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Creativity Jam: One of Many New Exhibits Opening at Minnesota Children’s Museum

The Minnesota Children’s Museum reopens this week in St. Paul after being closed for several months for a major remodel, and the kids and I are beyond excited! For real, my son was jumping up and down on the couch the other day when I shared the news with him. The museum has been a family-favorite destination ever since I left my desk job to be a stay-at-home mama four years ago. And after a long winter, we are in desperate need of our museum fix.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Minnesota Children’s Museum

{I received a family membership to the Minnesota Children’s Museum for sharing my family’s experiences at the museum with you. All opinions expressed in my posts are 100% my own.}

Why do we love MCM so much? Let me explain:

  1. Change of scenery. I think we can all agree that sometimes you just need to leave your house because the kids are going bonkers, and they are driving you bonkers. A trip to the museum gives us all a break from our normal routine and interactions, and it gives us an opportunity to explore new territory.
  2. Time to reconnect. I will admit that sometimes it is hard for me to play with my children. Dressing Barbie dolls in different outfits, and playing target practice with Nerf guns can get old real fast. I find myself making excuses like having laundry and dishes to do in order to get out of setting up Shopkins and studying how many points a Pokémon card is worth. When going to the museum, I am forced to play. And through play, I am able to relax and reconnect with my kids. There are no distractions of needing to get something done around the house, and there isn’t a Barbie in sight. It’s a win-win for mama and the kids.
  3. Space to learn. At the museum we have an amazing opportunity to play in an environment that is engaging, fun, and creative. The museum gives us access to many activities that we don’t have at home, and it gives us more space to enjoy playful activities together. What I love most about the Minnesota Children’s Museum is their emphasis on learning through play. Exhibits are thoughtfully designed to spark creativity, innovation, and critical thinking. Volunteers are stationed throughout exhibits to encourage children to explore ideas about how things work. And because there are many other families visiting the museum too, kids have a great opportunity to learn to communicate better and collaborate with each other as well.

The Minnesota Children’s Museum officially reopens on Wednesday, June 7th, but last week the baby and I got to take a sneak peek at some of the exhibits while the big kids were at school. The museum designed and built ten new amazing exhibits for kids of all ages, and one of the exhibits that I am especially looking forward to exploring often with my kiddos this summer is Creativity Jam.

Creativity Jam is an artistic space for families to create new projects and expand on projects that have been created by other museum-goers. The exhibit, which is like a giant canvas for the inner artist of each visitor, is located in the atrium near the new Sprouts exhibit and the cafe. It consists of a face-painting station (which has always been a favorite museum feature with my kiddos), a stop-motion video story station, a workspace for creating and building projects, and the big white room.

Play is such an important part of our children’s lives, and ours too as adults and parents. And part of play is allowing ourselves to create. Creativity Jam gives families opportunities to build with a variety of materials that the museum plans to change out here and there. The exhibit allows kids to put stickers and tape on walls and other objects (something they can’t do at home!). It gives children the freedom to use their imaginations and explore ideas with video storytelling. And kids and parents get a chance to loosen up with some fun face painting. The activities in Creativity Jam are engaging for kids, adults, and even toddlers. I didn’t think that my littlest one would be able to enjoy the activities, but she hopped up on a stool all by herself and started building with blocks and playing the piano. Creativity Jam is a great space for truly letting one’s imagination soar.

Do you need some inspiration to find more joy in playing with your kids? Are you looking for a new space you can escape to with your family when you are in need of an engaging experience? Be sure to add a visit to the museum on your summer bucket list. The museum also offers family memberships, which pay for themselves after only a few visits. There are so many new exhibits to explore and adventures to be had with your children at MCM. I know life gets busy, and there always seems to be something that needs to get done around the house or at work. However, play is important too. Play gives us the chance to connect, explore, learn, and create. It gives us the opportunity to feel free to be ourselves, and that’s an amazing feeling.

Please visit mcm.org for more information about the museum’s grand opening, the free block party later this month, family memberships, location, and hours. Let’s make play a priority in our community again!

This magical moment.

Noticing the simple, magical moments in our everyday lives.

ThisMagicMoment

I am a worrier. I worry about my kids when they are playing rough. I worry about my to-do list when it doesn’t seem like I am adding enough checkmarks. I worry about my husband encountering distracted drivers on his way to and from work. I worry, and when I worry, my view of what is in front of me becomes a little cloudy and grey—the world becomes a lot less magical.

