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Wednesday 22 February 2012

Habitot Children's Museum

Several times a week I walk past an inconspicuous place in Downtown Berkely called Habitot Children's Museum. I always think to myself "I should really go see what that is one day" but for months I've never gotten around to it. Well, last Friday Ava had the day off preschool for President's Day weekend so we thought we'd go check it out. The girls had such a great time that I was kicking myself that we hadn't been before.

The word "Museum" in the title threw me off a little but in actual fact Habitot is more of a play, craft and activity centre for young children. I had half expected to see displays of stuffy old toys from yesteryear!

Habitot is divided into rooms and areas dedicated to one theme each. The first such area we visited had a space theme. A space shuttle full of buttons, knobs, meters, gauges and steering wheels awaits eager young space cadets. Mission control is set up nearby with yet more buttons and knobs and even a means of communicating with the astronauts travelling through space in the rocket - good old hollow pipe! To top it off astronaut uniforms and helmets are provided to make it all a little more realistic.
Ava and Lola loved playing astronaut. Ava loved dressing up and pretending. Lola loved pressing buttons!

Two little astronauts

Commander Ava in space

Mission control

Commander Ava in the cockpit

Time for another space mission

Commander Lola.
She really was enjoying herself, she just really didn't want to pose for a photo!

Getting ready for take off

So many controls

What does this button do?

Mission Control and the Space Shuttle

The next play area we moved on to was the face painting station.
Anyone who knows Ava will be familiar with her obsession with face painting and dressing up. If she had things her way, Ava would be painted like a butterfly/fairy/unicorn/pegasus/rainbow every day of the week!
The face painting station is set up for children to paint their own faces - and their mummy's face too if she sits still long enough! Face painting crayons, activated by being dipped into a wet sponge, are set up in front of well lit mirrors with child size chairs. Ava painted her face with one of  her favourite things - love hearts. She also painted love hearts on my cheeks and Lola got one too.   

Ava at the face painting station

Sweet little hearts

Moving past the face painting and wooden train tables (no photos of that one) we found our selves in a little grocery store. Little shopping trolleys and baskets greet little shoppers ready to "purchase" their fruit, vegetables and baked goods. The shopping experience is complete with a little checkout and cafe area. The plastic fruit, vegetables and breads are quite realistic looking; enough so to convince little shoppers that it really is food. I'm sure that Lola wasn't the only one there trying to eat plastic bread! 
A little grocery shopping
Lola's favourite room in all of Habitot was the water room. Here she and Ava splashed about washing baby dolls, floating boats and rubber duckies, and played with water wheels as you can see below. 
They may be wearing plastic aprons in the photo below but trust me; Lola was absolutely saturated by the time we left this room! Tripping over and falling belly first into a tray of water didn't help! Next time I must remember to take a change of socks and shoes as well as a change of clothes. She was soaked all the way through and had to go barefoot for the rest of time at Habitot.   

Ava and Lola in the water room

The last room in Habitot (other than the toy lending library) is the wind tunnel. This room features two large fans at the end of a corridor and big power buttons for kids to press. Little red petal like hearts float around the room on the wind currents created by the fans. Children scoop up the hearts in baskets and toss them into the air to be blown around again. It's a noisy, fun room but quite tranquil and soothing at the same time. That sounds like a contradiction of terms but the floating red hearts and the cloud painted walls really are quite soothing - unless of course you're trying to take a good photo to capture the moment!

Lola in the wind room
For those feeling creative, an art room is set up with finger painting, craft and clay modelling stations. Children can paint on paper or add to a group painting on large white board wall. Usually Ava is not one to pass up a chance to paint or make artistic creations however on this occasion there were so many other exciting things to do that Ava wasn't all that interested in this particular room. I'm sure she will give it a go next time. Lola had a little go at painting however she is going through a stage in which she doesn't like having dirty hands (I'm sure it won't last long!) so finger painting was out of the question. She also likes to copy her big sister, so Ava not being interested in the art room meant that Lola wasn't particularly interested! We did manage to make a few glittery hand prints though before heading straight to the sink to clean Lola's hands - her favourite part of this room. She loves cleaning her hands at the moment.

The Habitot experience is rounded out with a climbing area, dining area (perfect for birthday parties), a gift shop full of fun, educational toys and a weekly class schedule (think music, art, cooking and science). On Fridays child sized slices of pizza is delivered from nearby Papa John's. This was a huge hit with the girls.

Ava at Habitot

The girls had such a great time at Habitot that we decided to purchase an annual membership. We can now visit Habitot any time we like. Hooray! Our membership also provides reciprocal benefits at other Association of Children's Museums members around the country. This will help cross a few more off the check list. Chabot Space and Science Center, Bay Area Discovery Museum, Children's Creativity Museum, Museum of Children's Art and Lawrence Hall of Science here we come...

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