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Behind the Scenes: Chinese Shadow Puppet Theatre

This blog post is written by Patrick Weigand, one of The Children's Museum's Interpretation Operations Coordinators—who also happens to be our resident puppetry enthusiast! 

It's safe to say that I love shadow puppets. My passion for the art form started in part when I attended the 2011 National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. While I was there, I was work shopping and learning about shadow puppets for a production I was doing with a local theater company. I was drawn to shadow puppets because of their versatility—visually, the possibilities are endless. You can experiment with different types of materials and different light sources to create a wide range of images. I’ve even seen shadow plays that I wouldve thought were movies had I not known better!

I was thrilled to be asked to help develop a Chinese Shadow Puppet program a couple years ago, in anticipation of Take Me There:® China. Chinese shadow puppetry is shadow puppetry in its oldest and purist form. In fact, many believe that shadow puppetry originated in China over 2000 years ago! It was important to me that we help spread the art form to a wider audience.

Traditionally, Chinese shadow puppets are made from animal hide that is treated and scraped to be very thin and translucent. Once the leather is ready, each part of the puppet is cut out by hand, often with intricate designs, using a variety of knives and punches. Every piece is then carefully painted with vibrant colors before the joints are assembled. The engineering and assembling of the joints is also very precise, as it is important to find the right balance and movement for the performance.

As our team continued to develop the script for the program, I was sent back to the National Puppetry Conference this past summer to meet with experts on Chinese puppetry and continue developing the techniques we would use. Now we have the program you can see today—we invite families to help an unprepared apprentice (our actor) finish his assignment to perform a traditional story.

The puppets we use in the program are a little different than those used traditionally. Though they are from China, the puppets we use are mass produced, cut out by machines rather than by hand. We chose to use these mainly for practical reasons—we needed to have a lot of the puppets available to put in the hands of children and families. We also changed the way the puppets are controlled. Typically, Chinese shadow puppets are manipulated with three rods and take many years to master. We only use two rods, so it can be a little easier to work with them.

If you want to learn even more about Chinese shadow puppets, visit You can also learn more about the Shadow Puppets program in Take Me There: China in this blog post. You can check the museum calendar for all of the available times to stop by and Play a Part with Chinese Shadow Puppets!



Get Ready for Chinese Shadow Puppet Theatre!

Shadow Puppet

One thing that makes a visit to The Children’s Museum so extraordinary is the chance to immerse your family in new ideas through hands-on adventures—all guided by our incredible actor-interpreters! This fall in Take Me There:® China, your family can experience China in a whole new way in Play a Part: Chinese Shadow Puppets.

In this engaging, hands-on program, children go behind the scenes of a Chinese shadow puppet theater show, helping the puppet master and his apprentice create and present a lively performance—complete with sound effects! Children will be part of the adventures of Monkey King as they learn about creating characters’ voices and movements, developing and playing sound effects with musical instruments, and manipulating puppets. After putting the finishing touches on the show, families will help perform the complete puppet show in People's Park for everyone to enjoy!

The Details

  • The “Play a Part: Chinese Shadow Puppets” program will be offered in fall 2014 beginning Sept. 9.
  • Tickets are free but space is limited. Tickets are available 5 minutes before the program begins.
  • The program last 35 minutes. For daily times, visit the museum’s website or check the sign at the front of the Take Me There gallery.

What Is Shadow Puppet Theatre?
Shadow puppetry is a popular type of storytelling that began in China 2,000 years ago and has spread to many other places around the world. Shadow puppets are flat figures cut from paper or another material. They usually have moving parts like heads, arms, and legs, which the puppeteer controls with sticks. Puppeteers work behind a translucent screen (a kind of fabric that lets light pass through). The screen is lit from behind, allowing the audience to see the puppets from the other side of the screen, but not the puppeteer.

Who Is Monkey King?

Get ready to meet a star of stage, screen, and scroll! Monkey King is one of China’s most beloved fable characters—smart, fast, strong, and a little rebellious, he is a favorite of children and adults alike. Monkey King knows many spells and his powers include the ability to travel hundreds of miles in one somersault, to
magically transform his hairs into animals or objects, and the ability to instantly change his size. Monkey King first appeared in the 1500s in the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West. His adventures have been adapted into Chinese opera and shadow puppet productions, stage plays and musicals, animated and feature films, comics, manga, anime, and even video and arcade games. Monkey King is busy!

Creating and Sharing the Artwork of our Youngest Visitors

Playscape Art WindowStephanie Eddleman is the museum’s Early Childhood Specialist and manager of the Playscape gallery. Playscape offers a wide variety of sensory and play-based learning experiences for families with children ages 0-5.  

Pablo Picasso famously said that, “Every child is an artist,” and in the Playscape Art Studio that is certainly the truth! From the small scribbled drawing of a toddler to a preschooler’s patterned painting, each child is encouraged to express their own creativity and unique abilities when creating a work of art in our studio. 

Our Playscape art projects also help our youngest visitors build visual literacy skills as they're encouraged to notice and make observations about the details of authentic works of art. Our staff encourages children to talk about the lines, shapes, and patterns in a work of art in order to build critical math and science foundational skills. 

My favorite thing about the Playscape Art Studio is that we not only strive to provide rich artistic experiences, but we make our visitor’s learning visible when we display their work. We love to place on display the community art that multiple visitors have completed together. 

