Curious George: Let’s Get Curious

Location: The bottom floor of Crown Center by the Coterie Theater. Crown Center is at 2450 Grand Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri.

Cost: Free! They can validate parking for the parking garage, too.

Web site: http://www.crowncenter.com/Event-List/Curious

This past Friday, we checked out the current free kids’ exhibit at Crown Center. Unfortunately, both my camera and my phone died while we were there, so I’m not able to offer photographs with this blog post. There are a few at the Web site above that can give you an idea of what the exhibit looks like. It’s bright, colorful and fairly easy to navigate. I’ve found that exhibits in this space that are on loan from actual museums tend to be the best exhibits; Curious George comes from the Minnesota Children’s Museum, and it’s definitely well done.

What the exhibit is not, however, is accessible. Signs are in Spanish and English, but there is no braille. There are many hands-on activities, but not all of them translate well for children with low or no vision:

  • Sprout’s favorite was a vegetable stand.  There were stuffed fruit and vegetables that kids could pretend to buy and pretend to weigh on a scale; of course, if you can’t see very well, the scale is going to be impossible for you to use.  There’s a sorting area for the fruit and veggies with spinners so you can make a sorting game out of it, but the spinners are smooth, so you have to have eyesight to play the game.
  • There is a neat exhibit with two large fans to show you the power of the wind.  In this case, you can access the sound, but since the objects you are affecting with the fans are roped off, you wouldn’t be able to see the wind power moving George or the kites.
  • There is a craft station to make a pinwheel or a wind sock.  The instructions are in pictures/print, but this could be adapted by a parent for a B/VI child fairly easily.
  • There are three little habitats for three little hand puppets–a pig in a sty, a rabbit in a hutch, and a chicken in a coop.  Sprout loved these.  The habitats and the puppets have seen better days.  All three are from recent episodes of the show, and they’re all tactile.
  • There are light tables where you’re using an overhead projector to shine the blocks onto a wall.  The table itself is accessible, although the activities with it are not.
  • When you enter the exhibit, there’s a tree with a bench around it and a 3D figure of George.  On the inside of the bench, there are baby activities–peek-a-boo with rabbits in a hutch, a banana roller, a mirror, and one with pictures of George that I didn’t really understand.  There are manipulatives with each, but, depending on vision, the bananas are probably the only really accessible activity.
  • In the tree itself are a squirrel and a birdie.  These would be something to feel and find, kind of a hide-and-seek.
  • There are three holes of mini-golf.  They make fascinating noises, and the clubs have big foam heads, but they’re not very practical.
  • There is a game with two wheels where you can help George wash windows of an apartment building.  Totally inaccessible without vision.
  • Peanut’s favorite activity–one which is pictured on the site above and one which he has asked repeatedly to return to–is a “block mover” at the back of the building.  Kids put foam blocks into a kid-run machine.  When the blocks hit the top of the machine, they fall down a series of roller-ramps.  It makes a great noise, and it was a big hit with the kids there.  There’s a light box here as well, for kids to practice architecture, and giant foam blocks to build with.
  • There are a series of benches with books in each end of each bench.  None in braille that I saw.
  • There’s a small area with information about George’s creators.  This is an area that I wish Sprout would have let me look at–there were copies of early editions of the books behind glass, and the authors’ story (which involves fleeing Europe around the time of the Second World War) looked fascinating.  None of the children seemed particularly interested in it–older children and adults are more of the target audience here.
  • There is an elevator door that doesn’t close very well with a series of firefighters pictured in it.  The idea is for you to look, shut the doors, then see what you can remember.  There are mailboxes you can open next to the elevator with the same idea in mind.  Totally inaccessible.

If your child loves the Curious George TV show on PBS, do go and check out the exhibit.  The elements in the exhibit are largely drawn from episodes of the show, from George washing windows, to the elevator in their apartment building, to the fruit stand down the street where he and the Man in the Yellow Hat buy fresh food.  If you’re just looking for something to do, however, and your child has a vision impairment, this may be one to skip:  most of the activities in the exhibit are very visual and are not adaptable for B/VI kids.

The Curious George: Let’s Get Curious exhibit runs now through September 8, 2013, at Crown Center.

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