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Courtesy of The Magic House
The Magic House
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Courtesy of The Magic House
An electrostatic generator creates charges of static electricity. By touching the ball, some electrons are transferred to a person, causing a hair-raising experience.
The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum, makes its own magic—disguising learning as fun. Enticed by activities that encourage interaction, children can hardly contain their excitement as they enter a life-size world of make-believe.
Water gardens, giant pin screens that make three-dimensional impressions, and hair-raising moments caused by touching an electrostatic generator are only some of the things that children experience; all the while, the museum’s hands-on exhibits teach them important math, science, and literacy skills.
Started in 1979 by two young mothers, The Magic House was the first totally interactive children’s museum in the region and is uniquely located in a Victorian home. The home was built in 1901 for George Lane Edwards, the first president of the A. G. Edwards and Sons brokerage firm.
Time tunnels with whizzing gears transport visitors to a different time and place, bringing history alive. Kids can pen their own sonnets and verse and attach their leaf-shaped pieces of paper to a six-foot-tall wire-sculpture tree, blooming with original poetry.
Activities, such as Patriotic Karaoke, conducting water experiments, or playing the Pandrums (an instrument that creates music from kitchen pans), take learning from ho-hum to holy cow! An important feature not open to the public will be the exhibit fabrication workshop, enabling The Magic House to build and maintain exhibits as well as launch a traveling exhibit program.
Since opening, The Magic House has been consistently rated as one of the top children’s museums in the nation. In 2005, The Magic House received a prestigious award from Zagat Survey as the number one family attraction in the nation in child appeal. This distinction elevated The Magic House above every other children’s museum and family attraction, including the Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld, and the San Diego Zoo.
Children can work in construction, a grocery store, a bank, or pizza parlor. At KIDS-TV, the Magic House’s television station, kids can experience what it’s like to be a news anchor. Visitors can surround themselves with a giant soap bubble or create a masterpiece in the art studio.
Although this local attraction is big in popularity, it is small in size. The Magic Hous is less than half the size of the average children’s museum, according to the Association of Children’s Museums. With more than four hundred thousand visitors annually, The Magic House has more visitors per square foot of space than any of the two hundred children’s museums that are members of the association.
The small space coupled with the large number of visitors pose many challenges for the top-ranked museum, Kim says, “On busy days, there is a line to get in, and once visitors are inside, the space is very crowded. Children can’t enjoy the exhibits to the fullest extent. Plus, parents are uncomfortable with large crowds because it is more difficult to watch their children. Our goal is to create a better atmosphere for guests while they’re here.”
Launched in June 2005, the So Much More—Right Next Door $15 million expansion project added 32,000-square-foot expansion. Space for the expansion came from an adjacent condominium complex and allows the proposed renovations to connect to the original historic home. Improvements included a glass Victorian conservatory welcome center, new galleries to house traveling and permanent exhibits, a Star-Spangled Center highlighting educational programs on citizenship, and an interactive outdoor play garden.
This is the feature that excites Kim the most. “In the play garden, there will be a hopscotch path and a wading pool. It takes you back to a time when kids played outside and not inside with video games,” she says. “I hope it will get kids interested in very simple activities they can do outside.”
Enhanced visitor amenities, such as additional free parking, large restrooms, and a cafe, will also be added.
The Magic House is located at 516 S. Kirkwood Rd. at St. Louis. Visit www.magichouse.org or call 314-822-8900 for more information.