Twice a month (every third Thursday and fourth Saturday) our artist-in-residence, Linda S. Cannon, helps our visitors add their own creation to a larger work of art. So far we've created a pen and ink drawing, sumi painting, water color painting, and much more! Children and their families have worked together to leave their own mark on each of the community pieces. Linda recently blogged about her experience in Playscape—be sure to check out her perspective on the Art Studio, too!

On your next visit to Playscape, take a look at the artwork lining the windows and you'll see that Picasso was correct. Whether you're in or outside of Playscape—all children are artists. We proudly display this fact on the walls of our studio.

Join us daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. in the Playscape art studio and witness the artist inside your own young child! You may be surprised at the wonderful creativity they unleash!

Playscape Art Wall Playscape Art Sample

How Fireworks Work

Fireworks are more than just a loud bang and beautiful colors showering the night's sky—they're chemistry in ACTION! This Fourth of July, learn and teach your kids how fireworks work.

Remember—safety first! It's always best to see the pros launch fireworks. If you're at home, use fireworks and sparklers under adult supervision and be aware of your local burn laws.

How Fireworks Work

The museum is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m.. Plan your visit and buy tickets at

Family Health Tip: Firework Safety

Family Health TipThis blog post first appeared on Kids HealthLine, courtesy of Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent.

The celebration of July 4th brings to mind warm weather, cookouts and, for many, fireworks. Taking in a fireworks show can be a fun time for your family on a summer night, but don’t forget the dangers of these explosives. This quiz assesses your firework safety knowledge and helps you make sure your child has a happy Independence Day.

1. Elementary school-aged children should be permitted to play with fireworks __________.

a) Under adult supervision
b) Never
c) Classified as “sparklers”
d) After a discussion about firework rules

2. Fireworks should be stored __________.

a) In a cool, dry place
b) Per package instructions
c) Far from lighting areas
d) All of the above

3. When lighting fireworks, basic precautions include having _________ on hand.

a) A first aid kit and a bucket of water
b) A firefighter or pyrotechnics professional
c) Safety goggles
d) Directions to the nearest emergency room

4. A sparkler burns at close to _________ degrees Fahrenheit.

a) 500
b) 1,000
c) 1,500
d) 2,000

5. The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to _________.

a) Light them in an area with a radius of 15 feet closed off to children.
b) Join the community fun at a public display.
c) Attend a fireworks safety course beforehand.
d) Admit this is a trick question; there is no “safest” way!

Answers: 1. b; 2. d; 3. a; 4. d; 5. b

Firework First Aid

Despite the best preparation, burns from fireworks can occur, so learn to properly care for them. First, deposit the firework that caused the injury in a bucket of water. If any clothing smolders, take it off. Major burns require specialized care, so examine the burn before continuing.

If the burn seems limited to the upper layer of skin, run cold water over it for about five minutes. Apply a generous amount of antibiotic ointment and then cover the burn with non-stick gauze. Keep the burned area elevated. Order your free first aid kit at

This article was reviewed by Mercy Hylton, MD, emergency medicine, Hilbert Pediatric Emergency Department, Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent.

The SciencePort Scoop: School Is Out, but Science Is In!

SciencePort fossilsHeather Gromley is The Children's Museum's MuseumPort Coordinator. Heather is finishing her master’s degree in Museum Studies from The Johns Hopkins University. She enjoys planetarium shows, facilitating science programs, and sitting sidesaddle on giraffes on the carousel. 

The staff of SciencePort invites you to visit our space to put your science skills to work and investigate some pretty cool topics. SciencePort® is a great place for the whole family to dive and explore through hands-on activities and technology stations. We have everything from a microscope station, to nifty science apps and in-depth investigations. Each week, we feature a different topic, related to an exhibit in the museum. We feature activities on flight, plants, and health, just to name a few.

This summer we've launched investigation stations about China to support our extraordinary new exhibits Take Me There:® China and Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army. Come explore tangram dissection puzzles, how to use an abacus, watch a live panda on the Panda Cam, create a Terra Cotta Warrior bookmark, and observe what tea leaves looks like under the microscope. 

SciencePort Dinos

One of our most popular programs is our Dinosaurs and Fossils theme. Together we'll decide what adaptations your dinosaur will need to survive in a setting you create. Will your winged T. rex survive in the ocean? Fossils are all around us, even in Indianapolis. Use the microscope or a magnifying glass to identify Indiana microfossils. Also, you can create a fossil imprint to take home with you! 

A cool feature of SciencePort is our animation station that allows you to make movie magic through stop motion animation. We also have touch screen computers and iPads to help you explore our topics.

Our super science staff is constantly researching new ideas for technology and investigations, so make sure you stop by each time you visit. We're located in ScienceWorks on Level 4. Look for signs around the red staircase in the construction zone area. SciencePort is open daily, from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2 p.m.–4 p.m. Programming times may vary, so be sure to check gallery signs for more information about times or investigation topics. See you soon!

Pete and Ollie's Top 10 Tips for Lemonade Day

Ollie Wisdom LemonadeMuseum member Pete and his daughter Ollie are Lemonade Day pros! Pete also happens to be finance expert Peter Dunn, so you won't want to miss Pete and Ollie's (hilariously brilliant) tips for a successful lemonade stand.

