The Hands on Children Museum in Olympia, and the Secret to Raising Great Children

Want to improve your child’s life in a substantial way? Want to lessen the symptoms of ADHD? Perhaps, improve their sleeping and eating habits? Want to ensure you are raising a well rounded and likable human being?

It’s simple. Let them play. Let them play how they want. Put down your phone and join in playing with them because it is good for you too.

The Hands on Children’s Museum in Olympia, Washington is, in our opinion, the premiere children’s museum in Washington State. 

As a parent, before you go in to the museum, do yourself a favor and sit in the giant Adirondack Chair that is next to the entrance. It’s a good opportunity to consider the world from your children’s eyes–the sheer size of everything, not just the metaphorical world, the everyday world of chairs and bathrooms. Remind yourself what being a 35-pound child feels like, embrace it, put your phone on “do not contact,” and get your hands wet, dirty, filled with paint.

Immediately after entering the museum, there is a mock up of a house, grocery store, floral arrangement area, an actual truck, and a restaurant. The day-to-day drudgery of grocery shopping has long since been hammered into our brains, but for kids, going to buy milk is exciting. Play house and let the kids be the parents.

Here’s where my little ones tend to split off. My son goes straight to the two-story ship – it’s impressive – while my daughters tend to stop and grab plastic balls to stick into a vacuum tube. They watch the balls shoot up and out or they load up a water cannon that shoots the multi-colored ball-pit balls into the air and into a watery-vortex sucking the balls down and releasing them back into a stream of water to be grabbed and reloaded.

There is a stellar indoor playground called the Tides-to-Trees Climber. I really enjoy climbing up with the kids, although It’s considerably more difficult as an adult than a child. We make our way up from the ground floor, continue up past the giant bee’s nest and the second floor till we reach the pinnacle—an eagle’s nest that sits above the heads of even the tallest dad.

They can play in a variety of emergency vehicles, veterinarian’s office, try their hand at being a musician, play in another tree house, or build an actual house. While you’re there, go outside and climb the circular staircase to the top of a life-size lighthouse, take time to ride tricycles around a track, play in a stream, or in a driftwood beach fort.

But you don’t really need another adult telling you why you should take your children there though. Take it from the kids.

“I love everything in the butterfly room,” Kyla – Age 7

“TOYS!” Lennon – Age 3

“I really like the dinosaur bones,” Benicio – Age 5

“The water thing that shoots the balls,” Rylan – Age 4

“My favorite is the giant slide,” Evelyn – Age 5

If you are local to the area, they also offer a variety of childhood development programs from preschool to summer camps. This year’s week-long themed summer camps include a topics like Rockin’ Robots, Things That Go Boom, Animation Studio, and Tinker Tech.

They even host adult-only events like Space Prom, which come complete with signature cocktails, awkward prom pics with a Tardigrade, DIY blacklight planet prints, and glowing LED galaxy corsages.

The Hands on Children’s Museum is a wonderland for children and adults alike, fully embodying the phrase, “I wish that toy existed when I was a kid.”

The Museum is also installing an actual 41-year-sailboat that volunteers spent over 2,000 hours modifying the vessel into a playground. The sailboat playground comes complete with a crows nest, rope ladders, and will educate children on sailing in the Puget sound.  The exhibit / playground is expected to open in August.  

For more information and ticket prices visit the Hands on Children’s Museum’s website.


Written by Corey Dembeck

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