In January, I decided that instead of making a New Year’s resolution I would choose one word to live by in 2015: magical. I needed to focus on worrying less, especially about what I have no control over. And I needed to learn how to see the world through the eyes of my children more often. Yes, so much of what goes on in the world is scary and heartbreaking, but every day there are magical moments happening right in front of us. When we put our fears and worries aside, when we take a moment to breathe and open our eyes, we let the magic in.

As I look back on these past seven months, or seven days, or even the past seven hours, I admit that there have been many moments that were not magical. There have been many moments when my eyes have been closed and my heart has felt heavy with worries. But I am learning. I am learning to worry less. I am learning to see how beautiful the most simple and ordinary moments can be. I am learning a lot of this from my kids.

A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I were invited to attend Princess Wednesdays at the Hard Rock Café at the Mall of America. For attending and writing about the event, the Hard Rock Café treated my family to lunch. I went to the event prepared to take notes about our experience watching the princesses from Tiny Diva Princess Party perform as well as the experience of having lunch with my kiddos somewhere other than the park or our home. However, I ended up spending most of my time paying attention to my kids’ reactions. I sipped on my water, ate my juicy and spicy Fiesta Burger, and I watched my children. While my son was having more fun drawing on his kid’s menu, my daughter was absolutely delighted by what was happening before her eyes.

While the kiddos and I ate our food, we watched Anna, Elsa and Kristoff perform some of our favorite songs from Frozen. We had a great seat by the stage, and to be honest, I had a fun time singing along. While my daughter stared at the Frozen Sisters, I couldn’t help but stare at her with a heart full of joy. It was such a simple moment, but for my daughter, it was a magical moment. At one point during the performance, Anna stepped down from the stage to sing and dance with the dozens of kids at the performance. I was about to tap my daughter on the shoulder to encourage her to join Anna and the other children, but for the first time (in forever), she didn’t need my encouragement. She took one more bite of her macaroni and cheese, she gently set her fork down and hopped down from her chair, and she marched over to Anna to hug her. It was such a sweet moment for my girl, and it was a proud moment for me. My daughter tends to be quite shy in these types of social settings, and while she was still a little meek, I saw her take a big, confident step all on her own. And for me, that moment was magical.

HRCMeetAndGreetwithFrozen

The Princess Wednesdays event was fun and we enjoyed our meals while watching the characters perform. Afterward, the kids all had a chance to meet and take pictures with Anna, Elsa and Kristoff. As a parent, it was so entertaining seeing all of the kids excited about singing at their tables, dancing with the Frozen Sisters and meeting some of their favorite characters. The event was free for dine-in guests, and it was a great way to spend an early afternoon with the family. Kids meals are reasonably priced, and we all ended up taking leftovers home. And to sweeten the deal, all Twin Cities Kids Club members who attended the event received $5 off of their purchase of $25 or more at the Hard Rock Café.

Twin Cities Kids Club is sponsoring two more Princess Wednesdays events at the Hard Rock Café during the month of August, and I would love to see you and your kiddos there. The events will be held on Wednesday, August 12th and Wednesday, August 26th starting at 11:00 a.m. at the Hard Rock Café in the Mall of America (located on the first floor near the LEGO® store and Nickelodeon Universe®). On Wednesday, August 12th, all are welcome to dress up in their favorite princess gowns and eat a royal lunch with the princesses of Tiny Diva Princess Party. On Wednesday, August 26th, all are welcome to enjoy a theatrical story time performance of Diva Ever After with the princesses while eating lunch. To learn more about the upcoming events and to make a reservation, please visit the Twin Cities Kids Club Events page on Facebook here.

While guests pay for their own lunch at the Princess Wednesdays events, the performances, and meet and greets with the princesses of Tiny Diva Princess Party are free. So don’t forget to bring your camera! Guests who are also members of Twin Cities Kids Club will get $5 off of their $25 purchase by showing their membership card. To learn more about purchasing a membership, please visit Twin Cities Kids Club.

HRCFunnyFace

{Disclaimer: I received a free lunch from the Hard Rock Café for sharing my experience of attending Princess Wednesdays. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. I am also a team member of Twin Cities Kids Club, and I am excited to share my adventures of working with a fun, small, local group of talented individuals.}

Minnesota Transportation Museum + Family Admission Giveaway

JacksonStreetRoundhouseEntrance

Sunshine. Sweet, glorious sunshine and warmth. Oh, how I have longed for you and the day when I could stuff our winter jackets back in the dark and rarely perused closet where they belong. Oh, sunshine, my muse. I have dirt under my fingernails, my pale legs are exposed, and my children are gleefully running around outside wreaking havoc instead of destroying the inside of our cozy little home. Oh, sunshine, my savior. I haven’t felt this strong and peaceful in months. Welcome back.