I've been counting down the days. It's almost upon us. Lemonade will be sold, fun will be had, and lessons will be learned. It's Lemonade Day 2014! This will be the third year that my now five year old daughter Ollie and I will become citrus beverage entrepreneurs. 

When she was three, there was more fun than business. Last year, we cranked up the math and focused on customer service. This year, who knows what lessons will be learned. If you've ever dealt with a five year old, you'd know that I quit calling the shots about one year ago. Last year's profits went to a doll, this year's profits were promised to a cat purchase. Although she does acknowledge my cat allergy as a possible stumbling block. But the ever-resourceful Ollie assures me that she wants to get a cat when I'm dead. 

Business and entrepreneurship are all about problem solving. If we can have lots of fun together while learning some valuable lessons in the process, then I'm game. Here are some of our pro tips on how to have a great lemonade stand. 

  1. Ollie: "You need music at your stand. People need to dance."
  2. Dad: "Pick a location that gets some heavy traffic. No traffic equals no customers."
  3. Ollie: "Get balloons. But if Dad lets go of the balloons getting out of the car, you will need more balloons."
  4. Dad: "Don't accidentally let go of the balloons when you get out of the car."
  5. Ollie: "Have cookies to sell. Lemonade makes people hungry."
  6. Dad: "Have plenty of change. One and a ton of quarters will do the trick."
  7. Ollie: "People like ice."
  8. Dad: "Create a sign that tells customers where the charity portion of your profits will go."
  9. Ollie: "Say 'Have a nice day' really loud when people leave. That way, they'll have a nice day."
  10. Dad: "Make it fun. Business is fun, not tedious."


Lemonade Day is May 17, 2014! Learn more and sign up at

Lemonade Day Tools of the Trade

Playscape, Friends, and #Carouselfies | The Playscape 5

Torrence CarouselfieFollow along as three families (just like you!) discover Playscape together. The Playscape 5—Torrence, Myles and Ella, and Gage and Paul—will share their experiences as they learn and grow in the gallery...and at home! See Playscape through the eyes of Torrence (age 8 months) in this post from mom, Samantha. And continue to follow his journey online, on the blog, or by searching the #Playscape5 hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Vine!

We finally explored the entire museum! This is an amazing accomplishment—and a lot of walking. After 3 hours of playing, wow, were we impressed...and completely exhausted. On this trip, Torrence and I were accompanied by our friends, almost 2 year old Ben and his mom, Stephanie. We started our adventure in Playscape. Watching Ben splash and run from room to room made me so excited (and tired just from watching) for our next year with Torrence in Playscape

Torrence actually joined in with Ben banging as loudly as possible on the drums in the Playscape Music Studio. This is a new skill he’s really been working on at home called "let’s pick this thing up and smash it into that thing and hope it makes a ton of noise." Mom and Dad are understandably less thrilled with this new talent. This trip, Torrence also became fascinated by the Playscape sand table. I was hesitant to allow him near it as everything he touches goes straight to his mouth—he loved the feel of the sand between his fingers and managed to eat very little of it. 

Torrence March

After a short hour in Playscape, we were off to our first ride around the carousel. Members ride for free…bonus! Torrence and Ben loved the carousel almost as much as I did. We had to persuade Ben to play in ScienceWorks instead of several more trips around the carousel. Torrence and I took a quick break for a snack while they played in ScienceWorks. It's nice that there are so many benches available for our little snack breaks.

Our final destination of this trip was a quick visit to the Food Court. Once again, I was so impressed with the amount of food options for all age groups and how quickly we were able to check out. We found a table amongst the large crowd and loved that there were so many high chairs available for our kids. Needless to say, our drive home was completely silent. What a great end to a perfect day!

More Visits, More Discoveries for Myles and Ella | The Playscape 5

Myles CreekFollow along as three families (just like you!) discover Playscape together. The Playscape 5—Torrence, Myles and Ella, and Gage and Paul—will share their experiences as they learn and grow in the gallery...and at home! See Playscape through the eyes of Myles (age 4 1/2)  and Ella (age 2) in this post from mom, Ronnetta. And continue to follow their journey online, on the blog, or by searching the #Playscape5 hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Vine!
The difference between Myles first visiting Playscape when he was 4-1/2, and then on his 5th birthday, was pleasantly surprising! 
And the difference between Ella visiting at 1-1/2 (and now 2), is remarkable. 
By now, I thought that some degree of boredom might have kicked in for our youngsters, but I shelved my silly adult perceptions long ago. As parents know, kids don't mind reruns of their favorite cartoons on the television, and there is a naturally occurring ease and comfort when tykes are able to experience the same joys over and over. The renovated Playscape, a half-year old itself, continues to be a little bundle of joy.
Myles—the senior member of the #Playscape5—had been in the Whirly Twirly Tower before, but the pull of the pneumatic goodness that makes up part of the Reaction Contraption was too powerful a lure. When we visited on his birthday January 26, however, he discovered a way to make the Tower work for him. He waited his turn and took the multicolored pink, yellow and orange cloth pieces and pressed them against the rectangular blower vent, all at once, sending them circularly in the air. He enjoyed seeing them in flight (he’s really into a cause-and-effect phase at home), then he spun around chasing them. We love it when the kiddos replicate what they enjoy in the Museum at home. But we’re even happier that the Playscape activity stations are way more durable than our now-dented door frames!
Another new area for our children this month was The Climber
We have danger-averse little ones, so they're content to be entertained by watching other children sprawl through the lily pads and up to the boat. Slowly but surely, they're working their way up to the top, knowing their No. 1 fear of being “stuck” will be unrealized, as daddy is ready and willing to contort his way to the top to free them. They also enjoy being higher than their parents. After all, who wants to always be looking up at their folks? 

