It’s true. I’ll admit it. There was a period of my life where I questioned the awesomeness of Nova Scotia’s Museum of Natural History. While it may not be in the same ball park as say…the Canadian Museum of Civilization, don’t look down on this Halifax gem until you’ve seen it through the eyes of a child.
We first took D to the museum a little more than a year ago on a rainy weekend in February. We took him to see the monkeys that were visiting as part of a temporary Life in the Rainforest exhibit. I looked at the museum and to be honest I saw a collection of dead animals, some whale bones, rocks etc. the same displays I had known as a child (with the exception of a new Netukulimk exhibit which is perfect for young children…more on that later). D however saw something entirely different. D saw a real ‘live’ bear that growls when he walks by, skunks and moose that he could get within a few feet of, sharks and a living bee hive (I did always love the bee hive). D saw a myriad of wonders that were completely new to him, laid out in a big space (big to a 1.5 year old) that he could wonder freely and explore. Experiencing the museum with a toddler made me stop, really look around and gave me a new appreciation for the quality of the museum and great work that is being done there. Since that first visit we have become regulars at the museum. We have seen the same displays at least 20 to 30 times and a year later he’s still excited every time we go and here is why….
Here are the top 5 reasons your toddler will adore a visit(s) the Museum of Natural History:
1. Kids love to press buttons and touch things:
The Netukulimk exhibit seemed to be designed with little kids in mind. The whole area is interactive with buttons set in natural looking foresty displays that allow you to hear the sounds animals make (this is D’s favorite part). There are live animals, a live bee colony, hidden drawers with insect specimens, fun to be found everywhere. It’s a fantastic space for kids to run around and explore.
2. They have the best toys in town:
Animal puzzles and fishing games, a felt board, dress up play with amazing costumes, natural wood blocks, Incredible animal puppets and a puppet theater, magnifying glasses with things to examine, animal figurines and more! No joke. The children’s programing at the museum is amazing.
The museum runs two preschool programs; Wee Wild Ones, which in my opinion is the best under 5 program we have come across in the city (unfortunately the program does not run in the summer. This Tuesday is the last Wee Wild Ones day until September. If you can make it out, do, you won’t regret it) and Young Children’s Nature Discovery. Both programs incorporate hands on exploration of real museum objects (D has gotten to feel bear pelts, hold teeth, touch bugs, it’s a crazy fun time) and creative play. Wee Wild Ones has a structured format, skillfully facilitated by Mary, who all the ‘Wee Wild Ones’ seem to instantly adore, it includes songs and puppet shows and directed activities followed by free play (with the awesome toys) while Young Children’s Nature Discovery is mostly free play.
3. You can hang out with a tortoise: Walk with Gus
At 3:30 every day Gus the 90 year old tortoise that calls the museum home goes for a ‘walk’ and has a snack. Museum staff supervise and kids can ask questions, touch his shell and watch him chow down on some grub up close and personal.
4. Animals are awesome:
What D really loves at the museum are the animals. He loves simply walking around pointing out the animals he knows, asking questions about them and just looking around and taking it all in. One of his favorite activities in the Marine gallery is to play a search and find game with one of the displays. I will ask if he can find a crab, a starfish, a shell etc. and he will point them out in the under water scene.
5. You Can Have a Nature Scavenger Hunt!
My favorite thing to do at the museum is to go with the sole purpose of playing a game. Museum scavenger hunt. I print off a sheet of paper with pictures of things you can find in the museum, moose, frog, bone etc. (anyone else who might be with us also gets a sheet) and we run around and search for the items on our page. Every time D finds an item we cross it off our list with a sticker…I sometimes point him in the right direction but when he finds an item on his sheet it is wildly exciting for him! Very fun to watch 🙂 Even carefully placing the stickers on the right pictures is an enjoyable activity. If he finds everything I usually have an actual ‘prize’ there are lots of great collections to start in the museum store, stones, little plastic lizards etc.
*** The Coasts CoastMart is currently offering half price one year family passes to the museum. Click below for the link: