The Mobius Children’s Museum is in Spokane, Washington. It’s a great place for families with kids from 6 months to 9 or 10 years. (Our 8 year old had a great time there.)
There’s science exploration, math skill practice, building activities, pretend play settings, art and music. Just click on those links, and you’ll find descriptions of all the exhibits. (At the bottom of the post, you’ll find my overall impression and some logistics details.)
Right inside the door is Bubbleology – a giant container of bubble solution plus multiple bubble wands to play with, and one of the giant bubble makers, where you pull a rod up out of the bubble solution to make a huge sheet of bubble membrane to explore. Bubbles are always a winner with kids of all ages! Near there is a magnetic launcher, where you place a metal ring on a rod, press a button, and it launches through the air! The challenge is to land it in a bucket, and you can adjust the power of the launcher till it’s just right to get it there. (Note: sometimes a child runs off after launching the ring without putting it back, so you may have to search around a bit to find the ring.)
There’s a microscope with a collection of slides next to it – you slide them under the lens and take a look. I did have to show my son that you need to be pretty precise about making sure the circle on the slide is right on top of the circle of light. After that, he enjoyed it as an 8 year old. Microscopes are fun for older kids, but I find preschool age kids often have a hard time wrapping their mind around what it is they’re seeing.
They had what we call a scarf poof – a series of tubes mounted to a blower, where you insert a scarf and it blows through the tubes and poofs out the other end. (This one had the perfect exit, where the scarf would puff out above kids’ heads and then float down so they could easily catch it. Some kids will do this for hours!) They themed it as the Circuit Circus and used it to illustrate the idea of an electrical circuit.
They had a giant Lite Brite where you can arrange and rearrange the colored tubes to make pretty patterns. In most places, these are solid plastic tubes. Here, they used water bottles filled with colored water. Some also had colorful water beads floating inside, so they were fun discovery bottles. Below the lite brite were colorful bins for kids to put bottles into to practice their sorting skills.
Water Play is always a winner with kids. This water table allowed you to build dams to channel the water. We played there for quite a while, building paths for the rubber duck to float down. It was a little challenging as the water level was a little too high, and would easily flow over the tops of the walls you had set up, taking the duck over with it. This was a really good exhibit, but just lowering that water level a bit would make it great.
Math / Money
Moneyville is a bank exhibit. There were calculators to play with, a rotary telephone to dial, number dials to mark how much money someone was depositing or withdrawing, and LOTS of big plastic coins to count out. (I couldn’t help but think how much work it must be for museum staff to pick up all those coins when they get scattered. But I have to say that while we were there, we never saw any coins scattered about. The staff here was very visible and actively working to keep the place tidy.)
There were some other nice ideas related to money spread throughout the museum. There was a Making Money exhibit, which had crayons and rubbing plates where you could design your own money by placing the paper on top of a border design and rubbing that, then interior designs and numbers. It was a nice hands-on experience. Note: I find most kids have to be taught how to do a crayon rubbing and that you use the SIDE of the crayon, not the tip.
Within the Market, there were several math-themed activities: there was a cashiering computer game where you had to make change, where I think prompts came up on a screen, then you pressed the buttons to make the change – I confess I didn’t look at it closely but my son really enjoyed it. There was a sign explaining how prices are set – that the seller has to decide how much a buyer would be willing to pay. There were plastic coins next to signs saying things like “how many ways can you make 20 cents.” And a lift the flap that showed: If an orange cost 15 cents, which people have enough money to buy one? And then there were three hands, with coins in them, and you had to figure out which hand was not enough, which hand had just the right amount, and which person had more than they need.
By the front door, there was a digging zone, with chunks of rubber to dig in and lots of tools, including these cool claw diggers. Lots of kids LOVE to dig and load up trucks.
Near the bathroom, there was a ball wall with a ball elevator and tubes to arrange just right to send a ball through. (I love ball walls for teaching tinkering skills! This one is small, so limited, but still worth playing.)
And there was this super cool Super Dig construction toy where kids sit on it and manipulate the digger hands to go up, down, side to side (check out the video below)… my 8 year old LOVED it. I wonder if it would be hard for little kids to understand how it worked. I also suspect that on a really busy day at the museum there might be a lot of competition to use this.
This was a whole room dedicated to building. There was a light table where you could trace blueprints – an elevation, a site plan and a floor plan. There were “architects’ desks” for drawing out your design.
Then lots of building supplies for hands-on building experiences (Note: I included affiliate links to all of those in case you see anything you love and want to own – I do get a small referral bonus if you purchase any of the items from the links.)
- A magnetic wall with geometric shapes magnets
- A rug with roads, fields and a river drawn out, plus wooden buildings to arrange to layout a city, and cars to drive around your neighborhood
- Giant lego-like blocks to build large structures with (cleverly within a fenced area so they don’t tumble all around the room)
- Tegu, which are wooden blocks with magnets inside. (I have seen these advertised, and thought they would be lots of fun, but even as adults with a good understanding of how magnets work, it was tricky for us to figure out what you could put together, and what would repel or what just wouldn’t connect… I think that kids would find these frustrating and limited. So, they’re a good experience to have at a children’s museum, but I wouldn’t buy them for my home or classroom.) In another museum they used these on a magnetic wall, and I liked that better than on the table.
- A table with bins of tinker toys, Lincoln logs, plastic stick-and-ball toys, and these 6 petaled “flowers” to link together
Pretend Play / Daily Life
There was a climbing ramp and a slide, and tucked underneath that was this fun play kitchen, with dishes and a huge array of play food.