Myles Ella Climber

Our impressionable one, Ella follows the lead of her older brother, so where he goes, she follows. But there’s so much activity and commotion that your kids can focus on doing their own thing instead of competing. Ella sprinted off to the Music Studio again and was thrilled by the xylophones, while Myles donned some protective splash-gear, grabbed his favorite fishing net and played in the always-changing current in the Creek. They joined forces again over at the Sandbox, allowing themselves to have instantaneous fun on the revolving wheel. It’s a feature that constantly resets itself! 


What We Learned

  1. The Mothers' Rooms are a wonderful, clean, larger-than-you-expect oasis for those needing nursing or diaper-changing privacy. 
  2. The kids are attuned to high-tech solutions that never get old, such as the motion-activated hand sanitizer stations that spit out poofy bursts of white cleanser as well as the automatic hand dryers that emit controlled warm air near the Creek. It can get cold quickly when shirt sleeves are dampened by water!


5 Ways to Get the "Winter Wiggles" Out at Playscape

Follow along as three families (just like you!) discover Playscape together. The Playscape 5—Torrence, Myles and Ella, and Gage and Paul—will share their experiences as they learn and grow in the gallery...and at home! See Playscape through the eyes of Gage (age 3) and Paul (age 18 mos.) in this post from mom, Emily. And continue to follow their journey online, on the blog, or by searching the #Playscape5 hashtag!

Playscape Reaction Contraption

We’ve lived in Indianapolis for over 10 years, and this has been the worst (as far as the cold and snow goes) winter I can remember. Multiple days have gone by where the kids and I haven't left the house. It’s an understatement to say that our home has become Gage and Paul’s personal bounce house. Cabin fever has undoubtedly reached an all-time high, and my sofas are begging for toddler mercy.

Truth be told, I’m a die-hard lover of the winter season, but this year I’m waving the white flag. It’s not even February, and this self-proclaimed snow bunny is ready for spring. One of our only saving graces to the winter blues is that we live so very close to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. And if the roads are favorable, you will see us there at least once a week, getting the “winter wiggles” out.

We don’t stay long—maybe an hour or two right before lunch and nap time, which is just enough time to run and play, burning up all that pent-up energy.

If you have still not made it to the new Playscape, winter is the perfect time! When it’s cold outside, it’s toasty warm inside Playscape

5 ways we get the “winter wiggles” out at Playscape:

1. Bang on those drums! Every visit, my four year old makes a beeline for the music room. His favorite percussion? The bongos! Go ahead and get your groove on and bang away!

Climb in the Playscape climber2. Climb to the top of the climber! At home, there’s no climbing on the furniture. But at the Climber, your encouraged to go up, up, and up jumping from pad to pad—all the way to the tippy top and into the little sail boat. It’s a bird's eye view of Playscape!

3. Let your hair blow in the wind tunnel! A few weeks ago my boys discovered a box fan in my bedroom and quickly became obsessed with standing in front of it, feeling the wind blow in their hair. I think we can agree that box fans don’t make the best toys, so even though it was super fun, it’s also off limits. But at Playscape, go ahead and jump in that tunnel, dance and jump around, get blown away.

4. Build a track and watch the balls roll on down! Such a simple activity—build a descending track and watch the ball roll on down. The track is Paul’s favorite activity. He can spend what feels like hours helping the older kids construct the “road”. And his favorite part? You guessed it, rolling the ball on down (and then putting the balls back into the basket).

5. Splash around in the creek! At home the boys have started taking mid-day baths just for fun. But nothing at home can start to compare to Playscape's creek. Paul’s favorite creek toy activity is catching little boats with a net as they float on by.

As a mom to two little boys, a preschooler and a toddler, I simply don’t know how we would sanely survive the winter without our weekly trip to the museum. Because don’t think for a minute that getting the “winter wiggles” out is just for the kids.


Get into the Rhythm with Your Young Musician

Playscape Music StudioBy Cathy Southerland, Director of Early Childhood Education

"Now it's time for music, music, music . . . we'll have lots of fun!"

This song begins every facilitated program in The Music Studio in Playscape at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, and it's very true—music is fun. It also plays a powerful role in the lives of young children. There is a musician in every child. Adults who intentionally infuse music into children's lives are nurturing powerful learning connections. The Music Studio in Playscape will provide a chance for you and your child to be musicians together as you explore rhythm, tone and movement using real musical instruments.

While in the Music Studio, observe your child as s/he experiments with the instruments and discovers the source of sounds. Encourage critical thinking about the instruments. See if your child can identify high tones and low tones, fast tempo or slow tempo. This will help your child develop an understanding of musical concepts and musical vocabulary.

