Endlessly Amazing

Endlessly Amazing

Amazeum teaches while it entertains


The music maker in the Nickelodeon room lets kids make beautiful music with unusual objects.

When, in the middle of the winter school break — when viable activities for your twin 8-year-olds are dwindling along with your patience — you discover that Bentonville’s 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art children’s museum has two special exhibits, there is but one thing to do:

Hie thee to the Scott Family Amazeum, forthwith!

My favorite thing about the Amazeum — beyond its ability to entertain my children for hours — is that, in the midst of all of that entertainment, it’s simultaneously educating them. The Amazeum’s unique talent for “edutainment” is on full display with “Eat Well, Play Well” — which ends Jan. 20 — and “Magnificent Me” — through May 12. Both exhibits focus on the healthy habits that keep our bodies running smoothly. My kids, whose brains usually shut down at the first mention of the word “healthy,” were entranced by the interactive kiosks that show — rather than tell — the benefits of eating right and staying fit.

In “Eat Well, Play Well,” you can sit down on a machine, plant your feet on the end, lean forward, and push a handle forward as far as you can to test your flexibility. The kids were “average,” while their parents — who haven’t exactly been yogi masters lately — were “below average.” “Calories In, Calories Out” displays the varying calorie counts of foods and the stark contrast between sugary sweets and vegetables by demonstrating how long it takes to burn off one piece of candy when kids use the hand pedal to “exercise.” Emphasizing the nutrients that the fruits and vegetables provide steers the conversation toward health instead of weight.

“The Madness” in the Nickelodeon Room is always a favorite. Bonus: this room doesn’t seem to get as crowded as some of the other exhibits.

Meanwhile, “Magnificent Me” is even showier: Because they’re 8, the kids’ favorite part was a machine that explains why flatulence occurs. Giggling in tandem, they hopped up and down on springy seats to help build up air for the demonstration. Other favorites were the sonogram machine — where they took a look at what twins like themselves look like in utero — and the machine that mirrors their images on a television screen and shows them the locations of their internal organs. Both were genuinely blown away by “Can My Hand Fool My Brain?” in which placing your hand on two sides of a metal coil — warm on one side, cold on the other — makes the center of the coil feel startlingly hot to the touch, even though it’s not. Magic tricks that teach science lessons? What more could parents want?

“The Market” at the Amazeum seems to have evergreen appeal — my kids have loved it since they were 2. Now they’re 8 and are still entranced — and were playing with kids years older than they are.

Of course, my kids were their usual frenetic selves in the mentally, visually and socially stimulating environment that the Amazeum offers on a busy day, packed to the rafters with kids who were out of school. But even though they were running from exhibit to exhibit, seemingly skimming over the educational aspects of each one, they’ve continued to talk about what they learned there for days afterward. They usually mull over the more bookish aspects of the exhibits later, when they have some time and quiet to think. It is something I’ve come to expect from our visits, and it is truly the magic of the Amazeum.

After we exhausted the temporary exhibits, we moved on to our old favorites: Canopy Climber — with leaves that kids can climb clear up to the ceiling, safe within a protective net — and the Nickelodeon Play Lab — where they can make music with innovative instruments created with nothing more than PVC pipe, ball bearings and rubber bands or move small balls from place to place using pipes hooked up to an air system.

Surprisingly, the bulk of our time was spent at The Market, the adorable pint-sized grocery store. I found an empty stool at the meat counter and took the opportunity to refresh after our whirlwind tour around the building. I expected the respite to be short — I assumed that the kids were outgrowing this exhibit — but 10 minutes later, my son, store vest on, was still methodically patrolling the shop area for abandoned baskets full of groceries he could return to the shelf. Meanwhile, my daughter, ever the social butterfly, had bounced behind the ice cream counter and was offering someone else’s dad a banana split.

Lots of hands-on exhibits in “Eat Well, Play Well” and “Magnificent Me” make it an ideal learning environment — even for kids (like mine) who normally reject any attempts to encourage healthy eating.

Watching the busy industry of children helping each other — checking each other out at the registers, handing pork chops over the meat counter, making “sandwiches” for customers at the diner — it occurred to me for the umpteenth time: If adults could pitch in and work

together with complete strangers like kids do at the Amazeum, the world would look a lot rosier.



‘Eat Well, Play Well’

“What is in the food we eat? Are fruits and vegetables important? Can everyday activities burn calories? Find the answers to these questions by exploring nutrition and fitness in ‘Eat Well, Play Well,’ an engaging and educational science exhibit. This hands-on exhibit appeals to children and their families and features text in English and Spanish.”

Ends Jan. 20

he Free Weekly / LARA JO HIGHTOWER
If you stand in just the right spot at this exhibit, a special camera shows you where your organs are located.

‘Magnificient Me’

“Find out how body systems function and how lifestyle choices support proper functioning of respiratory, digestive, skeletal, and muscular systems of the body in ‘Magnificent Me.’”

Through May 12

WHERE — Scott Family Amazeum, 1009 Museum Way, Bentonville

COST — Free to members; $9 for nonmembers (free to kids younger than 2)

INFO — 696-9280

Categories: Family Friendly