Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Morning in Crown Heights: Free Admission for Early Birds at the Brooklyn Children's Museum

This morning, after doing our power yoga and chores, we got on the B43 bus at Graham and Metropolitan and took it down to the new Brooklyn Children's Museum at Brooklyn Children's Museum on Brooklyn Avenue and St. Marks Place in Crown Heights.

It's the same location it was when it was built as the world's first children's museum. We can vividly recall being taken to the old 19th century buildings as a child in the 1950s by our parents and on at least one school trip in second grade at P.S. 203.

There's one specific memory from the long-torn down Victorian mansion that day: We were sitting with the class in a room at heavy (but low to the ground) wooden tables, waiting for a lecturer or workshop leader. Although we can't remember what our activity was, we remember our thoughts as we waited silently and looked around at our classmates - Linda Konner, Lindy Krulewitz, Billy Sherman, Steve Kahn, Clifford Schwartz and the rest - and at the dark paneling of the room and at the trees and grass outside from the windows. And we had the weird notion that time would pass and one day we would be grown up and so would all the other kids and that things might change in a way that seemed scary but kind of interesting.

At the newly renovated, Rafael Viñoly-designed Brooklyn Children's Museum, admission is free - our cheapskate's preferred price - if you come before 11 a.m. on the second weekend of the month. The bus got us to wonderful Brower Park just before the museum opened at 10 a.m.

The fall colors at the park looked nice. It seems a long time since we were last here, for a hip-hop concert in August.

We followed in a large Muslim family and were told, yes, we didn't have to pay anything. Since we were unaccompanied by a child, we had to go to the security desk while the guard checked our Arizona driver's license and wrote down the information.

The Brooklyn Children's Museum is a great treat for any child. It's a lot nicer than the kind of well-meaning but dour exhibits we saw back in the Eisenhower administration. It's designed for kids.

Here's a professional review from the New York Times critic Edward Rothstein. We just wandered around and looked at stuff and watched the kids loving it. We took a lot of pics but tried to be careful not to take photos where any kids would be recognizable - for reasons of privacy and safety.

The bus stop and bus say "World Brooklyn," and inside the "bus" kids can play and watch a video about the different world cultures that live in the borough.


Nearby were stores representing a Chinese bookstore, a Mexican bakery, an African crafts store, a Latin American travel agency, an Italian pizzeria, etc.

There was a video of the Lions Dance in Sunset Park for Chinese New Year and a real-life "lion" nearby.

Outside "Spumoni's Pizzeria" was an Italian motorbike.

There was nature around: trees, for example.

In search of the Asian longhorned beetle...

For budding Nabokovs, butterflies.

Sand dunes are represented, and there's a sandbox too, along with a sea turtle board game and the kinds of ducks you'll find at the Gerritsen Creek salt marsh.

What kid doesn't love a platypus?

There were videos of an environmental education program involving marine life from Plumb Beach.

We went upstairs, which was pretty empty except for us earlybirds.

There's an outside area with bleachers.

There's a big display of TV show lunchboxes, maybe 15 or 20, including Roy Rogers. We remember waking up early in our East Flatbush apartment on Saturday mornings and we watched Roy and Dale, Trigger and their kids - along with Hopalong Cassidy and "Andy's Gang."

We wrote about Julia, starring Diahann Carroll, in our story "Seven Sitcoms."

And there's Brooklyn-based Welcome Back, Kotter with the Sweathogs in this peachy-keen lunchbox.

Kids hung up some drawings on a bulletin board.

An office to play in, just like grownups do.

Kids' books and magazines by a couch.

There were no kids up there when we were there, not till just before we left, but lots of fun stuff.

And the current exhibit, a toy workshop with a spy theme.

And trilingual signage.

Figure out what these signs say once you crack the secret code.

Dolls from different countries on display.

The whole Brooklyn Children's Museum seemed like a kid's playhouse to us.

We wish it had been more like this half a century ago.

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