Helping your child understand that music has a beat is something you can also do at home. Experiment with making sounds and creating rhythms not only with musical instruments but with everyday household objects. Any household items that make sounds, such as pans, lids, chopsticks, keys, containers of breath mints, pairs of wooden spoons, etc. all make excellent "instruments."

Begin by playing a selection of music that has a strong beat ("The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Phillip Sousa is a good choice.) Demonstrate the beat by patting your hands on your legs. This will help your child hear that the music has a steady beat. Ask your child to join in with you. Tap different parts of your body (shoulders, toes, head, ears, etc.). Then bring out your household "instruments" and enjoy playing together, trying to keep the same rhythm. Talk about the beat or rhythm as you play, and most of all . . . have fun!

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Indy's Child. 

Scrooge's Jolly Journal | Entry #4

Scrooge's Jolly JournalEbenezer Scrooge is at The Children's Museum and he wants to hear your ideas for spreading holiday cheer!  Families have been sharing their traditions with Scrooge in the Jolly Days exhibit, and he's documented each and every one in his Jolly Journal. We'll continue to share Scrooge's Jolly Journal throughout the season! 

Saturday, December 21
Two unique young ladies by the names of Shania and Emani positively glowed as they shared the moments they enjoy during the festive season. They continued my education of the holidays by telling me that we should spend time with our family, and share in love and kindness. I couldn’t agree more. In fact why don’t we continue that spirit year round? Thank you, ladies!
Isaiah and Kimberly enjoy Christmas morning with a breakfast prepared by their father. I am told his eggs are particularly scrumptious! And to top that off they open their Christmas presents together as a family shortly afterwards. What a perfect morning. I must get that breakfast recipe!
Sunday, December 22
It appears that American football is quite popular during the festive season. A young man named Ethan enjoys watching the "Colts" with his family. He informed me that they were actually playing today. His father was able to check on the score from a mobile device he carries with him. We discovered that they were about to win, and I joined the family in a rendition of “GO COLTS”!  How exciting.
Sophia, the charming young lady I had the pleasure of meeting today, most likes helping others this time of year. Much like myself, she enjoys giving gifts and taking care of animals. How refreshing!
I visited with a gentleman named Aaron and his sister Emily today. They have a very novel idea of getting a new ornament for their Christmas tree each year. Good grief if I did that I am not sure you would be able to see the tree by now!
Monday, December 23
The McDonald family were at the museum today enjoying family time with Grandma. They were of significant number I must say. But they all enjoy spending time together over the holiday period. It appears that this family has two elves assign to them from Santa Claus. Rudy and Coy are their names. It is their job to monitor the behavior of the McDonald’s children and report back to Santa Claus. I am sure Santa will be very pleased with these charming children.
Josh enjoys singing Christmas Carols during the Holidays, unfortunately he was unable to share his talents with us today. May we can encourage him to join in our singing-along that occurs each day in the Sunburst Atrium!
Young Eli informs me that each and every year he has a tradition of making orange juice with his grandfather. How delightful! I am informed that the vitamin C obtained from oranges can assist in staving off the common cold. Sign me up!

Have you seen Scrooge during your visit to the museum? Leave a comment or send us a tweet using the #JollyDays hashtag, and let us know if you passed along the coin that you received from Scrooge.

Scrooge's Jolly Journal | Entry #3

Scrooge's Jolly JournalEbenezer Scrooge is at The Children's Museum and he wants to hear your ideas for spreading holiday cheer!  Families have been sharing their traditions with Scrooge in the Jolly Days exhibit, and he's documented each and every one in his Jolly Journal. We'll continue to share Scrooge's Jolly Journal throughout the season! 
Thursday, December 12
I met a young gentleman by the name of Noah at the top of the Yule Slide this morning. One of his favorite things to do is ride the Yule Slide during the holiday season. This young man also shared with me that he is visited by an elf from the North Pole each day.  The elf‘s name is “Snowy.”  He seems to be rather mischievous, as this morning he was discovered hidden in the Christmas tree! Whatever next?!
A quite intelligent young lady named Elizabeth shared with me today that one of her favorite things to do was read archaeology books! Not traditionally something associated with the holidays, however I was rather taken with this remarkable young woman. Her brother Benjamin is a little more interested in playing with his monster trucks with his Mother. Though it didn’t seem that this was the lovely lady’s pastime of choice!
I visited with many friends and enjoyed the “Ice Skating” pond in Jolly Days today. I must honestly say that I am not the greatest skater to have graced the pond. However Addie is far more adept at this and enjoys sharing this with her family, as well as baking cookies.
Moments later I met another young lady full of festive cheer also named Addie. She and her family joined me in one of my parlour games. We had such fun. This generous young lady had stopped by to assist in grooming the reindeer in preparation for Santa’s big night.  
Chloe had stopped by Jolly Days specifically to share her Christmas wishes with Santa Claus. This appears to be somewhat of a family tradition.  She had asked for a Karaoke machine—a device that is able to bring an entire orchestra to your fingertips! She is particularly partial to crafts and makes her own holiday decorations.  She enjoys reading books with her family and opens her advent calendar each day. I must get one of these! She also recommended a book that I should read. “Mr. Willoughby’s  Christmas Tree."  I shall look it up, but I doubt it shall surpass Mr. Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Friday, December 13
Another glorious “Jolly Day” at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. A young man named Straten shared with me today that he enjoys decorating his home with his family for the Holidays.  He also from time to time dabbles in snowball fights!  
A young lady by the name of Sarah informed me that this time of year was a time to “eat and be merry!”  I shall strive to accomplish both! She was also singing a rather unusual holiday song I had not encountered before. I am told it was made famous by an artist named Sponge Bob Square Pants entitled “Best Day ever!” I second that!
A young lady named Elizabeth spends time playing in the snow during the holidays. She builds snow men and has snow ball fights. Be sure to stay warm Elizabeth!
I was taken off guard when an older lady yelled at me across the landing today,  “I have been married to you for 30 years!” she exclaimed.  She must have mistaken me for someone else.
Peyton and Callie, who were visiting along with their friends from Franklin Elementary school, informed me that they enjoy opening presents and visiting the Indianapolis Zoo. I am told they have many lights to view, quite a spectacle. I must make a point of stopping by. 
A young chap by the name of Beau enjoys his holidays with a cup of hot chocolate and spending time with his family. That sounds divine. I hope you enjoy your holiday season Beau.
Have you seen Scrooge during your visit to the museum? Leave a comment or send us a tweet using the #JollyDays hashtag, and let us know if you passed along the coin that you received from Scrooge.

