I’m an absolute sucker for museums, and growing up outside of Washington D.C., I took advantage of the Smithsonian Institute’s many offerings regularly. I loved going downtown, picking a museum and wandering through it’s collections; absorbing the history, art or science at my own pace. However, with two little kids, museum trips are fewer and farther between, and focused on child oriented exhibits.
I wanted to have a special adventure with the whole family while we were in Indiana this last weekend. Originally we were planning to go to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, but we changed our mind due to time restraints. So I quickly started trying to remember what we did in Indiana when I was a kid, and I vaguely remembered a living museum that my aunt took me to a couple times. So after a quick Google search, Matt and I decided to take the kids out to Connor Prairie; it was closer than the museum, less expensive, and outdoors.
The Connor Prairie Interactive History Park has a number of areas recreating life in Indiana during the 19th century, some nature exhibits and some play focused areas. I wish we had more time there because there was so much to do; we didn’t even walk into all of the exhibits. Connor Prairie puts an emphasis on open exploration, with opportunities for all ages. There are crafts and activities for the little children as well as more advanced and serious displays for older kids and adults, and they’re all mixed in together. Matt and I watched a blacksmith show how people made tools in the 1830s and our son sorted rubber horseshoes by size and shape at a display in the back of the forge far away from anything hot and dangerous. We could keep an eye on him and also learn something, it was wonderful.
Our kids spent very little time in the stroller as we wandered into houses and workshops to meet the residents of 1836 Prairie Town, or climbed up and down the four story tree house looking at all the nature exhibits. The social aspect of wandering through the towns and speaking to actors playing the residents of the town, was much more accessible to my son than a traditional museum. He could walk almost anywhere and ask anyone anything. He watched people carve, cook, quilt, and smith. We looked at pigs, chased chickens and got into a staring contest with a goat.
I believe in providing experiences, even at a young age, for my kids. And this was a great opportunity for all of us to get out and have fun, bond and learn together.