Monday, October 8, 2007

Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium

We continued our day at the Field Museum in the Underground Adventure exhibit. Here you shrink down to 1/100th your size and go into the soil to see what's going on. There were roots hanging down and all kinds of huge moving bugs. Maddie said, "This is scary and fun. I'm excited and scared at the same time!

Here is the creepy crayfish.

Some of our favorite areas were Inside Ancient Egypt, the Nature Walk, and the Grainger Hall of Gems. We wound up at this Maori meeting house, Ruatepupuke II. The entire surface, inside and out, is decorated with carved faces. The eyes are made of abalone shell, so they glint in the light. It is cool. Click on the picture for a better look.

After 4 hours at the Field, I was talked into going to the Shedd Aquarium also! Max really wanted to see the Lizard and the Komodo King exhibit, and I have been wanting to see Puiji, the newest baby Beluga Whale that was born on 7/17. We saw the baby belugas playing. The lizards were fun to see too. Here is the Komodo.
We went through Wild Reef next. The shark area was really impressive. The kids favorite part was a spot where the tiles you are walking on are clear, so you can see small sting rays swimming under your feet. One was chasing Maddie's feet around in circles. It was really funny.

Crown Family Play Lab at The Field Museum

9/08/07 We had the day off from school today, thank you Columbus, so we decided to go on another adventure. We have been waiting all summer for free days at the Museum Campus, and they are finally here. Every Monday and Tuesday through November. We started our day at the Field Museum. They have a new area for the younger set, the Crown Family Play Lab. It has only been open for about a month. We were happily surprised with all they had to offer. There are 6 play areas: We started in the Illinois Woodland, a three-dimensional diorama where the lights change from night to day, and kids can dress up as animals and star in their own nature play. Max liked the red cardinal costume.
Maddie went for the gray squirrel. They have animals hidden around the area that light up and reveal themselves.

Next the kids picked corn at the Pueblo and played with the miniature villages. The volunteers here were great. They play with the kids and explain things to them in appropriate ways.

They ask a lot of questions to get the kids talking and thinking. It was really engaging and fun for them.

They do a nice thing with their story time here. First they read a story, then they take the kids into the Art Studio to make a related project.

This time the story was "Crocadilly" about a crocodile remembering her Egyptian history. Then they made crocodile mummies.

Next, we went in to the Rhythm Section, a room full of great instruments for the kids to make music with. The favorite was a large drum that was very satisfying to gather around and pound on.
The kids continued on into the Scientists' Lab where Maddie enjoyed the microscope that was hooked up to a computer screen.

You can also learn to unearth fossils in the Dino Field Station. This was just the start of our day, but I thought it deserved it's own post. The Crown Family Play Lab is such a nice addition to the Field Museum. It brings the excitement of real artifacts and specimens to our younger kids in a fun and engaging way.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Choo Choo Your Food and the Model Train Garden

Today I took the kids to The Choo Choo Grill. It is an authentic 50's diner in Des Plaines. If you sit at the counter, an old Lionel model train drives around a track and brings you your food. The gentleman sitting beside me grew up in the neighborhood. He told us all about the history of the place. It opened in 1951, the same year as the first McDonalds which opened just down the street! The owner thought the golden arches were no competition for him. Even the McDonalds guys did not believe they would surpass Choo Choo's business! This place is local favorite. The food is good, and the novelty of the train delivering it was even better.

We drove over to the original McDonalds, which is now a Museum. It was closed. Apparently it is only opened seasonally.
Then we took off for The Chicago Botanical Gardens, more specifically the Model Railroad Garden. (Yes, I always do like a theme.) This is a portion of the gardens that closes at the end of October, so we wanted to make sure we got there before they close it down for the year.
The exhibit has working model trains, miniature representations of America’s best-loved landmarks, and small-scale gardens. I'm a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, so I enjoyed the replicas of several of his most famous buildings, including Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, Taliesin in Wisconsin, Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park, IL. Here you can see Max by his favorite, the miniature Wrigley Field.

WonderWorks Children's Museum in Oak Park

The kids did not have school today, so we decided to go to Wonder Works.

It is a very small Children's Museum in Oak Park. Max and the other boys his age really liked the ride-on yellow construction equipment.

They have a cute tree house and camping themed area. I really liked the mural painted on that wall.

They had a craft room where the kids could draw and make pencil cases.

The four interactive exhibits were fun; Lights, Camera, Action! (a stage with dress-up), the The Great Outdoors (a tree house and camping area), the Farm to Market area (which my kids really liked, but I thought had seen its day), and North Avenue Art Works (where they have a new craft every week). I don't know if I can recommend this museum. The kids had fun, but there were not enough things to keep them busy for long. It seemed like one big room with old toys scattered around. I think they are trying to expand and build something good for the neighborhood, so you have to respect that. They say it is for kids up to 10 years, but my kids are 5 and 3 and it was just right for them. Most of the kids there were even younger. All in all, it doesn't compare to what's going on at the Navy Pier or Kohl Children's Museums.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Froggy Doggy

We have a new favorite song at our house. "I Had a Little Dog", or as Max calls it, "Froggy Doggy". It's by Key Wilde and is unreleased thus far. They are currently working on a picture book with music and a full length CD with pictures. Check out their web site. You can listen to other songs like Maddie's new fave "Going to the Moon" and the classic "John the Rabbit".

Watch the video!