I am very happy to present this cheat sheet for Lawrence Hall of Science for preschoolers, the third in our series: The three-year olds guide to everything fun in the Bay Area! Do you have an opinionated three-year old? If so, I’d love for you to add to the body of knowledge available to other parents.
My three-year old, Sawyer, came to LHS with his science goggles on and he was ready to play and learn. Our visit was a joyful exploration chasing one shiny thing after another. He was first captivated by the inflatable balls floating in the lobby as a result of the air puffer machine. Kids can press buttons to start the flow of air and reposition the direction of the airstream with their Herculean strength.
The adjacent installation of plasticky pins caught his eye; he had never seen anything like it so we spent a lot of giggly time pressing in our hands and making it all flat again. The posted rules say “No kicking and no faces” so you know that's the next thing kids (and parents!) want to do. For our first visit, hands were awesome enough.
The Kapla blocks are a favorite with my older sons. Sawyer wasted no time in destroying three different children's hard work (who were no longer there, thank God!) before moving on in a blur down the hall.
We wandered on toward the right path away from the gift shop — I never go to the gift shop — toward some nanotech exhibits. I was immediately wistful for the old toddler play area that had been moved since my other children were little, but Sawyer enjoyed playing with the gecko feet and pushing buttons on the computer for games he didn't comprehend. Unintelligible computer interaction was more hands-on awesomeness as far as he was concerned.
To the end of the path is the current traveling exhibition, SPEED, and we spent some happy time exploring. In general, I find the main exhibit hit or miss for preschoolers depending on how much reading is involved vs. how much touching they get to do. SPEED is high-touch and thus a big hit for the three year-old set.
Against Sawyer's better judgement (Why? I do not know), we went outside. He was awe-struck by the clear view of the “whole wide world” and he unsuccessfully tried to use the giant viewers to get a closer look; they are heavy and he is small. He also considered going for a swim because the Bay looked so close. Nobody melted down when Mommy said that we weren't swimming. So far so good.
Still outside, we noticed the water, stepping stones, and flow-diverting dam things. He thoroughly enjoyed raising and lowering the plastic devices to make the water run differently. I was pleased that he didn't fall in or get his shoes soaked. Another victory for science!
KidsLab. When we reentered the museum, we found little kid nirvana toward the right. All the best play stations for a three-year old are in this room together. You'll find the old toddler play zone with mirrors; a ping pong ball run where kids can adjust the cards over and over (pictured); puppet theater; storybooks; large foam block manipulatives for building and crashing; the leftovers from the roller coaster exhibit where kids can make predictions and test them; and nothing that requires reading!
Bathroom break. The bad news is that all the bathrooms are downstairs away from the main play area. If you're visiting the museum with a baby and a toddler, it can be a royal pain. With just my wise preschooler, we had a blast walking down different stairways from each other and meeting up at the bathrooms.
Snack break. LHS allows home food in the picnic areas outside or in the cafe. They're cool like that. Both options include that amazing view of the whole wide world. Sawyer thought the food smelled delicious, but we didn't try any.
Animal discovery. There is a fantastic program where kids can get their hands on animals that we've never done. Check it out here.
When we came back upstairs, I was about done but Sawyer wanted to do one more of everything he loved: Gecko feet, speed pedal game (3x), speed video game (2x), and gecko feet (2 more times!).
As we left, he noticed the enormous whale and DNA climbing strand for the first time so we spent about 25 more minutes climbing on all the parts.
When I asked Sawyer what he liked best about our half-day at Lawrence Hall of Science, he said “all of the things.” High praise indeed.
More details to plan a visit
- RATES: Your UNDER 3-year old is FREE; $12 Adults; $10 Children 3-18, Seniors 62+; Free for Members, UC Berkeley students and staff. See also: LHS Membership, is it worth it?
- WEB: www.lawrencehallofscience.org
- GETTING THERE: We drive up Centennial past the Rose Garden and park in the lot (additional fee!), but you can also take Bus #65 from downtown Berkeley.
Thanks to LHS for waiving the admission fees so we could explore and report back to you. All opinions are mine and Sawyer's.
[All photos by Heather Flett for 510families, all rights reserved]