When the grand opening date for the new science centre were announced...I added them to my Cozi calendar and added a note "Try to visit in 3-4 months once the crowds have dispersed". As the months passed since the grand opening and the reviews have come rolling in - I admit, it's been hard to stay away. Finally, this last weekend, we went to check it out.
I never visited the old Science Centre downtown. Partly because admission seemed so expensive and partly because I didn't have kids to entertain in the winter. Now that I have the munchkin twins, I feel a need to take them out and provide experiences to enrich their growing minds. At two and a half, they are in a much better place to enjoy a place like Telus Spark.
The biggest draw for us was the Creative Kids Museum. As far as we could tell, much of the rest of the centre is geared toward an older audience. With this in mind, we toured the entire place but our attention was ultimately focused on the Creative Kids Museum to make sure Doodle and Buggie would get the most out of the day. It was just as well, anyway, since the museum had a HUGE amount of things to occupy small hands.
Everything at SPARK is geared toward being a very hand-on experience. There are experiments to conduct, materials to manipulate, cranks to spin, pieces to assemble and buttons to push. In every area BUT the Creative Kids Museum, the tables are at a height that is more easily accessible to an older child. I'd say around 8 years old. We found we needed to lift the girls up often to reach things until we headed into the Museum.
The Creative Kids Museum is a feast for the senses. We didn't even make it through everything in there and the girls LOVED everything that did try. What amazed us most was that they weren't even drawn to the play structure...they wanted to play with the experiments. Doodle immediately started to play with the magnets and loved it when one of the staff members came over to show her how to build a bridge.
Buggie was enthralled by the floating "bouncy balls" and spent a good 20 minutes hovering the foam balls over the air tubes.
They were also huge fans of the water piano. I can already see which kid needs to go into music lessons soon...
It was at the water area where the real action happened. The entire area is on a raised platform in the museum. There is a large water table that dominates a large portion of the platform and, along the edges, there are seats for the parents (much needed when you see how long your kids will play in the water) and a slate "painting wall" where kids can paint with water. After seeing the girls enthusiasm for this wall, we started thinking of ways we might build our own at home! There are thick, waterproof aprons for the kids to wear while they play.
The water table itself is pretty cool. There is a large reservoir that has a section in the middle, where a kid can climb up through a hole and be surrounded by water. There are two sections that descend from this main reservoir - one leading to an assortment of fountains; the other littered with rocks and stones. There are boats and ducks to float through the obstacles and to play with how water works and moves. There is also an area where the kids can turn cranks to pump water into a raised reservoir and then they can place various track pieces to watch water flow when a chain is pulled.
The girls spent a good half hour playing in the water. When they started getting a bit over-excited and stopped listening to our requests that they not transport water in the boats across the floor...we decided it was time to take them to a quieter area to calm down.
On to the "Baby and Toddler" area. Along one of the walls is, arguably, one of the neatest learning area for the little ones. Meant for ages three and under - the room is a sensory playground, complete with crawling track and padded blocks, a wall with velcro alphabet letters and many other toys geared toward the smaller kids. Our twins really loved the area and it was a great place to help them calm down after the excitement of the water table.
When the girls started to tire of the the experience, we knew it was time to take them home. But not before we stopped in the atrium area where the giant foam blocks were! Part of me wishes we had room at home to invest in these because they had so much fun walking on them and pushing them over.
I had my reservations about whether the girls would find any value in the Telus SPARK. I thought they might be a touch on the young side for it, but I was happily proven wrong. They loved everything and it was great to see the wheels turning as they learned new things. I could see this being a monthly destination for us since there is still so much that we didn't even have a chance to explore.
I definitely recommend this place as a family outing. There is something for everyone and you'll all learn something along the way!
Visitor Tips from a Mom in the Know:
1) Be prepared to pay for parking. It is NOT free. (though if you buy a Gold membership - then it is). You pay for it at the same time you pay your admission.
2) Under age 3 are free (Bonus for us that the girls are only 2.5!)
3) If you decide to buy a membership after your first visit - the admission from that visit can be used against the total cost. We're seriously considering this.
4) Bring food - we ended up having lunch in the cafe there and it was not worth the $27 for the soggy sandwich, a dry sandwich and really bad hummus we got. We noticed after than most people seemed to be unpacking picnic lunches.
5) There are locker rentals - if you need to pack stuff around, get one. Having your hands free is a huge luxury here.
6) Note the location of the quiet room in the Creative Kids Museum. If you have a kid who is easily overstimulated, you will appreciate knowing how to get here quickly.
7) Dress them in short sleeves. There is a large water-play area and they are going to WANT to play in it. The waterproof aprons only cover so much and long sleeves make for discomfort later.