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Get Hands On with The Please Touch Museum

Behind the scenes at one of Philadelphia's Childrens Museums

For families looking for a fun, yet educational attraction to enjoy with young children, The Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia is the ideal activity. Straying from the notion that museums are for “looking and not touching” this museum features over 38,000 square feet of exhibition space in which children can immerse themselves and play while simultaneously learning.  Alice Emerson, Communications Manager at Please Touch, explains why the museum is such a success with both kids and parents alike.

Is the fun strictly for children or can the adults join in?

We have fun things for the adults that creates a supportive learning environment. We try to prompt hands-on learning for the children and adults. We have different zones and there are different exhibits within each zone. We have a very rich schedule of programming that includes story time, character meet and greets and also strong performing arts. We have our own theater in house- Please Touch Playhouse. There’s a new show about every few months.

How are the exhibits chosen?

The permanent exhibition zones are themed. Each zone has its own type of learning that it supports, all designed to prompt variant experiences. They are always evolving. We’re always working to update and refresh the exhibits. For the feature exhibitions, it’s a question of what’s available and what exhibits we think are the best designed, and which exhibits our visitors will respond positively to.

We reinstated our feature exhibition program. It’s a rotating schedule that come in every month. The kids are able to play alongside familiar faces. Our inaugural exhibit was Clifford The Big Red Dog. Currently, we have Curious George: Let’s Get Curious. In the fall it will be Adventures of Mr. Potatohead. Recently, we’ve been allowed an advancement grant from Pew Center for Arts and Heritage to help explore how to blend digital and tech into a traditional exhibition experience.

What is the most popular exhibit?

Picking a favorite exhibit would be like picking a favorite child but one of the classic highlights is our carousel. We restored and refurbished a vintage 1908 carousel that originally was in Woodside Park and had been in storage. No one had any use for it, but we took it and refurbished it to all its former glory. We built it its own glass enclosed pavilion; it’s beautiful, light and airy. People love it.

Since the exhibits are hands-on, do kids ever have issues with sharing or taking turns?

Kids are kids. The beauty of it is that every time something like that happens, it’s a learning opportunity. Learning experiences aren’t always positive, negative things are part of the learning. We have staff in each exhibit so if there’s a real problem we can address it but growing pains, learning to share, taking turns is all part of the “learning through play” experience. For the most part, everyone is having too much fun for there ever to be an issue.

How does the museum keep all of the exhibits sanitized from all of the hands-on learning?

Each zone is cleaned every night after everyone has left.  There are hand sanitizer dispensers throughout. The ambient temperature is set to a lower-than-normal setting. Overnight the building is empty and won’t be as warm so germs won’t be growing. It’s a very thoughtful approach. You can only do so much but we stay on top of it by taking every precaution.

When is the best time for families to enjoy the museum?

For families looking to come, if they don’t like huge crowds, Mondays. On Monday’s we don’t host groups so it’s less crowded. Weekends are busier. We have a rich scheduling of programming throughout the year and it’s evenly spaced so no matter what time you come, you’re going to find something interesting or cool to do.

We also have Play Without Boundaries, a program specifically for special needs. It’s for primarily sensory-based needs so we’re open exclusively, we lower the lighting, have less noise. It is great for anyone with autism or any other kind of special needs. It’s completely free, you just need to pre-register.

What sets “Please Touch Museum” apart from other museums?

We are actually the very first museum in the country that focuses on children 7 and under and we’re celebrating our 40th birthday this year. Our mission is to support learning through play. Every experience [a child has at the museum] is focused on that mission. 

-By Ettractions Digital Content Editor, PAULA MARINO

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WHAT'S NEARBY?

Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh

Other States: Pennsylvania

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