The boys and I waited for the bus to the Staten Island Children’s Museum. The last time I tried to do this was ages ago with 11-year-old, (then only 5) and my husband. We stood on a similar platform, not sure what bus to ride. Unsure of what bus to take, and not getting clear directions from the restaurant, we gave up and went home. But this time, I was determined to see my plan through, and luckily it was pretty easy. Except for that the 3.5 year old was starting to act up and thus, waiting of any kind, was not something he easily did.
The bus arrived quickly, and the boys immediately sat, looking out the window, full of anticipation. It was a short ride along the river. I was happy to see the boys behaving themselves, because it gave me a chance to take in the sights. I don’t know much about Staten Island and was excited to be here. It always irks me that there are some many places I have yet to see in a city that I have lived most of my life in.
The driver indicated the stop. We got off the bus and right there, across the street, was the entrance to the museum grounds. Despite the muddy grounds and leafless trees, I couldn’t help to feel a sense of awe as I passed the arch stone entry that united the tall iron fences on both sides which enclosed area. It is an incredibly beautiful place, and I can only imagine how much more beautiful in warmer seasons when the maple trees are in full bloom, hovering over the grounds with the Austrian pines. Even the little ones stood in silence as we looked at the Greek Revival building in front of us. The sense of something historic was intense, and I loved it.
Turns out we had just ventured onto the grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, which in addition to the Staten Island Children’s Museum, happens to also be the home to the Staten Island Museum, The Noble Maritime Collection, and The Art Lab, a school of fine and applied art founded in 1975 by professional artists.
We slowly made our way to the building that housed the children’s museum with the boys stopping to look at this or that, all three wrestling each other onto the muddy ground, “sword fighting” with broken sticks they found as they walked along. Such is the life with boys.
The boys reached the building before I did, and when I got closer I saw all three of them standing in front of a 12-foot-high praying mantis sculpture in front of the building. The boys played around a few other sculptures in the lawn of the building before we all went inside. The fee for entry is $5.00 for anyone 1 and over, but no fee for coat check, for there, right next to the entrance is a coat hanging area where people just find a hook for our jackets and leave whatever carry-ons on the metal shelf underneath.
In the same room is the Ladder 11 exhibit, with a huge, red fire truck that children can climb into and play in. Next to that a cubby for firefighter gear that kids can where, a pole to slide off and a life-size firefighter mannequin in full gear. The 2-year-old loved this!
Meanwhile the 3.5 and 11-year-old ran into The Big Game exhibition area, where there played with huge domino pieces, checkers chess, connect four, and other board games. It is a great bright room, gleaming from the sunlight outside.
The boys also loved the Great Explorations exhibit, which took them through a rain forest, the ocean floor, and the icy environments of igloos and snow sleds.
The boys spent some time poking around, playing and looking at everything on this side of the museum along. Eventually they were ready to explore more.
We went upstairs and found a Walk-in Workshop. It was a classroom with crayons, markers, scissors, clue, ink and stamps, and other materials for arts and crafts, and tables that wrapped around the center of the room covered with brown paper to allow the kids to freely sit and draw and create whatever art project they desired. Free!
While the 11-year-old drew pictures with the 2-year-old and tried to keep him from putting the ink pads in his mouth (to somewhat success), the 3.5 year old started getting fidgety. So I decided to go back downstairs with him.
And it was there, somewhere on the way back to Portia’s Playhouse, the theater where kids can where the available costumes and put on a theatrical show, that my 3.5 year old threw a huge tantrum. Though when traveling with toddlers one has to expect that maybe in one of those travels a tantrum or two would be inevitable, I had hoped that it hadn’t happened so far from home.
He screamed and yelled, and threw himself on the floor, while people walking by staring as if the sight of a toddler throwing a tantrum was foreign to them. “He looks tired,” said a nanny watching over her 6-year-old. “How old is he?” asked a mother carrying her less than one. But really there was nothing I could do. I had to calm him down before we left because the ride home was not a short one.
Oh the horror. But the lady at the front desk tried her hardest to engage him, which I really appreciated, and with a little extra coaxing I was able to lead all my boys down to the lower level which turned out was a play sanctuary. The Block Harbor, a room full of wooden blocks, with a large ship, bell, telescope and navigational wheel included took the boys breath away and put a huge smile on the 3.5 year old’s face. He quickly ran to the top of the ship and with his older brother pretended to be pirates in search of gold, while the youngest one headed straight towards the building block area and began the task of building. I sat with the other mothers, and relaxed as I sipped on the cold drink I had purchased at the Cafe at the lower level. I was unaware of the time we spent there, until I looked at my watch and realizing we had been at the museum for 4 hours!
I began to gather up the boys to start making the trip back home but we didn’t leave without one more tantrum from my middle child. This time I took him outside, and we sat on the outside steps of the museum as the colder breezed cooled them off. I ran back in and got all three boys an ice cream treat and I watched them as they sat there, enjoying their ice cream, making a huge mess of themselves, but quietly.
Though we missed several of the other exhibits and activities at the museum, and didn’t even get a chance to play in the outdoor Sea of Boats play area, I didn’t mind. It was gorgeous here and I loved having the excuse to come back soon. We sat there for a while, as the museum closed and the sun began to set.
Later, on the State Island Ferry ride back home, the boys cuddled up to me. Tired, but quiet and content, we watched as the sun set behind Lady Liberty, its orange-yellow light gleaming off the wonderful buildings of my beloved city. Despite the tantrums and distance it really turned out to be a wonderful all-day adventure.