Who Might You Meet in Jolly Days? | Part 2

Santa's not the only one you have a chance to meet during your visit to Jolly Days at The Children's Museum! There are quite a few characters—and we mean characters!—that you could run into. They may tell you a story or sing you a song...they'll probably give you a giggle or a high five...and they'll definitely get you in the holiday spirit! Here's the second half of our list of characters you might meet in Jolly Days... (and don't miss the others, too!)

Andy the Zookeeper

Andy the Zoo Keeper Jolly Days





Andy D. Mallaferty is a zookeeper who takes care of the various animals that help out at the North Pole workshop. He’s decided to visit Jolly Days to learn ideas for winter traditions that they can implement at this year’s North Pole holiday celebration.

Though some people may think only of reindeer when they think of North Pole animals at the holidays, Andy has brought with him many others: a walrus, a weasel, an arctic hare, a polar bear, a dall sheep, a harp seal, a krill, a puffin, a snowy owl, a narwhal, and even a microscopic radiolarian!

Zazzlez the Elf

Zazzlez  Jolly Days




Zazzelz was born Zazzels Z. Zazzlington (the extra “Z” was added to his first name at the behest of his agent, Jack Frost). After years of working his way through the Hot Chocolate Bars and Candy-Cane Clubs of the North Pole, Zazzelz hit the big time when Santa made him the official Stand-Up Comic Elf of the North Pole.

Now, Zazzelz is on tour with Santa as he visits families at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Hopefully, this comic elf can keep visitors laughing through Jolly Days, maybe hear some new jokes to add to his set, and perhaps even audition visitors to be a comedy-duo partner!

Mrs. Claus

Mrs. Claus Jolly Days




You can find Mrs. Claus sitting with a bag of reindeer food and a variety of crafts, which you can work on together to take home as a holiday treasure. You may receive a special Hot Cocoa or Reindeer Food recipe! Mrs. Claus is keeping an eye on things while visitors talk with Santa in Jolly Days. If you don't have time to visit Santa, she'll pass along your wishes for you. 
Be sure to tell Mrs. Claus about your plans for the holidays!


Scrooge's Jolly Journal | Entry #2

Scrooge's Jolly JournalEbenezer Scrooge is at The Children's Museum and he wants to hear your ideas for spreading holiday cheer! Scrooge is now filled with the joy of the season following visits from the three spirits, and he's been tasked with spreading that joy by sharing the lessons he's learned. Families have been sharing their traditions and ways of spreading joy with Scrooge in the Jolly Days exhibit, and he's documented each and every one in his Jolly Journal. We'll continue to share Scrooge's Jolly Journal throughout the season! 

Wednesday, 11th December (continued)

