The Best Children's Museums

By Jenna McCaarthy


It happens all the time: You overhear another mom bragging about how well 3-year-old Becca is doing in her advanced Spanish class, or how Jack Junior, 14 months, just adores watching his Little Genius DVD over and over. You can’t help but wonder: Are Becca and Jack going to be smarter than your children? Will they have more friends, get into better schools, land better jobs? More importantly, are you doing everything you can to give your kids every possible advantage? I’m sure parenting has always been competitive, but some days it feels like an Olympic sport.

The race to get this one reading and that one writing is exhaustive—and, as it turns out, more than a little overrated. “Of course we want our kids to be enriched and to do well in school, but at what expense?” asks Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2006). “When structured learning takes time away from just being with our children, listening to them and playing with them, we have a problem.”

Ginsburg recently authored a paper for the American Academy of Pediatrics that stresses the importance of spontaneous, unstructured play. “It’s an important message because many parents feel trapped on the competitive treadmill,” he insists. “We know that for kids, having time with their parents is amazing, and we know that play is magnificent. It fosters imagination and creativity, and teaches them to master the world with confidence and competence.” Instead of schlepping your tot to a preschool prep class or spending an arduous hour with him studying flash cards, why not schedule a visit to a nearby children’s museum?