Editor’s Note: An update as of April 2014: The museum’s admission prices will be $11 for ages 1-59 and $10 for seniors 60 and older. (Children under 1 year old are free.) It now offers the “S.M.A.R.T. Cafe” where the vending machines used to be, serving high-quality, healthy foods.
The first time I took my daughter to the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, it was to meet a good friend and her toddler. My daughter had only been walking for a few months, and I was dubious whether there would be anything there for babies.
But she had a great time, toddling around the museum, trailing my friend’s daughter and playing with the blocks, balls and musical instruments in areas specially designed for kids up to 24 months.
The second time I took my daughter to the museum, she was a very active, curious 27-month-old, and we had signed up for a membership by the time we left nearly four hours later. Yes, we had that good of time.
The museum occupies three floors by the Naperville Metra station, just a few blocks from downtown. Near the entrance you’ll find two rooms with coat hooks and lockers where you can store anything you don’t want to haul around the museum all day. That’s also where you’ll find the museum store, which carries some very cool toys. In other words, you might want to avoid the store if you don’t want to end up leaving with a very cool toy.
The museum is aimed at children ages 6 months to 10 years and is organized by general theme – the museum calls them “neighborhoods” – under names including “Make It Move,” “Build It,” and “AirWorks.”
Like most children’s museums, the focus here is encouraging your children’s creativity and curiosity through hands-on experiences. They can stand in a giant wind tunnel, “capture” their shadow, build items in a wood shop and encase themselves in a giant bubble in the “WaterWays” neighborhood. (There are smocks available, but bringing a change of clothes for your child is a smart idea. Johanna stayed dry enough at the water table but then stumbled into the soap well by the bubbles.)
We probably spent the most time on the third floor where is a small stage, props and costumes available for kids who want to put on a play, as well as a car and a rocket good for imaginative play. There’s also an art studio where a different activity is scheduled each day and included in your admission – the day we visited, a staff member was leading kids in making “mini-me” paper dolls.
But the emphasis at DCM to me definitely seemed more on engineering, science and math than on imagination.
A few other important details to mention:
- I found some of the exhibits a bit confusing at first – wondering exactly how we were supposed to interact with them. So don’t hesitate to ask a museum staffer to give you a demonstration.
- The areas for children under 2 are called “Young Explorers neighborhoods” and they are close enough to the other “neighborhoods” that you could keep an eye on a baby and a well-behaved toddler or preschooler at the same time.
- There is a special area for nursing mothers (a comfy chair and a screen) on the third floor in the Family Resource center.
- If you have are bringing a child with special needs, make sure to check out this page on the museum’s website.
Hours at the museum vary by day, but on Fridays during the school year it is open until 8 p.m. as well as the third Thursday of the month. My first visit was on a weekend and the museum was busy; my second visit was a Thursday afternoon, and we had several of the “neighborhoods” to ourselves.
Admission is $11 per person, with children being charged starting at age 1. Membership packages start at $90 with a family membership available for $110. The museum hosts birthday parties, and it offers summer camps, as well as “Creativity Classes” throughout the year.