Monday, September 29, 2008

FREE Day at Conner Prairie

Thanks to an online mommy friend, we received notice that the Smithsonian does an annual Free Museum Day. There were a couple of local museums participating. Conner Prairie, a living history museum, is right down the street from our neighborhood so that was our choice!
I was hesitant about taking a 3 1/2 year old to Conner Prairie. I'd been before with just adults and with older kids (school age). It had been several years since I'd gone. So I just wasn't sure what they would have to keep her entertained. I never should have doubted this institution.
The first stop was an indoor play area for younger kids. Well, for any kids, really. There was a pretend train station and train, a train table, a market/general store, a prairie kitchen (complete with butter churn), a garden, a play tractor and old fashioned car, animal costumes, and a cow to milk. There was a craft room with puppet theatre but we didn't get to it.

We also ate inside at The Eatery. We had 2 kids' meals- hot dog with chips and a drink that was served in a very cute satchel style souvenir bag and a turkey sandwich with chips and milk. I had a BLT with cole slaw and a drink and Jeff had a burger, chips, drink. The food was less expensive than I expected. Prices were similar to, say, McAllister's. But the quality wasn't McAllister's! Food wasn't bad but I'm not dying to get back. I will say that the amount of bacon on my sandwich was impressive and that Jeff's burger looked really good and that Zach ate all of the turkey and loved his milk. Teagan had no opinion on the hot dog aside from being happy that she had something upon which to place her ketchup.
Then we headed outside. First stop was the animal encounter barn. We met a one week old cow (adorable black and white fella), a sheep and lamb, some ducks and chicks, a couple of goats, and a donkey. Zach loved looking around at everything. Teagan loved encountering everything. She even got to hold a baby chick (with a little help from the fantastic volunteer).
Let me say a quick word about the people who volunteer and work at Conner Prairie. These people are fantastic. Truly. These young people in the barn were so patient and so knowledgable about the animals they were showing. The adults and young people who were in costume were so accomodating while staying in character. While the activites are fun, it's really the people who set the tone of this fantastic place.
Back to our adventure!

After the barn, we headed to the Lanape Indian Village. We saw a hut made of bark which was really cool. And it was in this area that Teagan figured out that she could run around and go into the houses and play with things and really explore. We started into Prairietown- the setting is, I think 1836? Liberty Corner is 1886 but we will get to that in a moment.

Prairietown... we hit the General Store, the blacksmith, the doctor's home (where she tried on these gorgeous hats), the school house, the blacksmith, the potter. Teagan played checkers, played with a ring and stick outside (where you push the ring with the stick and try to keep it moving), learned about baking a cake in a fireplace, saw kids measuring nails in the store, got a piece of soapstone, played with a potter's wheel. See? So much to do!!

Liberty Corner- she was nearing the end of her attention span and rope. But we walked across the covered bridge and she ran around near the baseball diamond. We did go into the Zimmerman's home and she had a fantastic time exploring that house with Christy. She then showed me the bedroom with the toys. Old blocks, a small cast iron play kitchen, a doll's crib, some old books.

Speaking of books, the store in Prairietown had a couple of books that were written to help a woman understand her role as wife and as mother. I was only able to read/scan a couple of pages of the mothering book but found it fascinating to read the ideas about discipline. It basically said to give the child 4 chances and if the bad behavior got to that 4th time, you have to punish them. You are giving warnings, removing from the situation, distracting up until this point. I was certain the punishment would be spanking or lashing. Instead, it was torture chamber time out! The advice for punishment was to tie the child to a chair!! And advised against locking the child in a closet because that would frighten them. Next time we go, I want more time with that book!
Teagan and Christy went on to explore the basement of the home. Then Teagan went outside and it was watering time! She got to pump water from the outside water pump and carry her watering can to the flowers and do some watering. Then it was finally time to head home.
The only problem with a close by attraction like this is that there isn't time for a worn out kid to fall asleep in the car!
We had a fantastic time and I anticipate that Connor Prairie will be our next membership choice when the Zoo membership runs out next year.

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