We’ve been to the Children’s Museum of the Arts before and have participated in their incredible Wee Arts program, where you can drop in most weekday mornings ($25 for the family) for guided art projects, messy finger painting and sing-a-longs. Needless to say, this museum is popular with parents, many of whom seem to be regulars here. If you’re not one, figuring out your game plan is imperative to take advantage of all the offerings at CMA.
On this visit, we checked out the current exhibit, “Cabinets of Wonder: The Art of Collecting.” As a Brooklynite, I’m no stranger to collections. Butterfly boards, seashell trays, and shadow boxes have all graced my Pinterest boards. My son has an egg carton full of tumble rocks, and a growing stash of found piggy banks. My husband has shelves of vinyl that need their own apartment. So, I was interested to see how our collecting habits could be seen as art, and I knew that CMA would make this accessible to me (and my son).
After buying our tickets, we hung our coats up in the free coat closet, and entered the main gallery space where all the art is hung low, so that youngsters will be eye level with the work. According to the museum, this group show presents “Wunderkammer,” which means “strange collections of natural objects, art of bizarre artifacts that illustrate the collector’s rare knowledge or prestige.” Highlights from the collection were groupings of Pez dispensers, visual charts of fauna and an arresting display of black locust thorns. Many surprises kept my son entertained, like the floral board made entirely of money. An interesting array of sculptures hung from the ceiling, and my son wondered what they were. “They look like O’s. No, I think they are seahorses.” On further examination, he correctly surmised (through giggles) that they were actually made of flattened shoes! That “aha” moment was the highlight of my visit to the museum.
My son had a different favorite, and that was definitely the ball pit. A giant “ball pond” entertains stockinged-footed kids of all ages. Each hour is broken into 20-minute increments depending on your child’s birthday, to keep it safe for toddlers and tweens, so it’s probably best to plan your trip around this entry point. But if you have to wait, there is no better place to do it than the Fine Arts Studio, where four communal project tables are set up with a variety of projects. We happened to be there on St. Patrick’s Day, and there was a “Design a Leprechaun Trap” table, a still life set up, a collage project and a make-your-own cardboard stamp.
The one downfall of our day was not realizing that we needed to sign up for the Clay Bar upon arrival. This popular side room was booked solid by the time we found it, so we missed out on getting our hands dirty with sculpture. But even amidst the confusion, the CMA delivers a collection of memories for both parents and children.
After working up an appetite, Westville (which I wrote about a few weeks ago) is right across the street for lunch. Or for a special treat, nothing beats a hot chocolate stop at Jacques Torres a block away.
Children’s Museum of the Arts, 103 Charles Street between Hudson and Greenwich. Mon & Wed: 12pm- 5pm; Thurs & Fri: 12pm- 6pm; Sat- Sun: 10am-5pm; Tues: Closed. Ages 1-65: $11. Pay as you wish: Thursdays 4pm-6pm
Get the most out of your visit at CMA by planning ahead for these two popular attractions:
Clay Bar: When you arrive, head to the Clay Bar and sign your child up for a 35-minute session.
Ball Pond: Each hour is divided into 20-minute time slots by age to ensure the safety of all visitors. The top of the hour to 20 minutes past (:00 to :20) is reserved for 2 to 4 year olds; :20 to :40 is reserved for 5 to 7 year olds; and :40 to :60 is for kids 8 years and up.
Jacques Torres, 35 Hudson St at King St. Hours: Mon- Fri: 8:30am- 7pm; Sat: 9am- 7pm; Sun: 10:30am- 6:30pm.