The children’s museums I have visited generally have left me cold. The term itself implies an oxymoron, reinforced by pint-sized institutions whose adult conjurors often do a lame job in trying to engage the child’s effervescent, imaginative world, down to the fake kid’s lettering on the wall and the omnipresence of felt. The Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, located on 75 North Water Street in Poughkeepsie, is the opposite: a funhouse of history and science that you not only want to bring your kid to, but wouldn’t mind checking out yourself, if only that kid were still around so you had an excuse.
The website, www.mhcm.org, will explain it all; but here are a few of the attractions that are particularly enticing: a working model of a tidal estuary; a reconstructed mastodon skeleton that you can climb on (unlike the dinosaur bones in the American Museum of Natural History); a planetarium; a rock-climbing wall; a Morse Code telegraph display; life-sized, hand-painted puppets that ring bells; displays demonstrating physics through the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci; a diving bell that descends into the Hudson; a toy town displaying the kinds of trades and shops that once existed in the area; and a giant bubble-making apparatus.
The Museum also clearly aims to raise kids’ consciousness when it comes to energy-efficiency and the environment: A sculpture by Rachel Collet of Tivoli, created from seven buckets of broken glass that were harvested as part of a trash cleanup of the Fallkill Creek in 2009, adorns the Diving Bell exhibit, and a miniature carousel helps illustrate the benefits of wind and solar energy.
The Museum, which is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, costs $7.50, regardless of whether you are an adult or a child – which is reasonable, considering what museum admissions in big cities charge, but nonetheless a bit steep if you have several kids in tow. So if you are on a tight budget (and who isn’t, these days?), definitely check out the “Family Free Night” this Saturday, November 19 from 5 to 8 p.m., when admission is free. There will also be two showings of the night sky in the inflatable Starlab Planetarium, at 6 and 7 p.m., with tickets costing $4 for age 3 and over; since space is limited, it’s best to register in advance.