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Homeschooling Field Trip to the Discovery Museum

The Discovery Museum provided a family pass for Reno Moms Blog contributor Jessica L. to visit for the day. As a homeschooling mom of three, she found ways to make it an educational field for her family. 

Memorial Day followed a busy day for us this year.  Our littlest guy turned two, and we celebrated with a train-themed birthday party.  We had no plans for Memorial Day, but I definitely wanted to get out of the house.  Our last-minute options were an Aces baseball game or the Discovery Museum.  Since the Aces played at 1:05, exactly 5 minutes after nap/rest time begins in our home (read: parental enjoyment suicide), I packed a quick lunch and we headed out the door to the Discovery!

We’ve been to the Discovery before, but it had been a few months.  I spent much of our last visit chasing Aaron around (then 18 months) while Ben played with the girls.  This visit was so much more fun because Aaron is a) more independent, b) a better listener, and c) more interested in what’s going on around him.

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If you’ve never been to the Discovery before, it should immediately go on your list of places you need to visit this summer.  Go add it to your calendar right now!  Crazy kids cause you stress in public?  No problem here.  Everything is pretty child- and break-proof (it is, after all, made for children to explore).  The staff is incredible and will readily help tell your child to use walking feet or keep the water where it’s supposed to be….or in my past cases, mop up behind your 1-year-old who would rather wear the water.  Just know you can stress a little less while the kids are exploring at the Discovery.

The Discovery is one of those places where you could play all day and still not see everything.  Now that we are officially a homeschooling family, we will be buying a family pass ($85 for unlimited family access ALL year…an amazing deal!).  We plan to break sections of the museum up into different at-home science lessons, and follow up our lessons with a hands-on trip to the Discovery.

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The Nevada Stories area is one of the first areas we visited this trip.  Guessing different smells with Daddy (some sweet and some yucky), discussing how differently homes were built a long time ago (um, Mommy, where would everyone sleep in this thing?), walking through a Nevada “mine,” and painting their own pictures on rocks were so much fun!

Da Vinci’s Corner was our next stop.  I think this one must be a parent favorite, because this is where I see many dads jump in to play (hey – who said fun learning is only for the kids!).

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Lots of building and experimenting go on in this area, and because there’s no right or wrong to how you put things together, it makes it a great play space for even the young children.  Since Aaron was too small to figure out how these air blower things actually worked, he just held the air hose to his face for a good ten minutes.  It was awesome.

I think this was my 3-year-old’s favorite place to explore.  She tried everything and was so curious! And of course, my 5-year-old book worm found the (I think newly added) book corner….and she was awfully giggly when she began reading out loud “The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts…”

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Perhaps one of the smartest spaces in the Discovery Museum is the enclosed “5 & under” play area (Little Discoveries).  While we didn’t spend a ton of time in this space this visit, it has been a lifesaver in the past when my kids were younger.  As a parent, you can actually sit down and rest or nurse a baby while your kids play.  I think the Nugget Lifter is the coolest part of this area.  The kids load “nuggets” onto a conveyor belt which goes up and over their heads and dumps back down into the Nugget Car.  Aaron thought this was pretty great to watch:

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And lastly, a trip to the Discovery would not be complete without a climb (or two or three, oh wait, Mommy I’m stuck!) up the Cloud Climber.  This fully enclosed three story high “cloud” is my girls’ favorite!  The first time I allowed a then 2-1/2 year old Zoe up the Cloud, I’m pretty sure my blood pressure was through the roof.  Now the sisters (3-1/2 and 5) stick together and climb all over the Cloud while Aaron plays below in the the Truckee Connect water system and I sit and enjoy it all from the bench.

Of course, there are quite a few other areas which we did not even explore this time, but these are just the highlights from this trip.

Some tips for visiting the Discovery Museum:

1.  I highly suggest ditching the stroller unless it’s totally necessary for really little ones.  Having your hands free to help and play and keep up with your children is invaluable.

2.  Wear a backpack filled with all your necessities, including:

  • a change of clothes (in case they get soaked in the water)
  • a water bottle
  • a sack lunch (there’s an awesome lunch area, including tables, chairs, and a microwave)
  • your personal items, including wallet, camera, etc.

3.  Pick a time where napping is not an issue and you won’t feel rushed.  We love to get there right when they open at 10am, play, eat lunch at around 12:30, and head home for naps at around 1:00. It’s the perfect amount of time for our three kids ages 5 and under.

 4.  If you plan on visiting more than once or twice, it’s worth it to buy a family pass.  $8 a person per trip can get expensive really quick, especially if you have a lot of kids!  For $85, though, your entire family can have year-long access.  Such a great deal!

 5.  Have fun!  Remember, this place is designed for kids.  Your kids will not be the first to run where they’re not supposed to, throw a fit about leaving an area, toss food in the lunch room and spill their drink, or dump water all over themselves and the floor.  It’s okay.  Take a deep breath and remember that they’re young and they’re learning and having fun in a place specifically made for them.  Set and communicate boundaries and guidelines, but don’t stress out if (when) they forget them…just remind them and move forward.  Make the decision ahead of time that the Discovery will be fun for both your kids AND YOU!

Have you been to the Discovery Museum before?  What are your favorite areas to explore or your best tips for parents heading to the Discovery for the first time?

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About Jessica Locke

Jessica Locke
Jessica is a wife and homeschooling mom to four kiddos, three pups, and six chickens. She enjoys chocolate, chai tea, mixed martial arts, teaching, and writing about her crazy life. She believes that if you know something, you should share it, and so she blogs about her homeschooling journey and other parenting related topics on her blog at motheringwithcreativity.com. In her "spare time" she teaches cardio kickboxing and can usually be found at the gym training or watching her kiddos enjoy their own training.

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