The great thing about the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is that it’s thoughtfully set up for kids of all ages to play openly and creatively. And it’s completely interactive from the time you enter the doors. Literally, I have trouble getting my toddler aged son away from the huge glass bird at the entrance every single time. We never have enough time to get through the entire museum, which is why I especially love having a membership now so we can experience a new part or exhibit of the museum each time we go without feeling like we HAVE to do everything.
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is especially great to visit with a toddler. With that in mind, below is our recap of the various exhibits and our favorite displays for toddlers that keep us returning to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh again and again.
The Attic (1st Floor)
This exhibit looks just like it sounds, with older looking toys, artifacts and pictures on the wall and it’s a great mix of old and new. Our favorite displays for toddlers include:
- The “color bouncer,” which is an intricate wooden ball machine that color codes and bounces balls into the appropriate bin. This is one of my son’s favorite exhibits, and he’d stay there all day if I let him.
- The animated puppet show that allows even the littlest of kids to star in their own show. It uses a Kinect system to capture their movements and display them in puppet form on the screen. (My son and I love doing this together!)
- The wooden contraption that allows kids to put pegs in holes and spin the wheel around. It’s the perfect height for toddlers and we know how much little kids love fitting shapes into things.
- The “shy lights” next to the attic, which is a hallway of lights that move away when you step on the spots. My son loves playing peekaboo here and running around to make make the lights move.
The Garage (1st Floor)
The Garage has a lot of fun things to build and move (just think of a car garage!) Most of the displays here require Mom or Dad’s assistance for the younger toddlers, but they’re still super fun. Our favorites include:
- Pushing the orange bouncy balls up to the top of the machine and using a lever to pull them down.
- Using the pulley system to pull balls up to a track along the ceiling.
- Building a race car with magnetic blocks and roller blade wheels to make a car and race it around.
- Picking from dozens of match box cars to race on a race track you can build yourself using magnetic tracks.
The Nursery (2nd Floor)
While the entire Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is toddler friendly, the Nursery is specifically geared toward toddlers. It has toys just their height and developmental abilities to inspire learning through play. The first time I went to the Children’s Museum last year with my niece, I literally thought it was a nursery. (So we skipped this floor and totally missed out!) Since then, we can’t go to this Pittsburgh museum without stopping at the nursery. My son’s favorite things to do there include:
- Playing at the sand tables with various items to roll, brush and scoop the sand with.
- Using the colored pegs to make colorful pictures against the black background.
- Putting wooden balls in the maze contraption to roll them through to the bottom.
- Rolling the wooden trains around the tracks. (It doesn’t matter where we go; train tables will always be a favorite.)
- Viewing the wooden shapes filled with various colorful objects.
I also love that the Nursery is somewhat enclosed and you can let toddlers freely play without feeling like you need to guide their every move.
Thursdays from 10:30-11:30, there’s a natured inspired program called Young Sprouts for kids under 5, which includes nature exploration, stories and songs. Check out our post on Unique Story Times in Pittsburgh for more.
Waterplay (3rd Floor)
Right when you step onto the 3rd floor, it feels like you’re in a little indoor water park. The entire floor also has a slip proof surface and is designed with small holes to allow the water to flow through. So kids can literally pour, dump and splash with water anywhere on the floor they’d. The traction on the floor is also great, so you don’t have to worry about them slipping the entire time. Some of our favorite activities here include:
- Filling a bucket with water to play with water toys
- Use an elephant watering can to fill and dump water on the floor, in the running water or really anywhere
- Running under the rain shower to get soaked
- “Catching” water bugs with a net
- Using the hand pump to pump water out
Tip: Bring your kid’s swimsuit and save the water floor for last. It’s definitely better than worrying about them getting wet the entire time. (A mistake I made the first time until getting this tip from a friend!) They do have aprons, but the reality is that an apron isn’t going to keep your kid from getting wet.
