appreciate a step back in time. There are interactive booths in a recreated Munchkinland, the Wicked Witch’s bike to pedal and a castle to climb on to keep busy. Ava’s favorite was Dorothy’s room, where you turn wheels to make her house spin in the famous tornado.
Moving On Up
After you’ve had your fill in Kansas and the Emerald City, take the elevator up to the second floor, where you’ll be transported to a jungle. It’s the world of Dora and Diego, a little more familiar for your little ones. One of the highlights here is Dora’s house, where you can make music at a birthday party. There’s also a bridge to trek over and dancing to Diego’s theme at the push of a button.
All of the exhibits on each floor combine play with education. For example, the Animal Care Center in Diego’s world has stuffed animals with pretend veterinarian tools and x-rays to look at. There are also activities about animal sounds.
When you’ve finished your walk on the wild side, say “adios” to Dora and Diego, and head up to the third floor. This is where you’ll find “CMOM’s PlayWorks,” a wonderfully designed exhibit with a different educational focus in each corner. There’s early learning for babies, problem solving for toddlers, a science section and introductions to math and physics, too.
Ava spent most of her time in two areas on this floor … the grocery store in “The Little Apple” and the sand box in “The Lab” (love the names!). The grocery had a pretend conveyor belt for all of the food, and it’s great to watch your kids play with sand when it’s not in your house!
All of the PlayWorks areas have signs for parents (most in English and Spanish) on how to enjoy the exhibits with your kids while teaching simple concepts at the same time. Your little ones will probably get a good lesson on sharing as well. Just make sure to keep an eye on where they run off to, because there are a lot of places to hide!
Our visit centered mostly on floors one through three. The fifth floor has some classrooms and also “The Little West Side” with a pet shop, post office and taxi. The lower level is used for birthday parties and also has a small exhibit about ancient Greece.
And More …
You can explore all of the levels on your own, but also make sure to check the schedule for the day’s events. There is always something going on. We sat in on Circle Time for some singing and reading with the museum’s enthusiastic employees. There was also mural painting on a glass wall (aprons are provided and there’s a sink nearby for all the mess!).
For the older children, there was a session to meet a local artist, who talked about her work and let the children ask all kinds of questions before letting them make their own craft.
This is just a small sample of the many activities available. Note that exhibitions change. Be sure to visit soon, as “The Wizard of Oz” exhibit closes in early May. CMOM is also welcoming a series of thematic installations from Playmobil, including an interactive scavenger hunt, that will be remain open until early June.
You won’t regret a trip into the city to discover this museum. It’s a place for terrific hands-on learning that your kids will love. And you never know, it just might make you want to go to other museums, too.
Andrea White lives in Edgemont and loves to write and explore new places with her husband and daughter.
When You Go …
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan
212 W. 83rd St. (between Broadway and Amsterdam)
New York, N.Y.
Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
$10 adults and children, free for children under
CMOM also offers family memberships (includes free admission) and educational classes for babies through school-age kids.
By subway, take the 1 train to 79th St. or 86th St.
By car, take the 79th St. exit off the West Side Highway.
Discounted parking with validation on 83rd St. between Amsterdam and Columbus at Central Parking Garage.
No food is available at CMOM, but there are plenty of nearby restaurants, and you can leave the museum and re-enter the same day.