Learning Through Play at the Duke Energy Children’s Museum

We recently spent a weekend exploring Cincinnati, Ohio. The first stop on our adventure was the Duke Energy Children’s Museum at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The museum is an easy one and a half hour drive down I-71 from Columbus and admission is only $5.50-$10.50 (depending on age). The relatively short drive and affordable cost allow it to be a fun day trip from home or must-see stop on a weekend away in the Queen City.

The museum provides eight educational and themed play areas, with two specifically designed for preschool-aged and younger. The children’s museum provides more than 1,800 additional hours of programming each year. We picked a weekend when the museum was hosting “Learning Through Play for Families.” Drop-in activities were offered throughout the space “for families to experience the joy and benefit of playing together in Duke Energy Children’s Museum.” It was busy, but we loved all the additional activities offered that day.

The museum is divided into sections and even has a large protected area for children ages four years-old and younger (which is wonderful for families like us with a toddler). The museum encourages kids to “climb, crawl, explore and learn about themselves and the world around them.” There is a lot to take in upon arrival and my daughter required a few minutes to warm up to the surroundings before engaging in an activity. Once she was comfortable, she began sprinting to activities that appealed to her. Below are the highlights of her favorite sections, along with ideas on how to encourage language development while exploring the museum.

Kids’ Town is a kid-sized neighborhood complete with a grocery store, daycare center, auto shop, and more. This area provides miniature versions of shops and toys to promote imaginative play. While playing, vocabulary specific to your child’s activities can be modeled to label objects and talk about what your child is doing, example: “You are driving!”

There were so many opportunities for my daughter to learn about the concept of up/down throughout the museum. She was very interested in the duplo center where she could build towers up and then knock them down. She was also interested in watching the play crane and dump truck. Children fill a basket with foam rocks, lift the basket up into the air and then watch the rocks fall down into the truck.

Another highlight of the visit was the house building area. My daughter watched mom and dad use the foam board to fill in the sides of the house, but she didn’t have much interest in joining us. She preferred walking inout, and through the house while carrying her doll. These concepts were used to narrate where she was in relation to the house.

The water area is large and provides many opportunities to use the concepts wet/dry. There are buckets to fill and dump, and opportunities to manipulate water movement. There is plenty of opportunity to get wet in the water area and then to dry off with the hand dryers when you are done.

Little Sprouts Farm is an area designed for children 4 and younger and is a protected space separated from the rest of the museum by an entrance gate. My daughter enjoyed watching balls stop/go on a ramp, climbing up/down, and playing in the soft sand. This area provides so many opportunities for movement and for an adult to model vocabulary while your child is playing.  

The above exhibits were the most age appropriate for my daughter and where we spent the majority of our time. Older children will enjoy spending time exploring the three-story structure in The Woods and being part of a complex machine in the Energy Zone.

Some things to know before you go:

  • The Union Terminal is currently undergoing extensive repairs and restoration. The Duke Energy Children’s Museum and the special exhibits hall are the only exhibits open at this time.
  • Parking is located in front of the building and is $6/vehicle, $4/vehicle after 4:30 p.m. and free for members.
  • Admission for the children’s museum is $10.50/adults, $8.50/children (3-12 yrs), $5.50/toddlers (1-2 yrs) and 1 and under are free.
  • Bring a change of clothes. If your child is anything like mine, she will be all in when it comes to the water table and will need a change before going home.
  • A visit can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3+ hours. We explored for close to two hours and there was still so much more we could have done.

The trip to the Duke Energy Children’s Museum was the highlight of our Saturday. We are so glad we made the trip to the and can’t wait to go back to see the completed renovations at the Cincinnati Museum Center. There is still so much for us to explore in the museum as our daughter continues to grow.

Disclaimer: The Duke Energy Children’s Museum provided me and my family with complimentary admission. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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