Visiting Phoenix’s I.D.E.A. Museum with Kids

On our recent trip to Phoenix, Arizona, I realized we had entered the land of museums. On any search for things to do with kids, I found a multitude of different museums. Most of them were interesting for their dive into the local history and culture or the predictable science or children’s museum except for one: the I.D.E.A. (Imagine, Design, Experience, Art) Museum.

The I.D.E.A Museum is a museum that is dedicated to the exploration of fine arts for children. I have been to many museums focused towards children, but I had never heard of one like this. The I.D.E.A. Museum is an interactive experience that allows children to have a hands on experience with different art forms. We have a six-year old daughter who is absolutely obsessed with arts, crafting and creating so I knew we needed to check out this place.

When I first entered the I.D.E.A. Museum, I was a little underwhelmed. It look eerily similar to every other children’s museum I have been to, which is more than a couple. The facility consisted of three main areas: Artville, the HUB gallery and a travelling exhibition area, which consisted of a weather exhibit.  My opinion would change.

We started out at the HUB gallery which had numerous hands-on art projects with various materials. There were several centers set up to fuse art with technology. These included an electronic whiteboard, a music center and a stop motion center.

The number of projects available did seem a little underwhelming. My six year old found things to do but after creating her own masterpiece with materials that we readily have at home, she was ready for something different.

I had poked around the room and found that there were several centers which could have been much more enticing if there had been better signage for what to do there. I often find my kids do not gravitate towards things that aren’t totally intuitive so I often have to figure something out first before they become obsessed. With a lack of signage as to what the intended purpose of certain materials or area was intended for, it did make it difficult to utilize the room to its full potential. Part of me would like to go back and take the time to figure out all of the technological features of the room, but with no signs and three kids I wasn’t able to dedicate enough attention to do so.

Once we felt like we ran out of things to do in the HUB gallery, we headed over to Artville. Artville is for children under the age of 5 and their siblings. It is a large play area with a play town, large building blocks, toddler area, as well as its own craft zone.

This type area I have seen many times before at other places, but it was still well put together, clean and my kids had a wonderful time playing there for over ninety minutes. The art zone in this area was also a mild let down because a sign read that someone had used all the supplies for that craft and they left out paper and crayons instead.

This happens and I am bummed patrons wouldn’t be more respectful of supplies, but we arrived only twenty minutes after the museum opened, which means the supplies had to have run out earlier in the week, which seems like less than stellar planning.

Overall, Artville was a success. My kids had fun. The set up lent itself well for play among the kids which gave my husband and I some time to sit and relax. The large soft block area was a great place for the kids to get their creative juices flowing by building different size towers, knocking them down, playing lava monster, treasure path and other inventive games that used the space and blocks in a ton of different ways.

We really enjoyed Artville, but at this point I was a little disappointed because I had really expected this place to be different than other children’s museums, and at this point it wasn’t.

We decided to enter the travelling exhibition area, which was focused around the science of weather. I thought this tour would take roughly twenty minutes because the area looked tiny tucked in behind the HUB gallery.

As soon as we entered I realized how wrong I was. There were six to eight different stations that focused on different weather phenomena such as rain, wind, hurricanes, tornadoes, sunshine, snow and more.

Each one of these stations had a stamp, craft and plenty of information about the event, as well as how people have used it in creating their art. My girls spent the first ten minutes running to the different stamping stations gathering their stamps and then I was able to settle them down at a craft station.

Each station had the supplies for the craft, but once again, I didn’t see any instructions. There was a sample that I followed, but I wasn’t sure if that was left as an example or forgotten by an earlier crafter.

The crafts were simple and I was impressed by how much of it my kids could do by themselves. We finished one station and then looked at  some of the professional art projects, did another craft, played with one of the interactive exhibits, did another craft, watched a video, and did another craft.

Each craft was unique from the others, simple enough for my girls to be successful, but used materials they don’t see at home. It was fun to watch them create and more than once we all got pulled into the fun. After nearly an hour it was time to go, but of course we relented and created one more thing before we left.  Our girls would have easily stayed for quite a while longer.

The I.D.E.A. Museum turned out to be one of our kids’ favorite places of the entire trip, but it was more of a mixed bag for me. The experience as a whole was a great way to spend an afternoon, it was affordable and if we lived in phoenix I would have a membership for sure. It was really the lack of signs, explanations and help for parents that was saddening because I know we did not take full advantage of what was offered. Artville gave the museum a great mix of creative and active, but that would not be that case for older kids who would not be permitted inside without a younger sibling. If you have a creative minded kid this should be on your list of places to visit, but if your kids are older and less artsy, it might be one you could sacrifice for other things.

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