My fellow Minnesotans, I know you hear me. I see it in your faces and in the extra hop in your step. Warmer, sunnier days have finally arrived. So tell me, what are you going to do now? Are you getting down and dirty in the garden? Are you scrubbing the grass stains off of your kids’ knees? Are you exploring our city and all of the events, museums, parades, patio dining and trails it has to offer? Do you feel more alive? I certainly do. And now I have a bucket list that is growing faster than I can raise the roof and say, “Holla!”

MTMJacksonStreetRoundhouse

I love exploring everything St. Paul has to offer with my kiddos, and a couple of weekends ago we finally put our adventure capes on and made a visit to the Minnesota Transportation Museum‘s Jackson Street Roundhouse Museum. Like almost every other kid, my kiddos are fascinated by trains. And like almost every other parent, I am fascinated by anything that grabs my children’s attention for more than five minutes. I didn’t know what to expect during our visit. From the outside, the Jackson Street Roundhouse Museum doesn’t look very big, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving. The roundhouse boasts one of the last few operating turntables of its kind in the entire U.S., visitors are able to walk through locomotives and explore the history of trains in our city and country, and children have the opportunity to interact with many of the exhibits and stare in awe at the amazing train models chugging around the tracks.

MTMTrainSet

My children spent most of their time playing at the train tables and walking through the old locomotives pretending to be conductors in the museum. Riding the caboose was one of my favorite things to do during our visit, especially since I’ve always wanted to take my kiddos on a train ride. Although my son was extra spritely during the 10 minute ride, it was still relaxing to look out the window and see some other trains up close. If you plan on visiting the museum, please note that caboose rides are only offered on Saturdays. The museum also offers classic bus rides on Saturdays, taking visitors on a tour of Saint Paul. On most Saturdays, food trucks are also available at the museum so guests may fill their bellies during their adventures.

JacksonStreetRoundhouseKidTrainTables

Visitors of the Jackson Street Roundhouse are certainly able to explore the many exhibits the museum has to offer, but guests are also encouraged to check out tours of workers restoring historic rail cars in the shop. Danielle, the outreach coordinator for the Minnesota Transportation Museum, gave us a tour and it is pretty amazing to see what goes into restoring these locomotives. My kids were in awe of the size of some of the tools that are used.

Visiting the Jackson Street Roundhouse is truly an adventure for the whole family. During our visit, I had a chance to chat with Danielle and learn more about all of the work the museum is doing to make their exhibits more interactive and educational for everyone from little wee ones to train buffs. Currently, the museum offers preschool learning programs to college-level educational programs. In addition, more exciting programs are coming to the museum, including World Art Series, Fly Course Wednesdays, Sunday Sessions and a bicycling program.

The World Art Series, which is scheduled to begin in May, will feature local artists who will perform and lead workshops for children and adults who are interested in dance and music from American, European and Latin American cultures. Toward the end of May, the museum will be turned into a paper airplane obstacle course for Fly Course Wednesdays. Local musicians are invited to “busk” in the museum for Sunday Sessions. The museum will offer a “café” setting for those who want to enjoy a cup of coffee and entertainment during their visit. For those who are interested in performing on Sundays, please contact Danielle at Danielle@trainride.org for more information. The bicycling program will offer bicycle safety tips, helmet decorating workshops, and information about local bike trails.

MTMTrain

While there are many educational programs and fun events going on at the Jackson Street Roundhouse Museum, one of the most exciting events of the year is coming up next weekend. On Saturday, May 9, the museum is celebrating National Train Day. Visitors will enjoy live entertainment, face painting, blacksmith demos, free vintage bus rides, scavenger hunts, food trucks and many other activities. The museum will also unveil its new exhibit BNSF Railway Legacy –An Illustrated History Tour.

Thanks to the museum, two of you will receive a free family admission pass to the museum to use on National Train Day or any other visit of your choosing. These passes are valid for two adults and up to 4 children (a $35 value). I will notify the two winners immediately so I can mail the passes out to you to use in time for National Train Day. To enter the giveaway, simply click on the Rafflecopter link below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

My family plans on heading back to the Jackson Street Roundhouse for National Train Day, and I hope to see some of you there!

{Disclosure: The Minnesota Transportation Museum provided me with four Family Admission Passes to give away to readers and to use for my family in exchange for writing this post about the Jackson Street Roundhouse Museum. Pretty sweet, I know. All opinions about the museum are 100% my own, and I am happy to share my family’s experience at the museum with you all.}

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