The Best Children's Museums

These environments are carefully created to stimulate pint-size imaginations— and think about how many times a day your little one hears the refrain “Don’t touch!” What could be more magical to a curious child than to be set free in a fascinating new space where he is not only allowed to explore every inch, but is actually encouraged to do so? Beyond their childproof appeal, children’s museums offer a wealth of benefits. Here are a few to consider.

Accidental learning
Try this experiment: Tell your toddler that a fire engine is a large red truck with hoses on the back that drives around and puts out fires. Wait five minutes, then ask her what a fire engine is. In all probability, she will gaze at you with blank eyes, shrug her shoulders and ask you for a cheese stick.

Ah, but let her don an authentic-looking miniature firefighter’s suit, climb up onto an actual fire engine, hold the heavy hose in her pudgy hands and pretend to extinguish a wall of make-believe flames, and she isn’t likely to forget the experience any time soon. “Memory is influenced greatly by whether or not the child has put the experience to a use that has some relevance to her,” explains George Forman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of education at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and president of Videatives, Inc. Museums are brimming with opportunities for toddlers to engage in hands-on learning.