To be perfectly blunt, I am usually not a museum person. However, there is nothing usual about Austin’s Thinkery children’s museum. A visit to Thinkery feels like the physical manifestation of wonder and inquiry from a growing mind. With so many rooms and rotating exhibits, each return visit maintains its novel appeal.
From Pop-up to Interactive Extravaganza
Once merely a museum on wheels, this nonprofit manifested in 1983 from a group of Austin parents and educators who were determined to create a unique space, inspiring natural curiosity in lifelong learners.
Over the following three decades, Austin’s Children’s Museum evolved into Thinkery. This once mobile learning pop-up now spans 40,000-square-feet of indoor and outdoor experiential, play-based learning. Located in northeast Austin’s Mueller development, Thinkery served over 450,000 children last year alone!
Philosophy Behind Thinkery
According to Jeff Dellinger, associate director of marketing and communications for Thinkery, “Failure is a step on the way to eventual success.”
By fostering intellectual resiliency in young children, you teach them that they don’t naturally fail or succeed. “Instead, Thinkery programming focuses on an iterative process. There is a first effort, you learn from that, and continue to improve to make it as good as it can be.”
Each Thinkery exhibit features the learner as the manipulator and star of their own experience. From getting soaked in knowledge about currents to concocting chemical creations in a lab, each of the exhibits honor a playful attribute of science.
Here are more details on the current exhibits available. While there will be changes over time, you and your children can always expect innovation and learning.
1/ Currents Exhibit
The currents station highlights watery science for every sense. Be prepared to get wet as you explore the fluid dynamics of water and sound. This is a personal favorite for my two children and my electrical engineer spouse. Play around with percussion and aqua mechanics, while children are blissfully unaware just how much they’re learning.
2/ Innovators’ Workshop
This 2,500-square-foot signature gallery focuses on invention and inquiry. A multidisciplinary exhibit of art and science offers learners a chance to bend their imaginations and skills in new ways. Paint on glass, play with machines, build landscapes, practice stop animation, and look through microscopes.
3/ Kitchen Lab
This exhibit blends science and kitchen utility into an irresistible experience. From chemical reactions to edible minerals, each lesson is filled with an opportunity to play lab in a familiar setting. Children will cook up discovery and wonder as they trade their aprons for lab coats.
4/ Fresh! Farmers’ Market
Here, children thrive with food play and learn about healthy meal choices. As they collect pretend eggs from the coop and sort through a rainbow of veggies and fruits, what they act out in play is practice for real life.
5/ Move! Studio
As the name of this exhibit implies, kids get the chance to dance along with music and have fun to different rhythms.
Bloom is a garden-themed space for infants and toddlers. It’s built to hone sensory development in Thinkery’s youngest champions. Babies and tots hide in giant carrots with mirrors, play peek-a-boo through a maze of soft color, and practice motor skills.
7/ The Story Nook
Another favorite of mine, The Story Nook is where you can curl up on comfy pillows with your children as you listen to stories, sing, and even play music. Cuddle up for some down-time best spent together.
8/ Light Lab
Light Lab looks like a giant Lite-Brite, which makes it almost too much fun—no matter your age. You actually draw with light, freeze shadows, and build magnetic light structures!
9/ Our Backyard
This space is an intricate and massive playscape decorated in water and climbing features. Manipulate tools, splash in streams, or navigate the giant rope canopies and climbers.
10/ Earth, Wind, Inspire
Here, you’ll experience a rotating feature electrifying to children and adults alike. It offers more than a dozen interactive exhibits for guests to learn about natural forces and how they interact with the earth’s elements and moving parts. Experience firsthand the science behind volcanoes, geysers, hurricanes, tornados, and earth quakes.
11/ Spark Shop
Creation is the name of the game at Spark Shop. Build it, break it, create it. From disassembling toys to building gliders to manifesting a work of art, you will spark your imagination and engineering spirit.
Get an amped-up Thinkery experience at one of the innovative camps, designed to stretch a child’s imagination within a safe space. This immersive experience hones a child’s intuitive curiosity, and supports her intellectual resiliency and creativity.
Thinkery21: For the Big Kids
Thinkery21 is held about six times a year for those of legal drinking age. Of Thinkery21, Dellinger said, “Adults get to play like kids again, if only for an evening.”
Dellinger continued, “The Thinkery’s mission is to be a vibrant part of the community, and that doesn’t stop at parents and families. We want Thinkery to be relevant to all of Austin, including young adults without kids.”
A Valentine’s-themed Thinkery21 focused on the science of sex, exploring the science of pheromones and attraction. Another fun Thinkery 21 event had a superpowers theme, with local comic clubs and superhero trivia accenting the science of superpower physics. There was even an adult trampoline contest and wrestling match, during a sports and games Thinkery21 event.
There truly is something for everyone at the Thinkery. Be sure to check out the calendar of events to see what fun can be had. Admission is currently $12/person with 0-23 months old free. Membership is a great deal for regular visitors, paying for itself in less than three visits for a family of four.
1830 Simond Ave. — Website
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