He’s ridden in a hot air balloon and on a firetruck. He’s been to the zoo, the aquarium, a chocolate factory and a baseball game. And now Curious George–the little monkey who has captivated the hearts and minds of millions of children and adults–is in Las Vegas.
Last month, Lied Discovery Children’s Museum welcomed Curious George, The Man with the Yellow Hat and other friends to Las Vegas with the opening of the 2,500-square-foot interactive exhibition “Curious George: Let’s get Curious!” The exhibit is designed to encourage children ages 3 to 7 years old to explore concepts related to science, math and engineering with interactive activities and experiences.
“We love any opportunity we have to encourage creative thinking in technology, math and science,” said Tifferney White, deputy director of Lied Discovery Children’s Museum. “Curious George works well with the younger age group because it works on the pretense of curiosity.”
This exhibit is bigger than many others at Lied, which gives children plenty of room to play and explore, but it lets caregivers recall and share their memories of Curious George as well. “Curious George is an intergenerational topic, and parents, grandparents and teachers have their own stories about him,” White said.
The exhibit is heavy on diagrams and interactions. Curiosity doors and drawers invite kids to push buttons, turn knobs and open cubbies, allowing them to create their own experiences.
Danyelle Lorenzo, chief editor of VegasFamilyEvents.com and a mother to three children, said she especially likes the fact that there is minimal reading involved in the exhibit.
“It is exploration through doing. It’s very active. It’s very involved,” she said. “There are little diagrams on how to do things, and the kids just figure it out as they go. that really is the best part of the exhibit. It allows children to figure out how it’s going to work for them versus just having one directional purpose.”
Pieces of the exhibit are spread out, and kids are encouraged to make their way through a number of Curious George-inspired scenes at their leisure, touching and manipulating things as they go.
At the sidewalk produce stand, children can sort and weigh colorful pieces of fruit and vegetables. In the farmyard, kids are invited to play with wind by turning fans and trying to blow up windsocks and make wind chimes sing.
On the construction site, children interact with each other as they carry blocks, load them onto a moving conveyer belt and crank the pulley mechanism. A grid on the floor with built-in rulers and the freedom to design and build encourages architectural creativity.
In an apartment building from both the “Curious George” books and television show, kids can play with color and light, and they can make their own “stained glass” using a projector. Lorenzo’s daughter, 5-year-old Gianna, practiced making shadow animals. “I made a butterfly shadow,” she said.
Though most exhibits are somehow directly tied back to the curious little monkey, some pieces have been added that aren’t a part of the books or the show, such as three small putting greens, each with different angles and slopes. “The kids all used the golf clubs differently, but it worked for each of them,” Lorenzo said. “There was no right or wrong way to do it, and they all still learned something from the activity.”
So where do kids gravitate when they visit “Curious George”? “It’s weird to say it, but the whole exhibit is incredibly popular,” White said. When kids first walk into the exhibit, they normally head to the apartment room with the shadow equipment, the construction site and the rocket ship slide, she said, but the majority of kids eventually make it to most pieces of the exhibit.
Gianna’s twin sister, Brooklyn, was one of the kids who took to the rocket ship slide, which is made complete with a porthole. “I went down the slide seven times,” she said.
And for parents who need to rest, there is a park with places to sit, a semi-enclosed activity area for toddlers and infants and a life-sized Curious George perfect for picture taking.
“Curious George” may still be fairly new on the scene, but White likened its popularity to “Adventures with Clifford the big Red Dog,” which was at Lied in early 2009, and “Little Builders” in early 2010, both of which were designed for a similar age group. “If an exhibit is successful, we’ve engaged both the kids and the parents,” White said. if reactions to the exhibit in its first couple of weeks are any indication, everyone’s going bananas for “Curious George.”