Children’s Museum Networks

There are four networks of children’s museums in the U.S.:

  • ACM – Association of Children’s Museums
  • ASTC – Association of Science-Technology Centers
  • NARM – North American Reciprocal Museum
  • and ROAM – Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums
  • (If there’s another that I missed, please let me know at matt@matchstick.com).

    Belonging to a network means you can go for free or reduced entry to any other museum in the network. We’ve saved many hundreds of dollars by joining. Typically, the cost of joining one of the networks is $20 or so in addition to the cost of an annual membership at one of the museums in the network.

    We frequently go to children’s museums when the weather is wet or cold, and it can be a great way to have a playdate without having to mess up the house. And then when taking road trips to the grandparents, we will look for a museum on the way that is in one of the networks, and we go for free.

    ACM is the Association of Children’s Museums and has 341 member museums. You can use their online tool to find a museum or look at their PDF, current as of February 2017

    ASTC (pronounced “Aztec”) is the Association of Science-Technology Centers. The ASTC Passport Program is similar to the ACM one, though the focus is on children’s science museums. Their list of 364 participating museums is in a PDF, current as of 2017

    The NARM (North American Reciprocal Museum) Association is another network, much larger than the other 2, with 896 participating museums. NARM includes many historical sites and other kinds of places beyond the STEM-focus of ASTC. Use the NARM interactive map to find museums near you, or look at their PDF, current as of 2017.

    ROAM (Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums) is the newest museum network and has about 330 participating museums, listed on their website. Most of the museums in the ROAM network are fine arts museums, but the list is eclectic and also includes arboretums as well as history and cultural centers.

    Many museums belong to more than one network, so by joining a museum you may gain access to over a thousand other museums around the country.

    Look at these four networks for a children’s museum near you and see if there are other museums in the same network you are likely to visit, e.g. near a relative’s home. You may be surprised at how many children’s museums are out there. Many have limited marketing budgets and don’t advertise much.

    Many public libraries now offer museum passes available to be checked out. You often have to reserve them in advance. If there is a museum you have been considering taking the kids to, but have been reluctant because of the price, ask at your local library for a pass.

    Tumble Leaf

    What is it

    Tumble Leaf is a very charming stop-motion animation series about a blue fox living on a shipwreck and his adventures with other animals.

    The animation quality is impressively good. The tone is gentle and sweet.

    If you have any interest in animation or storytelling, the Tumble Leaf page is a fascinating look at how a top-rated stop-motion animation show for children gets made.

    Who is it for

    The target audience is pre-schoolers. There’s a lot to look at so even kids as young as two would get something out of it. Six might be the maximum age.

    What Kids Like

    The animation is very rich with lots of detail, and kids can watch episodes multiple times and see new things. The whimsy and charm of the premise (each day a crab pulls some flotsam from the beach and puts it in the ‘finding box’ on a shipwreck) is captivating.

    What Parents Like

    There is no violence or harsh language or tense situations, but at the same time it’s not dull. The characters engage in creative projects, and although there is no overt education, the show promotes the values of creative problem-solving and discovery.

    What the Critics Think

    According to the series’s website, Tumble Leaf has won 8 emmys and several other awards.

    The show gets 8/10 on IMDB, 5/5 on Common Sense Media, 4.9/5 on Amazon, and 96% on Google.

    Who Made it

    Tumble Leaf is mad by Bix Pix Entertainment which has made many other animations, but none as widely broadcast as Tumble Leaf. Their reel page on Vimeo has many examples of their work.

    History

    Tumble Leaf premiered in 2014 as an Amazon Studios original series based on the short film Miro and is now in its 4th season.

    Where Can I Get it

    The show is streaming on Amazon

    You can see the pilot episode on YouTube and on IMDB.

    Good Eats

    Watching Good Eats was one of my weekly rituals back in the ’90s, back when the Food Network was an emerging force on television. Unlike the standard TV chef format (cook looks across a counter at the viewer while preparing food), Good Eats’ Alton Brown gets into the science of food and does so in a fun and wacky way. This is great family viewing because parents learn about cooking and kids are entertained by the antics and learn some chemistry as well.

    More on the show and some examples of Alton Brown’s style at foodnetwork.com

    Octonauts

    The Octonauts is a video series on Netflix and available on DVD. Some of the stories are also available as books and there are several toys out there of the characters. The look of the show is unique, a cross between kid-friendly 60s-era James Bond, ‘Sealab 2020’, and cutesy Japanese anime.

    The show is not the creation of some corporate art department, but the work of a single design couple, who call themselves meomi.

    They “live in Vancouver, Canada where we spend our days making up stories, drinking tea, and drawing strange characters. We love learning about underwater creatures and sharing our love for the ocean with kids (and grown-ups) around the world!”

    Our kids like the characters, the pace of the storytelling, and the balance of adventure just at the edge of sometimes being a little scary but not quite. The videos are fun for adults as well. We find ourselves watching along with the kids to see where the story goes.

    We like the educational aspect as well. Some of the episodes are just as informational as Wild Kratts or any other nature-themed cartoon. A lot of what I know of deep-sea creatures is from Octonauts. (Who knew vampire squid were real?)

    It’s a unique show and worth watching.

    Mr. DeMaio – YouTube Channel

    Mr. DeMaio is an elementary school teacher in New Jersey who makes silly and fun absurd educational videos for his students. Since 2013, he’s put a few dozen videos on his YouTube channel

    His playlists include songs about multiplication and
    social studies themes, but my kids’ favorites are the ones about space and science

    Unlike those who make most educational videos on YouTube, Mr. DeMaio is an actual teacher and knows the perfect balance of humor and education to keep kids’ attention while dosing out the knowledge. He’s also completely willing to act like a fool and get kids to laugh out loud. You can see his progression as a performer over the past few years. The earliest videos have him as a cool, aloof guy while he is much more of a clown in his more recent ones.

    The videos are funny enough that kids as young as 3 can watch them and enjoy them even if they don’t understand the education.

    The videos are very silly and absurd and our kids regularly recite catch-phrases from the videos. The format of the space and science videos is to have Mr. DeMaio interview things such as a tornado, or the planet Saturn, and these things act in a way just as silly as he does, in a way that subverts the normal way that these things are normally presented. For example, the planet Saturn is normally depicted as silent and mysteriously beautiful. In Mr. DeMaio’s video, the first we see of Saturn is a goofy face superimposed over an image of the planet saying, “I have a cat named ‘Orange Juice’!”

    The education is basic: the names and basic stats of the planets, the names of the continents, etc.

    The downside of these videos is that they are on YouTube, which not only has ads, but ads that don’t seem to be targeted in any way. Our kids have ended up seeing ads for inappropriate things so we make a point of supervising them while watching anything on YouTube.

    Ask magazine

    Price: $24.95
    Was: $44.45

    I had never heard of Ask until we got it as a gift. It’s somewhat in the same vein as Ranger Rick, but with a much snarkier tone. There is Marvin, a raccoon character in Ask, but unlike Rick, Marvin is a bit of a jerk.

    There are no ads and each issue is a mix of long-form articles and comics.

    What is most striking about Ask is the articles are quite deep and detailed. Articles on candy, or explosions, or glass get into the chemistry and physics of the subject with much more detail than is found in most media aimed at adults.