Children are little question factories. Their conveyor belt of whys and hows moves at a delirious pace. As we hasten to answer this deluge of quandaries sometimes a lie slips through. You see, we parents don’t know everything, like what makes a firefly glow, how many Earths can fit in the Sun and the difference between a turtle and a tortoise. (Really, can someone please explain the difference?) Surely this is why children’s museums were created.
My son doesn’t ask questions yet. He hasn’t learned the words “how” and “why” but I know the day will come. So I take him and his grandparents to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.
For parents who don’t have all the answers, this museum is your salvation.
The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio is more than a museum of science and natural history, it’s also a zoo, aquarium and planetarium. At the admissions desk we pick up a schedule of programs and a map, which are good things to have because there’s a full day of programs and every inch of this museum is packed with exhibits.
Most of the displays are interactive so kids can explore with their hands, pulling levers, turning cranks, building, climbing and digging. Dorian takes a crack at a giant tuning fork. Then we step into a glass case to feel what it’s like to be in a hurricane. Dorian smiles long enough for a photo before squirming for the exit.
He finds his comfort zone at the large Water Table where he gets to work splashing around with toy boats, buckets and water wheels. While parents try to stay dry kids can fully immerse themselves in experiments on buoyancy, water pressure and how to manipulate a current.
Now, getting back to those burning questions. We enter the Science Theater where staff members in white lab coats stand behind protective glass. During Science Theater Shows they crank up the Bunsen burners and start some fires. Dorian sits with his grandparents in rapt anticipation. We see how different metals react to fire; copper turns the flame green.
Then we have to partially cover our ears as a flame causes a balloon full of methane to explode in a ball of fire. So if your kids ever ask what happens if they light their farts (sorry parents) there’s your answer, only much louder!
A Science Theater Show will make your kids want one of those white lab coats so they can try some experiments of their own. So you can step right next door to the Do Lab where a member of the Education Department will lead you through a hands-on activity. You may go home with a bag of slime or handmade snow.
In the Hall of the Universe children will feel like they’re at the helm of their own spaceship exploring the galaxy. Discover the secrets of the Big Bang, and join the Kepler Mission searching for other Earthlike planets or reach outside our solar system in search of exoplanets. Then you can step into the Space Theater where images of the stars and planets wrap all the way around the planetarium dome. Some of the Planetarium shows are even in 3D.
The biggest attraction at Boonshoft is probably the animals. The museum is crawling with meerkats, river otters, birds, fish and Rajeev, a 16 1⁄2 foot Burmese Python. In the Tidal Pool kids peer into a small slice of ocean crawling with sea crustaceans. Dorian got to pet a tortoise, play peekaboo with a playful meerkat and watch patiently as a very shy possum crept out for visitors. More than a hundred animals call Boonshoft home.
I may give children all the credit for the ceaseless questions but in truth adults are just as curious.
Now I know how many Earths can fill the Sun and I can finally tell the difference between a turtle
and a tortoise. Plus, getting to push buttons and turn cranks isn’t just fun for kids. I got to pull a
rope to feel how much an average family’s entire week’s worth of trash weighs (it definitely takes both arms).
The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is worth the drive for all of the inquiring young and older minds in your family — even if you have to listen to a barrage of whys and hows on the car ride there.
The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is located at 2600 DeWeese Pkwy, Dayton, OH 45414. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon – 5 p.m. For more unique children’s museums in the area, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Children’s Museums Within 2 Hours of Cincinnati!
Selena Reder is a mother, writer and part-time video producer living in Cincinnati, Ohio with her son Dorian and husband Tim. Dorian loves chasing Selena and Tim’s tailless cat, making messes for dad to clean up, squealing loud enough for the neighbors to hear and staring at strangers until it’s uncomfortable. Tim loves Dungeons and Dragons, Margaret Atwood and writing meticulous grocery lists.
Selena loves washing cloth diapers, binging on British TV (Top Gear, Only Fools and Horses, Doc Martin, etc) painting and knitting super fancy baby sweaters. She also loves working part-time with her video editor husband (special shout out to her parents and in-laws for being great babysitters!).
If Selena were stranded on a desert island with only one thing to do for the rest of her life, she would nurse her son in their favorite chair. It’s the best thing in the world right now.