Rotating Exhibits (1st Floor & Basement Theater)
The rotating exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh can typically be seen on the first floor or in the theater room in the basement. Below are a few examples of exhibits in the past that have been great for toddlers.
- As of June 2019, current special exhibits are themed around Curious George and stories from the author Eric Carle. Both exhibits allow kids to follow along with the stories in a fun and interactive way. We highly recommend making the visit before they end on September 8, 2019.
- TapeScape (Past Exhibit): This play structure made almost entirely of tape made it’s 3rd appearance in 2019. So far it’s come back annually since it’s inception, and it was bigger than ever this year. With tunnels, slides and different areas to climb, it’s definitely worth the visit.
- Other past exhibits have included:
- Rube Goldberg™: The World of Hilarious Invention!
- Thomas the Train
- Daniel Tiger
Outdoor Spaces at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
If you’re visiting the Children’s Museum in the warmer months, you don’t have to sacrifice the beautiful weather to visit. There are two areas outside that are great for toddlers, and they continue to expand the outdoor spaces.
The Backyard at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
The backyard usually opens in May of each year and stays open throughout the summer. The main feature of the backyard is a clubhouse for kids to climb up and use their imagination from. The sandbox if a favorite for toddlers, and it includes trucks and various tools that kids can dig around and play with. Other features include a swingset and solar panel that both make music. Just like the Waterplay room, we recommend saving this one for last since the kiddos can easily get dirty having fun with the sand pit and mud.
The Garden at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
This area is right next to the main entrance of the museum, and it can be easily overlooked if it’s not on your radar. The Garden is an actual functioning garden, and its a great way for kids to learn first hand about gardening and the upkeep of various plants. During the warmer months, Young Sprouts is held outdoors in the Garden. We were lucky enough to catch this during a prior visit. The kids had a blast learning about compost, watering plants and also playing with various toys including bubbles and ribbons.
The Studio (1st Floor)
The Studio offers a number of arts and crafts, including painting on easels, screen printing and clay making. While some of the activities are geared toward older kids, most of them can be done by toddlers with parental assistance. Plus there are art smocks available if you want to keep your little artist from completely covering themselves in paint.
The MAKESHOP® (1st Floor)
The MAKESHOP® is a cool space where children can build things using a variety of items and materials. For younger toddlers, there are building blocks and other wooden objects for them to build structures on the floor. My son loves the circuitry table, where he can build little battery powered gadgets with the help of the staff. The MAKESHOP® also offers various make and take items throughout the week.
Know Before You Go: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
- Hours: Open every day from 10am- 5pm
- Admission: $16 for Adults/ $14 for Kids/ Children under 2 are free
- Various memberships packages are available and include:
- Access to both the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the new Museum Lab (geared toward kids ages 10+)
- 10% off the gift shop and discounted parking
- Access to special member events
- Reciprocal membership with free or discounted admission at ASTC or ACM affiliated museums.
- A joint membership between the Children’s Museum and the National Aviary is available
- *NEW* Summer Memberships are also available at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh for use from June 1- August 31
- For more information on memberships available at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, see here
Additional Tips for visiting the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh with a Toddler
- There are several quiet rooms throughout the museum. These are great for nursing mother’s to use or if your kids just need a quiet reading break from all the stimulation at the museum.
- You can pack your lunch and eat it in the Big Red Room Cafe (something I always appreciate with a little eater) or they have a great menu with reasonably priced food.
- Since the children’s museum of Pittsburgh is SO hands on, I wouldn’t recommend putting your kids cutest outfits on. Have them where play clothes, expect them to get a little dirty, and let kids be kids!
- The Children’s Museum has a field trip forecast on their website, which is awesome if you’re debating what day of the week to go and want to avoid the crowds. (I seriously wish every museum did this.)
- Don’t forget to bring your swim suit for the Waterplay area!
Be sure to check out the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh Website before you go at www.pittsburghkids.org
Children’s Book Inspiration: Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emma Garcia
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