Wow. So much fun.
The museum has several different areas, set up for different age groups — we went to the Ocean section, the one for the youngest kids (0-6) and specifically, we went to a “baby session”, meaning no kids older than 3. It was fantastic. There truly are very few places in the world you can set your children down (especially a just-learning-to-walk 1 year old) and really let them go. It was a great experience, for all of us, to be able to do just that.
There were cushions to climb on, toys that made sounds to toss and jangle, a mirrored tunnel, a huge ramp to climb to get upstairs, a big ship’s wheel, a winch and a crane, flags to be put up and down, a ladder to climb down (the only thing Liam couldn’t really traverse on his own) into a shallow room made up like the cabin of a small sailboat, a plank/bridge to walk across, more cushions (made to look like icebergs, in the Greenland section), slides, and a submarine cabin area, complete with switches to flip, buttons to push, cords to plug and unplug.
Benjamin was able to be pretty much autonomous the whole time. Liam required a little more supervision (he did try to plunge head first down into the sailboat part — several times) but even he toddled around very confidently. I’m sure the kids enjoyed their uncommon freedom. But it was also really special for Dan & I as parents — instead of supervising our kids, we really got to play with them. It wasn’t a distinction I was really aware of, but having done something different today, I see how much of my day is spent protecting, rather than enjoying, my kids. It was such an unusual and liberating experience to run and climb with Benjamin, or crawl around with Liam, and be focused on the fun things there were to see and discover instead of worrying about potential peril. I think the only times I said, “No” for an entire hour were when Liam tried to dive into the sailboat and once when Benjamin nearly sat on Liam. (I think my typical “no per hour” rate is in at least the double digits. The only time it’s lower is when they’re sleeping.)
I had a great moment, too, of getting to know my kids a little better. Benjamin had a great time, and he was thrilled with the freedom that he had, but he wanted us right there with him the entire time. He wanted to hold hands while running from one activity to the next, and have me sit with him while we played together. Liam is a different, even as such a little guy. He still wanted us there, but he wasn’t really concerned about it. A few times, I tried to help him with something, and he grunted at me and pushed me away. Already, he’s so independent. He had as much fun as his brother — he crawled and climbed and toddled and explored. I think he had a really good birthday celebration.
After our hour in the “baby session”, it was time to go, and we stopped and got ice cream and sat together in the shade. Then we walked home, through Vienna, on a perfect early fall afternoon. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it.