If you are looking for a place to take your child where they will learn, have fun, and not want to leave; then look no further than the Play Work Build exhibit at the National Building Museum in DC. My husband and I took our two girls and two boys, ages 2 through almost-7, and everyone including the adults had a great time.
ABOUT THE EXHIBIT
Play Work Build is a hands-on, interactive exhibit exploring the history and creative range of block play.
This new, long-term exhibit was developed in partnership with the design firm, the Rockwell Group. Visitors of all ages are encouraged to test their building skills using dense blue foam blocks of various shapes and sizes. I must say these blocks are very cool and I wish I had some at home.
Currently they are operating PLAY WORK BUILD in a very limited capacity: only 20 people in the exhibition at a time. The blocks and surfaces are sanitized regularly, and we ask all visitors to sanitize their hands and keep masks on at all times. Timed passes are included in your admission, and are available at the admission desk when you pick up your wristbands.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The exhibit is in a large open gallery big enough to maneuver a stroller and divided into four distinct zones. At the entrance, there is a long table with Lincoln Logs and Superstructs for children to construct and deconstruct. My husband and 5-year-old son enjoyed using the Superstructs. Beyond here are three areas for play based upon the size of the blocks. The areas are divided by low walls that double as seating for parents and caregivers. Throughout the exhibit hall are glass enclosed cases with some of the museum’s vast architectural toy collection. My 3-year-old kept gravitating to a 1935 Toy Town Peg Board and 1937 Tom Thumb Toy Town.
The first section of blue blocks consisted of a very large, lighted table for small-scale block play and was surrounded by large blue foam seats in different shapes for people to sit. Visitors were encouraged to Tweet photos of their small blue block creations to the museum to be posted. I saw children of all ages at this table. The younger children worked with a parent and the older ones made creations on their own. It tended to be more of a quiet area. My almost 7-year-old daughter had fun making houses and my 3-year-old had great fun grabbing the small blue foam blocks and running away with them.
The next area featured medium-sized foam blocks and tubes. It was clearly the most popular and lively. The open area is surrounded on three sides by a wall of blocks with small and large holes to assist children in their creations. My 5-year-old son thought it would be fun to climb the wall. While I never saw a sign prohibiting climbing, the foam squares were not attached to the wall. Once this area became crowded, it was difficult for kids to build.
Still, this was our favorite section. My 7-year-old daughter built a ramp and rolled several of the balls down it. My 5-year-old son went from making a car, to a house, to random creations from his imagination. My 2 and 3-year-olds were never tired of picking up blocks and seeing what their older siblings were doing and trying to repeat it.
The third area had very large moveable foam blocks about the size of a toddler, and an original digital interactive that allowed visitors to fill an entire wall of the exhibition with virtual blocks and then knock them down when stepping off the special mat in front of the screen. My 3-year-old could not get enough of his shadow.
Play Work Build will appeal to just about every child. My children all have very different personalities and the exhibit kept them constantly fascinated. Plan to stay awhile. We were there for over an hour and could have easily stayed longer.
THINGS TO KNOW
- Play Work Build is going on at the National Building Museum
- Admission is $10 for adults, $5 ages 3 to 17, students with ID, and seniors 65+. Free for members and children 2 and under. Price includes admission to the museum’s other exhibits. Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum’s Information Desk.
- Advance-purchase tickets are daily, Friday through Sunday, and split into two sessions: 11 am–1 pm and 1–4 pm.
- The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and occasional special events. Check their online calendar before before venturing out.
- An adult must accompany children at all times.
- The National Building Museum is located across the street from the Judiciary Square Metro (Red line) and a few blocks from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro (Yellow and Green lines). 2-hour metered parking is available on F, 5th, and G Streets (first come, first served). Some meters are active on Saturdays. Do NOT park in the 4th street lot. It is a “permit only” lot.
- Food and drink is prohibited. The museum has a Firehook Bakery and Coffee House open daily and serves baked goods, salads, sandwiches, coffee and more.
- You can find unique toys, home furnishings, building-related books, gifts, etc. in the Museum Shop.