May 14, 2010
Last week, we accompanied DH on a business trip to Salem. While there, the kiddos and I ventured out to explore some of the more well-known attractions, A.C. Gilbert House and the Salem’s Riverfront Carousel. The hands-on children’s museum offers year-round fun with indoor & outdoor interactive exhibits that promote learning through play.
As it was raining intermittently while we were there, we took advantage of the indoor exhibits and explored the outdoor climbing structures later in the afternoon. This strategy served us well for another reason. Upon our arrival, a few school groups were there and it was rather crowded outside. By the time we had finished exploring the indoor exhibits, the school groups had departed and we then had the structures to ourselves.
Coincidentally, it was also Cinco de Mayo so there were several learning stations set up to allow kids to learn a little about Mexico. Sweetie created a flag of our southern neighbor with her hand – I thought this was quite clever. She also made a maraca with recycled materials and barley. They both enjoyed making fresh tortillas.
The indoor exhibits are divided amongst three historic buildings. In the Rockenfield House, we explored the Village Grocery, Recollections, the River Room, and A Child’s Trip to China. Sweetie enjoyed the China room, of course. She impressed a couple of other moms who were there as she was writing Chinese characters on the slate tablet. Buddy played restaurant and served me a steaming hot bowl of Phở (a Vietnamese dish, but my favorite).
The Gilbert House hosts the Bubble Room, Body Basics, Brazilian Rainforest Theater, and Undersea Cave of Frozen Critters. There is also a room here called Go Figure with 6 giant books with headphones to listen to the story. Each book has a fun, hands-on activity and information on the math connections for the adult. My kiddos weren’t too impressed with the books – I suppose we enjoy cuddling up with books and this exhibit felt a little formal. By far, the kids most enjoyed the Bubble Room whereby we explored bubbles and even enclosed ourselves inside a bubble wall. The Cave of Frozen Critters was very cool – but my photography skills were highly lacking – or perhaps it was just my camera.
Lastly, the Parrish House is where you’ll find Dinostories and the Imagination Station. This was by far Buddy’s favorite place – and mine. Along the walls was a timeline telling about the life of AC Gilbert. After graduating from Yale with a degree in medicine and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault, AC Gilbert created the Erector Set.
He later marketed a variety of other educational toys ranging from American Flyer trains to Mysto Magic sets, chemistry and telegraph sets. With his toys, Gilbert hoped to combine fun with an understanding and appreciation of science. Gilbert realized that a child needed playthings that would encourage creative expression and satisfy a natural curiosity about the world. [Buddy insists this is the train set he wants now – if only I can find one on eBay!]
At the time of his death, AC Gilbert held more than 150 patents for his inventions and is hailed as the Man Who Saved Christmas. During WWII, when the government wanted to prohibit the manufacturing of toys and ban the purchase of toys (“Buy war bonds!”), he brought a number of his toys to Congress and petitioned that toys were needed for morale. Soon after his presentation began, the men present began playing with his toys and within 3 hours agreed and allowed him to continue.