outdoor exhibit the exploratorium

The San Francisco Exploratorium With Little Kids

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Is The Exploratorium With Little Kids A Good Idea?

We’ve been talking about going to the Exploratorium with little kids for years. It’s new location on the Embarcadero makes it even more attractive considering you have great restaurants, The Wharf and The Ferry Building within walking distance.

I’ve always suspected the exhibits would be too advanced for children until they reached grade school age. To a degree, I was right. True, the majority of the exhibits had either a flashing light, a button to push or a crank to turn. However, the concept was a bit over my 4 and 5 year olds little noggin’s. The exhibits are indeed fascinating and intricate. Topics like light, electricity and life cycles of microorganisms definitely have fundamentals, but also contain PhD level concepts within them that could overwhelm any adult scholar!

Don’t get caught up explaining the exhibits

The attention span of a toddler is about 15 seconds. By the time you read the sign about what the exhibit is about, your little one may be off to the next station. I really wanted to leave the Exploratorium with the feeling that my kids learned something about science so I started reading the exhibit signs out loud but they were too visually stimulated to listen! Your little ones probably won’t understand the depth of the exhibit or the verbiage on the sign. Instead, make up your own explanation using your first reaction to the exhibit. It’s ok if it’s simple or something they already know. I explored on my own and then called my kids back to particular stations that I thought were at their level.

Avoid outside exhibits during lunch time

The outdoor exhibits were some of our favorites. We made the mistake of exploring these right before and after we ate lunch outside with 4 school buses full of other kids. Our kids didn’t get to experience everything outside because it was pretty chaotic. We suggest exploring the outside exhibits first or sometime after the lunch rush.

Consider your timing

Weekdays may seem like the best time to go to the Exploratorium, however there are still crowds for school field trips. These groups tend to stick together so many exhibits can get overwhelmed by 10 ten-year olds. Lunch time can get crowded too. Most big groups will eat outside, which is also where some of the best exhibits for little kids are. Whether you plan on eating at one of the two cafe’s at the Exploratorium or you bring your own lunch plan on the early or late side of noon. You’ll give your family a chance to see the outdoor exhibits without the lunch crowd and the inside exhibits will free up during the noon hour.

Break up the tour

There are a lot of stations and exhibits to see at the Exploratorium with little kids. They do allow guests to leave and come back. All you need is a stamp on your hand. The next time we go I think I’ll suggest we blitz some exhibits for an hour or so, leave for lunch at one of the many great spots on the Embarcadero and then come back for another hour or so. This trip we went back in for more after lunch on the deck and the kids seemed to re-engage in the exhibits. We even went back to a few favorites and it was fun that they remembered them from earlier.

Ditch your stroller

Take advantage of the stroller parking provided. The stations within the exhibits are pretty close together and if there are a lot of families visiting that day or a lot of school field trips, a stroller is going to be a pain.

Besides the fog machine and the wave machine, here are a few of our favorite exhibits!

Spinning Blackboard

Kids can use tools to manipulate the sand while it spins.

Floating Objects

There are a few different floating object stations, but kids love to place objects over the wind source and see them float!

3D Shapes

Velcro pieces together to make all kinds of 3D shapes and learn about angles.

Outdoor Exhibits

This play trailer is made entirely from skateboards! Kids can practice riding!

We are excited for our next visit to the Exploratorium! We learned a lot about what to expect and can conclude that no matter what age this museum has a lot to offer. If you find yourself in need of any kid gear to make your trip easier check out kidtrip to see what mom’s in San Francisco have to offer!