I had heard nothing but fantastic reviews from parents about the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, CT. A visit from my one and a half and three year-old grandchildren prompted my first visit there today. Wow is all I can say.
Try to choose between the “Waterscape,” “Rainforest Adventure,” “Toddler Terrain,” “Build It” or “ColorCoaster.” Each exhibit is just enough to digest and kid-sized for attention spans and interest. We hardly got past the “Waterscape” room, where we were offered a plastic smock to keep kids dry as they explored fog, currents, whirlpools and waterways. Plenty of realistic play turtles and crabs and were available for swimming in the pools of water.
Next, we discovered the “ColorCoaster,” a 27 foot kinetic sculpture–a giant mechanical toy whose balls were whipped, dropped, and cascaded along metal trails, gathered by the arms of a gorilla or rolled into the mouth of an turtlle. Ben, 1 1/2, who loved balls, was so fascinated, we had to pull him away to the next exhibit.
Putting on the appropriate costume for each exhibit encouraged the pretend play as kids wore dental coats to examine a larger than life set of teeth, a doctor’s coat to drive the ambulance and work the walking talkie in “Healthyville,” a fireman’s coat to put out a fire, or a tool belt in “Build It” to construct a project. “Toddler Terrain,” designed as a safe place for toddlers to explore on slides, shapes and projects just their size, even had a rack of costumes to choose from–bug wings, ladybugs or bears.
Since much of the research emphasizes the importance of play in building language skills that under gird academic skills, this is a place to let your child loose to explore.
Besides the benefit of creative, interesting, interactive exhibits for kids, this museum is a resource for parents and educators. With an emphasis on raising healthy kids, their programs educate the community through activities for families and school groups. They have a resource library with tubs of language enhancing toys as well as a library of books that can be checked out for use at home.
If you are within driving distance or planning a trip to the East Coast, make sure the Stepping Stones Museum for Children is on your itinerary. As we left, my adult son said, “This is better than the Children’s Museum in Boston.” That’s quite a compliment!