OKC needs a children’s museum

Most agree that this solution to save the historic building would be welcomed.

One unexpected question we keep hearing from those not part of the parent pack was: What the heck is a children’s museum?

That’s simple. A children’s museum is a place dedicated to a unique indulgence: a playground for kids, age 0 to 10ish, to exercise their bodies and brains, where caregivers and kiddos can play side-by-side with mindexpanding, interactive exhibits.

For climbing, pretending and general messing around indoors — uninterrupted by burger-hawking clowns or chicken-hawking cows — we have very few options. Parents and caregivers of young kids need more. All “big-league cities” have children’s museums. Lots of minor-league cities do, too.

All “big-league cities” have them. Lots of minor-league cities do, too.

We need one here. Mister Rogers taught that “play” was the “work” of childhood. Think about it. We didn’t have tutor Tuesdays, piano Wednesdays and soccer Saturdays. We had no iPhones. We had one TV per household. We actually used to get bored, and we’d play Toss Across or Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, or we would work puzzles. Our brains grew and we discovered how to interact with the world by play.

In 2006, Oklahoma City beckoned me and my husband to return to raise our son. So much had changed since we’d moved. But you know what never changed? The weather. Allergies, heat waves, wind, rain and cold keep us inside a lot. We do, however, have many options for our outdoor play-days. The recent redesign of the Myriad Botanical Gardens, for instance, offers one of the most interesting playgrounds in the country. The nontraditional equipment challenges a child to decide how they will interact with it. Watch 10 kids approach the green hill with silver bars, for example, and you’ll see 10 different ways to use it. That kind of self-driven fun is what children’s museums are all about.

We have some amazing local museums, too, where the learning feels like playing. The Sam Noble Museum of Natural History and Science Museum Oklahoma are two of the best. A children’s museum doesn’t have to compete with these places. Rather, if planned properly, it complements them. It’s at institutions such as these that children can walk through the door and take the lead. It’s empowering. That kind of freedom and discovery results in a self-driven learner later in life, and also fosters a foundation of creativity and selfconfidence.

A children’s museum downtown would allow our kids to grow while watching their city do the same. It might even be the emotional tie to such a magical childhood that they want to duplicate it for their own little Okies in the future. A children’s museum tells the world that Oklahoma City is dedicated to our future. Plus, our kids are the coolest around — they deserve it.

Zeeck is a public relations consultant and co-director of Children’s Museum of Oklahoma City.

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