As I continued through my “Jolly” day I discovered more friends from Eastern Hancock School. They were incredibly helpful in sharing with me the wonderful activities they enjoy partaking in during the Holidays. Ashley, John, Myles and Lincoln enjoyed playing games such as “hide and go seek.” Together we enjoyed playing one of my favorite party games. What a treat! When it snows they like to enjoy building Snow Men—something I enjoyed doing as a boy.  They have snow ball fights, and spend time sledding & ice skating. Many years have passed since my childhood holiday seasons. However it seems some of the old traditions are still very much alive and well today.
I came across a dashing young man by the name of Jack, who has a particular affinity for Christmas lights. His family decorates their house during the holiday season using these lights. He also opens a door on calendar each morning in December leading up to Christmas Day. Behind each door there is a picture and a candy treat. Delightful! Jack also has a personal elf called “Cloud” who reports to Santa Claus. It seems that with the ever growing population Santa has tasked his enormous team of elves to assist with the naughty and nice list. These elves are popping up everywhere—quite remarkable!
A young lady in a striking red holiday dress by the name of Marie allowed me some of her time today in the Jolly Days gallery. It seems she has quite a seasonal wardrobe for one so young. Her family was delightful. One of the holiday traditions they share is putting up Christmas lights. I shall have to try this. Previously I had only candles. Now it seems with electricity we are able to have multi-colored lights.How exciting!
Scrooge's Jolly JournalA few acquaintances I met today, Giovanni, Matt, and Nathan from St. Michael's School were extremely enthusiastic about playing in the snow during the holidays. Playing ice hockey and snowball fights are among their favorite things to do. I hear tell that there are even organized indoor snowball fights that occur within the museum walls. I wonder how they are able to maintain a consistent temperature in order to prevent the snow melting.
The illusive Annabel and Abbey were far too interested in playing on the ice castle than talking to an old wretch like me. However their wonderful family did share that they very much enjoy sledding in the snow. Who wouldn’t? 
The fascinating Lucy also enjoys playing in the snow. We enjoyed playing one of my favorite parlour games, and she shared with me that she always leaves something for the Reindeer to eat on Christmas Eve. How thoughtful.
I enjoyed a short game of chess with a gentleman named Vaughn. Only short because I do not excel at this particular game I’m afraid. Vaughn made short work of me it must be said. We did share in a brief rendition of Jingle Bells in which I fared a little better. Thank you for sharing your Holiday traditions with us Vaughn.
I learned something very interesting today. A young lady by the name of Cadence was reading a book in the corner of the Jolly Days gallery. I stopped by to ask what was enthralling her so. She then explained to me that she was reading about the Kwanzaa celebration that occurs this time of year. Celebrating and honoring African heritage in African-American culture, culminating in gift-giving and a feast. It seems rather a young tradition that started in the mid 1960’s. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me Cadence!
Have you seen Scrooge during your visit to the museum? Leave a comment or send us a tweet using the #JollyDays hashtag, and let us know if you passed along the coin that you received from Scrooge.

Scrooge's Jolly Journal | Entry #1

Scrooge's Jolly JournalEbenezer Scrooge is at The Children's Museum and he wants to hear your ideas for spreading holiday cheer! Scrooge is now filled with the joy of the season following visits from the three spirits, and he's been tasked with spreading that joy by sharing the lessons he's learned. Families have been sharing their traditions and ways of spreading joy with Scrooge in the Jolly Days exhibit, and he's documented each and every one in his Jolly Journal. We'll continue to share Scrooge's Jolly Journal throughout the season! 

Wednesday, 11th December

I happened across a charming young man by the name of Aaron. He was accompanied by his companions, who attend Eastern Hancock School.  They like to enjoy the holidays with a field trip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. I wish them all a wonderful Holiday Season!
Following a brief encounter with the Stephenson family, Mia & Callie shared with me that they enjoy baking cookies for the holidays.  I believe these are small treats enjoyed with a glass of milk, not unlike the biscuits we have with tea and cakes, back in London.   They also enjoy shopping for their family and reading Christmas stories.  I am humbled to share that they had already read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  It was such a joy to meet them.  
A young man by the name of Carter Benel was patiently waiting to ride the Yule Slide today. He shared with me that he enjoyed setting up his Christmas Train set yesterday, and one of his favorite things to pass the time during the festive season is to sing carols. Unfortunately, before I could have the pleasure of a rendition he slid down the enormous Yule Slide. Which I must say looks jolly good fun!  
Celebrating Jolly Days, the Haggerty family spared a moment with Yours Truly this glorious morning. They enjoy riding the Yule Slide during this happy season, and also enjoy eating festive cookies. One hopes that a sample of this seemingly popular pastime finds its way to me, so that I may share in the culinary delights of this great American tradition.     
Today I had the pleasure of meeting a fine young man named Recho from St. Michael's School.  When I asked if he would be kind enough to share what he enjoys doing during the Holiday season, he responded with, “I like giving!” What a remarkable young man!  No need for any spirit interventions with this chap. Spread the joy, Recho!
A very young man named Benjamin introduced himself to me today at the Jolly Days exhibit. He was eager to take a photograph. I obliged of course. Not wishing to appear vain, but one enjoys the novelty of modern day technology. Benjamin very much enjoys decorating his Christmas Tree each year. But more importantly, he is fortunate enough to be assigned his own special Elf that reports to Santa Claus directly. The Elf named “Rocket” informs Santa Claus as to the behavior of young Benjamin. After a few splendid moments with Benjamin and his family I am convinced Rocket has only good things to report!
I stumbled across some more joyful students from the St. Michael's School.  The lovely Erika, Salamat, McKenzie and Chloe played one of my favorite parlour games with me. So much fun!  The also shared that they enjoy playing games like tic-tac-toe, eating cake and singing songs with their families and friends.  Have a wonderful Holiday Season! 
Have you seen Scrooge during your visit to the museum? Leave a comment or send us a tweet using the #JollyDays hashtag, and let us know if you passed along the coin that you received from Scrooge.

