Adults Play at Boston Children’s Museum

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When was the last time you saw a grown man finger painting? Or women blowing bubbles and walking a balance beam? All without a child in sight.

Being a grown-up has its perks. You can drink, drive (please not at the same time), buy all kinds of gadgets, clothes and toys, go on vacation, and so on. Basically you get to do whatever you want.

One night in August, I had the chance to relive the glory days of childhood play with 800 other 20-and-30-somethings at the Boston Children’s Museum. In a stroke of genius, the Children’s Museum decided to open their doors exclusively to grown-ups — for the first time ever — for one glorious summer evening.What could be better than getting to do whatever you what, whenever you want? Making all your own rules? But the reality is, that coveted independence also comes with a lot of strings. Mainly, a job, bills, taxes, responsibility.

As a kid, it’s easy to take playtime for granted. Recess was everyone’s favorite subject (of course), but you don’t realize how much fun it is until it’s gone.

It was incredible to see hundreds of adults explore their inner child. For some, Boston Grown-ups Museum attendees who had grown up in the area, the event also delivered a heavy dose of nostalgia as they revisited exhibits they had played in as children.

Patrick Gillooly, 28, remembered from childhood the climbing tower located in the museum’s atrium. It was the first thing he did that night. “I remembered it being gigantic. That’s no longer the case,” Gillooly said.

Gillooly noted that the evening wasn’t all about childhood memories for him though. Recently married and with a family in the not-so-distant future, Gillooly noticed some things he didn’t remember seeing as a child; most notably the parenting tips posted around the museum.

Appealing to future parents was one part of the motivation behind the event for Children’s Museum. Apparently, the whole idea started because some of the young Children’s Museum staff wanted to explore the museum themselves and thought their friends and colleagues would also enjoy it.

Joanne Baxter, Director of Public Relations and Sponsorship for BCM, said that some of the adults that night were “more excited than the three and four year-olds.”

Most of the sold-out crowd were young adults. Baxter admitted that many of them probably did not have children of their own yet, they would in the future. She hoped that the grown-ups’ evening would encourage them to think kindly of BCM when that day came.

Carole Cahrnow, the CEO of Boston Children’s Museum, added that the event was intended to “promote the power of play” and raise the profile of the museum to a broader audience and get young adults to realize what a gem the museum really is.

She added that the aim of the museum is to “keep the holy grail of play alive” and that play is how kids learn imagination, creativity and innovation. After watching my peers at the grown-ups’ night and experiencing how fun it is to unleash your inner child, I think adults could probably benefit from a little more playtime too. (And by that I’m referring to the the blocks and bubbles variety.)

Since playtime can also be educational (and knowledge is power), here are a few fun facts about the Boston Children’s Museum you may not know. Especially if you haven’t been in 20 or so years.

  • Hands-on exhibits started at the Boston’s Children Museum in 1962. It has been a leader in interactive exhibits ever since.
  • The Museum has 600,000 visitors every year, making it the second most popular museum in the city (after the New England Aquarium).
  • The Children’s Museum was the first LEED gold certified museum in New England (which means it’s very eco-friendly and energy efficient), following its remodel in 2007, which added 2,500 square feet, including the waterfront atrium.

After a very successful first all-grown-ups event, Baxter said that the museum would consider hosting similar events in the future. I highly recommend going if they do.

Until then, maybe buy a box of crayons and a coloring book, break out your finger paints or stop by a playground.