You know that giggle? That super cute giggle?
With my girls, it is kind of a rat-a-tat-tat. It’s a bit like mine but it sounds cuter coming from them. It’s one of those noises that gives you a parenting high. And a grandparent high–they love it because it can be appreciated long distance over the phone or Skype. It’s the reason you tell silly jokes or why you actually KEEP that colander on your head for several hours after it got used as a hat in a fit of silliness (is that last one just me?).
You know what else makes my girls giggle like that? The Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie books.
On Thanksgiving weekend, a friend and I were looking for playdate ideas. We were contemplating the Eric Carle Museum but we weren’t sure. We’d been relatively recently. Although VERY worthy, did we want to devote time or ticket prices to that, or someplace we’d never tried before?
Two things cinched it for sure–library passes (although admission is very reasonable at just over twenty dollars for a family pass and free for teachers) and the fact the current featured artist is Beal girl favorite Mo Willems.
Western MA is or was home to many extremely acclaimed children’s authors: Dr. Seuss, Jeanne Birdsall, Leslea Newman, Bill Cosby, Jane Yolen, and more. I’m guessing this is part of the reason yet another famous kid’s author and former resident–Eric Carle, still alive and active at 84–decided on the location for his picture book art museum.
The museum has several galleries featuring original artwork from authors/illustrators. Carle seems to always have some of his original collages on display, and other galleries rotate, hence the Mo Willems feature right now. But let’s face it–adults or older kids are the ones who might be more apt to get a thrill about the fact it is the original art (drafts and notes are often included in the displays as well) which is why it is a good thing there is loads more to do there.
Our kids ran straight to the art studio. That day, they were teaching good old Carle style collages, although they have varying themes on different days. Tables are set up based on age and skill level, and there are plentiful assistants, supplies, and references. There are also some toys and mini-exhibits off to the side, in case one of your kids finishes before another. Studio time is included with every visit, but they also offer more formal classes you can sign your kids up for if you live out that way.
They have their own library, with a fantastic Very Hungry Caterpillar wooden play structure outside the entrance.
There is a theatre with both movies and a live-action stage. Sometimes fun but short informational clips are shown for free, and sometimes major features or productions are put on for an additional fee. They’ve also got a snack area with vending machines and a very nice gift shop. They occasionally host various festivals and have rentable event space.
This kid-oriented museum is definitely worth a visit but it is more of a jaunt for our Greater Boston readers. Thankfully there is plenty to do in the area if you decide to make a day, weekend, or vacation out of it. We ALWAYS stop for cider donuts at Atkin’s Farm right next door. The Yankee Candle Flagship, Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, vibrant and walkable downtown Northampton, and lots of hiking are all within 15 minutes or so, with many more kid-friendly options in Springfield, Worcester, and the Berkshires. We hope you get a chance to check it out someday!