Ways to Give on Giving Tuesday

Giving TuesdayBy Lindsay Pavell
This holiday season brings us Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and now—Giving Tuesday, a day for giving back. In partnership with the Giving Tuesday national movement, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is encouraging our museum friends and community members to consider becoming donors at the world’s biggest and best children’s museum—the reasons to give are endless! Here's how you can support the Children’s Museum Fund on December 3—Giving Tuesday—and celebrate the power of giving back:
  • During the Day—visitors who have given any amount have received an "I donated" sticker (and a high five!) 
  • After Hours—we're gearing up for our Jolly Days Happy Hour from 5:30–7 p.m.!
    Donate (at minimum) $10.00 and you'll receive one complimentary beverage provided by Sun King Brewery, dinner courtesy of Fazoli's, and a chance to explore Jolly Days—and the Yule Slide—without the kids! This event is for ages 21 and older and business casual attire is suggested.
  • Anytime—Give online!  Visit to learn how you can give December 3, or anytime.
Additionally, all Giving Tuesday contributions will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Yvonne Shaheen through the Shaheen Family Challenge. Mrs. Shaheen, a longtime friend of the museum, has made a generous gift to support neighborhood programs through this challenge grant.
As Development Operations Manager, it's part of my job to develop campaigns to build awareness about the Children’s Museum Fund, and our efforts around Giving Tuesday accomplish just that. It's our mission at the museum to create extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families. Without the generous support from our donors, we would not be able to reach beyond and continue to provide extraordinary family learning experiences that amaze, delight, and entertain. Through the power of giving, we have the ability to make the museum accessible for all families, regardless of income.
Learn how your contributions impact the museum in this special Giving Tuesday video:
You can follow the national movement at the #GivingTuesday hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Vine. 

Tiny Tour Guides: Grandma Gets Into the Act(ivity) | The Playscape 5

Granny Reaction ContraptionFollow along as three families (just like you!) discover Playscape together. The Playscape 5—Torrence, Myles and Ella, and Gage and Paul—will share their experiences as they learn and grow in the gallery...and at home! See Playscape through the eyes of Myles (age 4 1/2)  and Ella (age 1 1/2) in this post from dad, Tom. And continue to follow their journey online, on the blog, or by searching the #Playscape5 hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Vine!
What's better than skipping into the Children's Museum on a chilly winter day? Inviting Granny (aka Jeannie Long, one of the best grandmothers ever) to tag along. 
Myles and Ella were more than eager to self-appoint themselves unofficial Playscape tour guides on a pre-Thanksgiving visit. Even with the lure of Jolly Days, Playscape hasn't lost its luster. Far from it. In fact, bringing a newcomer into this amazing hands-on play area only seemed to reinforce their love for it.
"Look at this, Granny!" 
"Get Granny a coat!" (a smock for the waterfall). 
"Don't eat the sand, Granny."
"You don't have to turn down the sound in here!" (noting the freedom to try out all of the musical instruments at the same time, in a kiddo version of an impromptu jam session).
Bouncing from one exhibit to the next, Granny was provided with secret tips to conquer this adventure from her two curly-haired sidekicks five decades her junior. Granny too became eager to trade in her watchful eye for a more up-close role as a participant. 

Granny Music

From chasing and carefully placing yellow balls into the contraption to belting out songs in the music room, Granny kept up with her tour guides and even showed these budding docents how to dig in and get sand everywhere, and I mean everywhere. And, you get to see the cool shimmery effects of the sand with the sun beaming in through the windows. It was kind of like Florida, with sunshine and sand and warmth (albeit climate control.)
What's often repetitive to adults is re-discovery to children. At home, we take everyday items for granted because those are always around. But how often does a child beam with joy when they find a toy that's been hidden in the couch cushions and missing for months? That's why, on our sixth visit to Playscape, it's amazing how much the exhibit has retained its magical allure. 
What did we learn?
  1. Bring a friend (or in our case a Granny) to enjoy Playscape with you. It really is like discovering Playscape all over again every time you visit, especially if you are showing others what you like best.  
  2. Expect newcomers. The renovated Playscape continues to get top billing in news articles about the Museum (including Iowa!). The secret is out. Playscape was well-known to members and Indy residents, but not always a destination exhibit. Now it is!  
  3. Remember: strollers have to stay parked near the Playscape check-in station, so make sure you have a backpack with you as the kids enter. We like to carry a hand towel and some wipes for wet or dirty fingers!

Staff Picks from the Store: Potato Chip Science Kit

Potato Chip Science Staff PicksWhat's your favorite item from The Children's Museum Store? We asked our staff this very question, and they have some insightful answers! Josh Estes—Gallery Interpretation Manager and This Week's WOW Co-host—shares his recommendation and why it's his favorite. 

Potato Chip Science Kit: If I had a time machine, I would take this Science Kit to 8–year-old Josh and tell him it was OK to play with his’s for SCIENCE!

I was always a "science-y kid" growing up. I remember taking old T.V. “clickers” apart, not necessarily to see how they worked, but to just see what was under the plastic casing. Every November, we would receive the Sears (and Roebuck) giant catalog called, “The Wishbook."  I would pore over that catalog and would always settle on a page that had experiments. I would dream of creating an invisibility potion, or concocting the ability to fly.  

One Christmas, I got the big chemistry kit! I glanced at the recommended experiments and quickly moved on to my own. “Hmmmm…I wonder what would happen if I mixed the red liquid with the yellow powder…I doubt that any scientist has ever thought of that!...This could cure blindness!!!"  It did not. I found a way to make my laboratory (bedroom) smell like rotten eggs, though.
This Potato Chip Science Kit reminds me of my childhood and love for experimenting. They are fun, easy experiments that are adaptable for other produce items…”Sure it worked with a potato, but would it work with an apple?... I doubt any scientist has ever thought of that!..."
Sears catlog
Sears Wishbook 1985