Little Buckeye Children’s Museum

It’s Spring Break! which means there are a few extra hours in the week for an adventure. I have heard so many wonderful things about the Little Buckeye Children’s Museum, so I decided to take a mini road trip with my daughter to Mansfield, Ohio to check it out. The museum is approximately an hour and 15-minute drive north of Columbus and admission is only $8 (for 2 and up). The museum’s mission statement is “To Provide Children and Families Opportunities to Learn and Discover Through The Power of Play” and is an ideal location for visits by children ages 2-12 years. My daughter is 21 months and enjoyed herself.

The Little Buckeye Children’s Museum is located in Downtown Mansfield in a beautiful old building.  There are 28 exhibits (at last count) that occupy the two levels of the building. When you first arrive, there is a lobby area to check in and regroup. An open door leads into the lower level exhibit area, and right next to the open door is a door that leads to the upstairs exhibits. It didn’t take long for my daughter to find her way to the lower level exhibits.

Most of the downstairs area is designed as a mini-neighborhood and includes a grocery store, construction site, and theatre area. The lower level also includes an elaborate H2O Factory, with water flowing in from a large pipe on the wall and a dino dig site.

The upstairs is separated into rooms with designated themes. We enjoyed exploring the camping/nature room and the blue room filled with the big blue blocks that can be found at many children’s museums.

If you have a train lover in the family, she will love the train room located on the second level. There is an elaborate model train set up with a button to make the trains go, a button to activate the train horn, and a button to activate the fire station siren.

A nice addition to this museum is the tips for “ways to play” posted in each exhibit. Parents have a cheat sheet on the wall with specific tips to help support and engage a child in play for that specific area.

What is interesting about this museum is that there aren’t designated areas designed for specific age groups. While this would often deter me, because I am often worried about my little one being run over by older children, it was interesting to see the interactions between the different age groups in each exhibit. The exhibits are set up for open-ended play, so your child is able to experience the exhibits at her level and possibly learn new ways to play from the other children.

Some things to know before you go:

  • Parking: We parked in the lot at Main and 4th St., two blocks down from the museum. The free parking is designated by green curbs. There are also meters located on the street in front of the museum if you are in need of a closer parking spot.
  • Admission is $8 per person for ages 2 and up.
  • Bring a change of clothes if your child has any interest in the water table. There are smocks for your child to wear, but they may not always keep your child from getting wet.
  • A visit can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2+ hours. We explored for about an hour, but a hungry toddler cut our visit short.
  • When I visit a children’s museum in a new area, I always like to ask staff where to eat. When I asked, we were directed towards The Coney Island Diner, a 50’s inspired diner. We feasted on greasy burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and french fries.

While you are in Mansfield visiting the children’s museum, be sure to check out Richland Carrousel Park before you head home. It is located two blocks down from the children’s museum (right by the parking lot). It opened in 1991 and is the first new, hand-carved carrousel to be built and operated in the United States since the 1930’s. The carrousel is indoors, so even if it’s a rainy day you and your little one can enjoy a ride. One ride costs $1, and a package of 6 rides costs $5 (kiddos under 2 ride for free). There is a gift shop, concessions, and an outdoor area to enjoy as well.

I wan’t sure what to expect when I decided our destination was Mansfield, Ohio, but both my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed our adventure.

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

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.

A visit to the AHA! Children’s Museum

We had the time and opportunity over winter break to explore the AHA! A Hands-On Adventure, A Children’s Museum, in Lancaster, Ohio, and we are so glad we did! The museum is an easy 45-minute drive from Columbus and admission is only $6, which makes it a very manageable and worthwhile day trip. The museum’s mission statement is, “Educating children in a world of discovery, curiosity and imagination through hands-on play.” The museum is designed to educate and accommodate children ages six months to eight years-old.

There is a lot to take in upon arrival. The museum is a 4,000 square foot, open space, with 33 hands-on exhibits (at last count). When we first arrived, we set our daughter down at the entrance to let her take it all in. It took her a few seconds to warm up before she made a beeline to the interactive fire engine. The fire engine had bells and whistles (literally) in and around the truck. Children can dress the part of a firefighter, drive the fire engine, turn on sirens, and pretend to put out a fire.

Her other favorite exhibits included:

Water Table: The water table is made up of four sides. Each side is a different height with a specific activity to appeal to different age groups. This water table held her interest for a long time. Children can manipulate the flow and current of the water by building different sets of tubes and funnels. Inevitably, she was soaked afterwards, but loved every minute of it!


Ball Mountain. This was such a fun interactive exhibit for our daughter to learn problem solving and discovery skills. She could fill a bucket with balls and then carry the bucket to the top of the mountain, with assistance. Once at the top of the mountain she could push the balls through the different tubes to see where each one came out.

Fishing Pond. She may have been a bit small for this exhibit, but she loved trying to catch those fish! With our help, she was able to “catch” a magnetized bean bag fish with her fishing pole and then throw it back into the pit.

Honeycomb Climbing Structure. She didn’t make it past the first level (thank goodness!), but she loved climbing in and out and waving to the kids on the different levels. When she’s older, I’m sure she’ll make it to the top!

These were the exhibits that held her interest the longest. But, there was so much for her to see and explore throughout the museum. It was wonderful watching her play with other children and interact with exhibits designed for someone just her age.

Some things to know before you go:

  • Parking is located next to the building and it’s FREE!
  • There are lockers and a coat room just to the left of the entryway into the museum.
  • Admission is $6 per person and children ages six months and younger 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 2+ hours. We explored for close to an hour and a half and didn’t even get to everything in the museum.

If you are looking for a place to have lunch after visiting AHA!, be sure to stop at The Well. The museum director, Wendy, recommended the restaurant and we are so glad she did! The restaurant is a two-minute walk from the museum and describes itself as “a modern gathering place for the whole family to eat, drink, play and live.” The restaurant is family owned and you can tell how much thought and love they put into the service, food, and space. The restaurant offers delicious, healthy food choices, which hit the spot after a cookie-filled holiday, and our daughter loved the beautiful play space available in the rear of the restaurant.  

We are so glad we made the trip to the AHA! Children’s Museum and can’t wait to go back! Just a heads up, AHA! will be moving to a new location in Lancaster, which is double the size, in the fall of 2017.

Disclaimer: The AHA! A Hands-On Adventure, A Children’s Museum provided me and my family with complimentary admission. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.