Omaha’s Children Museum offers variety of activities for youngsters

IMG_0009Want a great way to help the kids burn off energy during the winter or the upcoming holiday breaks? Try the Children’s Museum near downtown Omaha.

We took our 9-year-old niece, Cory, there recently.

The girl had some fun.

As you enter the play area, there is a ‘transporter” for fun. It looks like a ship cabin with Kermit the Frog at the head of it. Kids can pretend they are piloting a boat. IMG_0142

The museum has six permanent exhibits: the science and technology center, art center, Walker Tire center, Zooland, early childhood play area and a splash garden (during warm weather months).

What age group does the museum appeal to? I believe the ideal age group for children is 1-12.

We started our visit with the art center. Here, kids can a lot of exciting things – face painting, book creation and painting among others.

Cory worked on making a book. She picked out a book cover from a larger book with book covers. I sense a coffee book about book cover books.

The area had a museum aide to help her out. She helped pick out some plain paper to fill the book. We punched some holes in the book, so we could run some sturdy string through them, to create a binder.

IMG_0059Once the book was ready, we headed over to the art design center. Here, we found sound colors to add some color to the book cover. We added some pipe cleaner sticks and some tape to the cover. Cory loves purple, so all of the add-ons were…purple.

Meanwhile, some kids were at the face painting area, so we checked out their artwork. A brother and sister team was busy applying paint to their faces. Their mom was nice enough to let me take some photos.

IMG_0202Afterward, we moved on to the science and technology center. Kids can play with plastic balls by loading them into “guns.” The air pressure or hand-cranked handles build up pressure and then shoot the balls into open air or at targets.

IMG_0277One cute thing was when kids gathered in the center under a ball bin. Once enough plastic balls fill up the bin, a light comes on and a siren sounds. The bin opens and dumps the balls downward, on the heads of whomever wants to stand n the middle. It’s usually quite a few kids.

IMG_0233The science area focuses on pneumatics, hydraulics and mechanics.

We watched a machine create a tornado. It’s harmless, of course. But it gives kids an idea of how a tornado is created and moves. Kids would run their hands through it. Once broken up, a new tornado was created. IMG_0263

We helped Cory work on pulling herself up in a chair swing via a pulley system. She was proud of herself, as she put one hand in front of another and pulled herself to the top of the display.

Scattered about the area were standalone attractions, including a color-coded “lighted piano.” Kids can play one of three songs by pushing the colored buttons associated with the song.

In another area of the first floor of the museum is a play area for kids of all ages. Cory hung out at the Little Market (sponsored by Con Agra). It’s a grocery store play area. Kids can “shop” for groceries by pushing their shopping carts around and picking out items, such as toy frozen dinners, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products.

IMG_0458There are a couple of checkout stands, where kids can act as cashiers while another is the customer. During our visit, one girl was pretending she was a clerk, and Cory unloaded her groceries.

Then, Cory had Lisa go shopping. Lisa picked up a couple of frozen meals and veggies. The total came to $18, according to our niece. I told her that sounded like a lot. So, she took each item and gave us a price for them. One dinner was $24, but somehow, the overall bill came to $18. Cute.

IMG_0496Next to the marker was a fire truck. It’s part of a firehouse exhibit. Children can play in the firehouse.

IMG_0472The fire truck has a few fire fighter helmets and coats for youngsters to wear. A family was playing in the cab while we were there.

Another area of interest was the “rainbow Farm.” There are cornstalks and a cow there. Kids can “milk” the cow by moving its teat.

IMG_0513There is a room for toddlers to play in called “The Wiggle Room.”

One standalone attraction I liked was a map of Nebraska. It was cities and areas of interest, such as Chimney Rock, on it.

IMG_0407The museum has at least one special exhibit located on the second floor. Currently, it’s “Things that Go.” Previously, we took Cory and her older sister Kamryn there for the “Wizard of Oz” exhibit. The current exhibit was more interesting to us. “Things that Go” will be available at the museum until April 13, 2014.

The exhibit highlights activities that require movement. It ranged from kids creating their own Lego soap box derby cars and running them on a track to driving a bus.

Cory’s dad is a truck driver, and she quickly moved to a small version of a Werner Enterprises semi truck. She jumped in the driver’s seat and pretended to drive.

IMG_0651I sense some parental worries when she turns 16, as her next stop was at the mini city bus. She drove this thing like a maniac. Scary thoughts! I need to remember this should she ever ask to borrow my car when she’s older.

There was an air barrel display, too. I watched as someone loaded a nerf missile on to a launcher and shot it a good 20-30 feet inside a caged range.

Cory was determined to show us that she could create enough power to light three light bulbs with pedal power. She succeeded.

IMG_0788Families checked out a tricycle track.

A young girl had an intense look on her face as she “operated” a CAT digger.

IMG_0742People can also hop a ride on the carousel, which is a permanent exhibit.

Once we finished checking out the second floor, it was time to head back down to the first and see…Santa Claus!

The jolly old elf was making a special appearance at the Children’s Museum as part of the “Santa’s Magic” program.

An elf assistant with way too much energy for me led the kids in dancing and cheers. The girl portraying the elf was great. She appeared to genuinely like the youths and her job.

IMG_0829The beautiful snow queen made a graceful entrance. She led the audience in singing a holiday song.

Then…from the chimney, you could hear “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Suddenly, Santa Claus appeared at the bottom of the chimney. He visited with everyone for a few minutes before settling in his chair to hear the children’s Christmas wishes.

IMG_0833The neat thing about the museum is that exhibits change. I remember taking my daughters there when they younger and seeing a news station exhibit.

Speaking of exhibits changing, the next exhibit planned, I believe, is a dinosaur one. We may have to borrow Cory and her brother and sister for another visit.