Next to the kitchen was a play garden: with clothes to hang on a clothesline, gardening gloves to try on, flowers to pick and replant, and toy wheelbarrows to push around. (We have a tiny wheelbarrow for our toddler class, and kids love it! Slightly bigger wheelbarrows are great playground additions for preschoolers. They can load them up with all sorts of supplies to move around the playground.)
They had a theater and dress-up area. There were cool hats, paw slippers, hula hoops, and lots of dress-up clothes in the wings of the theater. Lots to explore!
Their Mighty Mouth display was in the theater area. It was a fun oral health display with giant toothbrushes and ropes for dental floss.
The Market was full of pretend play options: like an ice cream and hot dog stand, fruit and vegetable displays, wooden foods, plastic money so you could sell and make change, grocery carts and baskets, and a check out counter.
The “neighborhood” part of the museum was traffic safety themed. It contained two stationary bikes that were mounted in front of screens where you could imagine yourself riding down a road. There was a doctor’s office with an exam table, a scale, bandages, cool x-rays, and stuffed animal “patients” to examine. Plus dress-up clothes for firefighters and police officers, a place to test out buckling a seat belt, and lots of traffic safety tips. The best part of this area were the wiggle bikes that you could ride around the neighborhood.
For the Youngest Visitors
The Enchanted Forest is for kids age 3 and under. There were ride-upons, a small climber and slide, a play house, toddler toys, a train table, stuffed animals and dolls. It also had a sensory bin filled with rice, scoopers, buckets, and water wheels. If I were a local parent of a toddler, I would have a membership to the museum so I could bring my child once a week to play in this area! There’s plenty to keep them entertained and stimulated, and it has a gate, so it’s easy to contain the little runners, so you could sit and relax for a few minutes while the child played!
The “Mother’s Room” is perhaps a place for breastfeeding parents to nurse a baby, or for a child with sensory challenges who needs a quiet calm down zone. There’s books, toddler toys and a comfy couch.
Art and Music
The Art Room featured an activity of the day, which on the day we were there was making a toucan hat with paper, a paper plate beak, and decorations. There were also easels on the wall for painting, and a place to hang your creations to display them for others to see. (Note: at first, I thought the art room was a birthday party room I wasn’t supposed to enter – it took me a while to realize it was a part of the museum you could go into.)
In the main room, they had a table with some Mad Mattr on it – a substance halfway between playdough and kinetic sand – and lots of playdough tools. We saw this at multiple museums – I wonder if the Mad Mattr company encourages this placement?
There was a tile mural of Northwest animals with a key next to it so kids could search for each of the hidden animals.
On the stage in the theatre area, there was a big xylophone mounted on the wall, and drums, tambourines, and other small instruments.
Throughout the museum, there is music playing over speakers – kid songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, the alphabet song, and so on. I don’t remember hearing this at other children’s museums. What I liked: they were fun songs, and enjoyable to listen to. Also, we were there on a really non-crowded day, and the museum may have felt a little empty otherwise without this sound to fill it. What are the possible downsides? I noticed that parents and kids were talking less to each other as they played. They were still playing together, just less verbal interaction. My husband and I were neutral on the music – felt the good sides and bad sides were balanced. We asked our eight year old, and he agreed. He enjoyed the music, but thought it could possibly be distracting.
My son is autistic – he doesn’t have sensory issues related to sound, but many autistic children do. So I would recommend that the museum a) offer noise canceling headphones at the front desk for any children who do have that sensitivity, and b) offer special low-sensory sessions once a month when it’s less crowded, the music is off, and they consider if there are other ways to lower the stimulation level.
The museum was really clean – staff were actively moving around keeping it tidy and pleasant. Almost everything was in good repair. There were plenty of activities but it didn’t feel cluttered. There were a really nice variety of activities, with plenty to appeal to toddlers in the toddler only zone, and plenty for preschoolers to early elementary kids throughout. A couple things were one-time exhibits that kids might only explore once or twice (like the making money exhibit) but almost everything had a lot of replay value, which is really nice for local parents who may choose to become members.
For a one-time visitor – this was a really excellent tourist activity for our son. In one hour, we saw all of the exhibits, but there were plenty of fun things to go back to and spend more time at. I think we ended up spending about an hour and forty minutes there, and only moved on because we had other things we wanted to do in that one day we were in Spokane.
Here is a video a family made which shows you more about the museum in action.
The museum is in the basement of a mall. I assume there is parking there, but we’d parked across the street near Mobius Science Center. There is a large area at the museum for parking a stroller and there are lockers there as well. There is no food service at the museum, but they do sell things like Pringles and Cheez-Its in the gift shop, or there are restaurants and a food court in the mall.
We were there on a Sunday morning in the summer, and there were just a handful of other families there.
In August 2019, admission was $10, or $12 for both the Children’s Museum and the Science Center. (They participate in the ACM reciprocal program, so if you have a membership at a children’s museum elsewhere, you may be able to get a 50% discount here.) For the current information on their hours and admission fees, go to the Mobius Children’s Museum website.
More Fun Destinations
In the park across the street from the museum, you’ll three fun things to check out:
- The Garbage Eating Goat. This is a sculpture – press the button on the wall behind it to activate a vacuum, then feed the goat a scrap of paper – it sucks it out of your hand (and into a trash can hidden behind the wall. We brought our papers from the “making money” exhibit at the museum to feed to the goat.
- The Radio Flyer slide. A climber and slide shaped like a classic red wagon.
- Skyride. A short gondola ride takes you from the park down to see a waterfall and back. It’s 15 or 20 minutes long and quite lovely, though a little pricey. They’ll close the ride if it’s hotter than 90 degrees
A block from the Children’s Museum, you’ll find the Mobius Science Center. Read my review here. You can also check out my other reviews of children’s museums and science museums in the Pacific Northwest.