If the thought of scanning yet another aisle at your local big-box toy store has you feeling uninspired, then look no further. The gift shops of some of the country's best art museums are great resources for unexpected, fun, and design-conscious playthings for little ones. We've rounded up 10 of our favorite finds from museum stores across the country — from New York to California and everywhere in between — and they're all available online!
The Exploratorium, an experimental museum/learning lab in San Francisco, got a new 330,000-square-foot waterfront home on Pier 15, and we got a sneak peak of the science center before its official grand opening on April 17. The museum focuses on five areas: senses and perception, human behavior, living systems, "tinkering" with tools, and — thanks to its new campus situated right by the bay — outdoor environments.
From gigantic 300-year-old trees to perception-distorting tubes and pixels, the Exploratorium wows with science. There are mind-blowing exhibits galore (the Exploratorium has over 600!), but we're looking forward to returning to the museum for seven art-meets-science projects in particular. Check out the eye-opening experiments you absolutely must get your hands on when you visit the Exploratorium, and preview the new indoor/outdoor space that'll have you marking San Francisco as your next geek destination.
The world has never been as invested in childhood as it is today. Sure, that's a bold statement, but after visiting the Museum of Modern Art's new Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000 exhibit, it certainly is an accurate one. The turn of the century brought a new interest in the childhood phase of life, and as Modernist design began to filter into the mainstream, it was quickly incorporated into kids' worlds via toys, posters, games, playgrounds, and schoolhouses.
The 500 items included in the exhibit — which is on display at the NYC museum until Nov. 4 — show how the focus has changed over the past hundred years starting with kindergarten movement founder Friedrich Fröbel's colorful cutting papers and simple wooden blocks, moving on to Maria Montessori's colorful and useful objects, then on to the Bauhaus movement, during which abstract design worked its way into toy development, and then finally into the post-World War II era as cardboard and plastic became the preferred materials for toy design.
The exhibit houses nostalgic favorites like the Spirograph and Playsam as well as an original Lego set, the first Colorforms, and pieces from the set of Pee-wee's Playhouse. But by far my favorite piece was a British catalog produced in 1939 entitled 25 Best Toys For Each Age — it showed me that 73 years ago, moms were already trying to ensure that their tots were playing with the best toys possible.
Keep reading to see a few other highlights from the exhibit, and if a trip to NYC is in your plans this Fall, be sure to add a visit to the MoMA to your to-do list!
For centuries, scientists have explored the internal systems of animals in an attempt to learn more about our origins and genetic relationships. Sketches pulled from Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks show very accurate skeletal and muscular anatomies of horses and men. Those served as the basis of his artwork as well as an outlet for his intellectual curiosity.
At London's Natural History Museum, a new exhibit called Animals Inside Out indulges mankind's fascination by displaying plastinated animals that use the same technology developed by Gunther von Hagens's for the popular Body Worlds exhibits. While fiendish at first glance, the displays showcase the intricate architecture of an amazing animal world.
Take a look at these images and then let us know: fascinating or freaky?
Day at the museum! Among the awesome kid-friendly sites to visit around the US are some truly incredible children's museums. Though they've been designed to please tots, these exciting places can be a lot of fun for mom and dad too — who doesn't enjoy touching a starfish every now and then? Keep reading for ten exciting children's museums to put on your "Before They Grow Up Too Fast" bucket list.
Every once in a while, moms need a break on the weekend. If your Saturdays are filled with endless errands, having a babysitter to take care of the lil ones while you cross things off your to-do list can be a life-saver. And it can be a great time for your tots, too! Check out how a day off for you can turn into a day of adventure for your kids!
If you need a big ticket holiday gift for the geek on your list, I'd suggest a trip to Seattle. Besides taking in the city itself, there are a few awesome exhibits at the Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum (EMP|SFM) and Pacific Science Center that any BSG- or Star Wars-loving-geek will be dying to see.
From now until March 4, 2012, the EMP|SFM is running Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition, showcasing full-size spaceships, costumes, music, and other props from the series. Check out a video of the exhibition to see just what's in store. Beginning next year on March 19 and running until May 8 is the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination show at the Pacific Science Center. The exhibition features props and costumes, and focuses on the science from the films like space travel, mechanical prosthetics, robotics, and levitation technology.
Who's up for a geeky vacation?
When I first looked at this canvas from The Royal Academy's Annual Summer Exhibition, I couldn't help but think: how long did it take the artist to create it? A couple of hours? Yet there's something very calming and delightful about its simplicity, and I'm sure much thought went into it. In fact, I would love to hang it on my wall.
The piece, ironically titled "Untitled No 39," is part of the world's largest open submission exhibition. This year The Royal Academy received 11,000 submissions from up-and-coming artists, and almost all the featured works are on sale. So if you'd like, you can also have the giant guerilla made out of coat hangers in your living room. If I had a reason to go to London this Summer, I would most definitely stop in. Have you added checking out museums, either at home or on the road, to your Summer to-do list?
Looking for something active to do this weekend with your significant other? The problem is that it's cold outside and depending on where you live possibly rainy or snowy.
Check out a new museum! Walking around a museum is not highly vigorous, but it gets you off the couch, out of the house and walking around. Not sure if your husband will be excited to see the Titanic Exhibit? Mine neither, so try going to different museums that might strike his fancy like The International Spy Museum in Washington DC. Maybe it will even encourage him to get in shape, since it's hard to be an international man of mystery if you're huffing and puffing while running after enemy #1. Or how about The Museum of Sex in NYC. Unless you want to rush through the museum, be sure to let him know that sex burns calories too after you see the exhibits. To find museums near you, check out the American Association of Museums.
Fit's Tip: Be sure to bring a pedometer so you can see how many steps you are really taking. Be careful when eating at the food courts at museums, it could be very easy to eat more calories than you actually burn seeing the sights.