This is part 2 of our visit to the Please Touch Museum. Sorry about the lack of photos - I was having too much fun playing with the exhibits!

After lunch, we went to explore Roadside Attractions which was in the opposite wing. The theme for this exhibit was road transportation. There were lots of opportunities for pretend play and role playing here. Children could pretend that they were going on a trip on a SEPTA bus (or they could be the driver), he/she could pretend to buy/sell a sandwich from a roadside snacks/drinks cart, or work the excavators at a construction site (scoop up balls). They could also fill up their cars at the gas station or fill up tires with air, collect tolls, learn about road signs, construct a large car (put on the wheels, the bumper, etc), send a car to a carwash, ride a scooter, etc. Ryan had a lot of fun here.

Next to this was "City Park", which was a replica of a small park, with park benches and trees. There is a mural made up of magnetic tiles there, which the children can rearrange to create an image and learn how things fit together.

The Please Touch Playhouse Theater was having a puppet show so we went over to the theater. On the way, we passed the Liberty Arm & Torch which is a 40-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty's Arm and Torch. The sculpture is made of toys, games and other objects. There is a small circular flight of steps leading up to it and you can touch it freely and try to spot some of your old favourite toys and games. It sits in Hamilton Hall, which is in the centre of Memorial Hall, and you can see the Memorial Hall's famous copper dome above it.

There was another sculpture made from discarded toys just outside the cafe called Artie the Elephant, which is a life-sized elephant made from hundreds of discarded playthings, including a 1960s Batmobile, some Smurfs, a Spider-Man and a football helmet.

The playhouse was putting on a puppet show called "There's Something Under My Bed". Here's a trailer on Youtube of the show, although the puppeteer we had was a different person from the person in the trailer. The show was fantastic, we enjoyed it thoroughly.

After the show, we ventured into Wonderland. This is based on the world of Alice in Wonderland. You can walk through a circular maze of green hedges, have tea with the Mad Hatter, make tea in a hollowed out tree trunk (the Duchess' Kitchen), play in the Hall of Doors and Mirrors where proportions and perspectives are not what they seem, play dress up - whether as the Mad Hatter, Alice or a playing card, and play croquet with flamingoes as the characters did in the story.

As usual, there was a toddler area for the youngest among us. It was called "Fairytale Garden" where children could pick apples off a tree, pin the laundry on a line (or take it off and put it in a basket), go on a ship adventure (like in the story of The Owl and the Pussycat), milk a cow, etc.

Oh Captain, my Captain! (The boat rocks and rolls while there are people in it) 
Next to this was a hall which housed the Centennial Exploration exhibit, which showcased the sight and sounds of Philadelphia in 1876. We were running out of time so we gave this a miss, but from the writeup on the website it did sound very interesting and fun for the children. Although it is more of an "adult" exhibit, there are still hands-on experiences for the children to explore, like an old telephone, typewriter, building a miniature railroad, playing with a wooden dollhouse, etc.

We spent a lot of time at City Capers, a child-sized "city" in the museum, which lets children explore a realistic urban environment, while getting to know the people, places and businesses that make up city life. There is a medical centre with lab coats, cribs, baby dolls and doctor's equipment, where the children can pretend to be a doctor/nurse/patient, there is a shoe store, with lots of shoes, where they can pretend to be a salesperson, customer or shopowner. There is a construction site ("Busy Build") where children can pretend to be construction workers, architects or city planners while using the tools and equipment on the construction site, like pulleys to lift bricks, etc.

Part of City Capers is "Front Step", which is the toddlers area. There is a small house surrounded by a garden complete with deck chairs. The children can go into the house and sit at the dining table or they can hang out on the porch. They can also do some vegetable gardening - Ryan planted and harvested some potatoes and carrots - or mow the lawn.

The most popular store at City Capers is the Supermarket. Children get to role play as customer or cashier. They can wheel a child-sized trolley around the supermarket and select the items they wish to buy from the display shelves. And after they have purchased their items, they can learn to re-stock the shelves (ie. put the items away!). Next to the supermarket is a kitchen, with kitchen counters and cupboards, a fridge, stove and dining table, for the children to put away their purchases or cook up a meal for the family.

And yes, there is a replica of McDonald's - the quintessential symbol of modern civilisation. We didn't go there.

The last exhibit zone we explored was Flight Fantasy, which has an outer space theme. Children are encouraged to experiment with balance, speed and coordination and create movement using their bodies. For example, there is a giant hamster wheel, a balance beam, a flying propeller bike, and a pedal track that operates a revolving circuit of toys. There is also a space where you can put together UFOs and rockets (made of styrofoam) and launch them across the room. Lots of opportunities to learn about math (there are timers at each launching station), science (gravity, wind resistance, lift), cause and effect, plus lots of gross motor development.

We next visited The Program Room, which provides arts-related programmes for the children, whether painting or building a tower with blocks. You can sit as long as you like with your child and play or paint as many pieces as you like, for free. In fact, everything in the museum was free, except for the Carousel (and the food at the cafe of course).

One of Ryan's masterpieces done at the Program Room
Our last stop was the bookstore/toy store/gift shop, where we picked up some toys and souvenirs for Ryan.

In addition to the interactive exhibits, the museum also has a collection of over 12,500 toys from yesteryear. There are little nooks and crannies around the museum displaying these old toys like Marvin the Martian, an entire Smurf collection and some old Star Wars figurines.

The museum was a wonderful experience. The exhibits were attractive and interesting enough to capture the interest and imagination of the children, and they provided lots of learning opportunities through play. The children were free to touch everything and play with all the exhibits in any manner they could imagine - there was no "right" or "wrong" way to handle the exhibits or to play and there were no museum staff to tell you not to do this or not to do that. There was one staff member stationed at each toddler area, one staff member at River Adventures to help with the waterproof overalls and one staff member at Roadside Attractions to help the children with the excavators. There was also one staff member at the Carousel and one inside the Program Room to replenish the art materials - but most of the time she was painting her own artpiece! So we were largely left on our own to discover and explore and play. Fantastic place.

Once again, sorry about the lack of photos - here's a Youtube video (slightly less than 3 minutes) with a general overview of the museum, and you can also see the children playing with the exhibits. Good stuff. We were glad that we made the trip.

Next instalment - New York City!


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