In the Air
Art News & Gossip

In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

Critics’ Kids Castigate New National Children’s Museum

Pin It

“Mom, if you want to quote me, you can say that I said, ‘This is lame, lame, lame,’” Washington Post critic Petula Dvorak quoted her eight-year-old as saying during a recent visit to the new National Children’s Museum. Her six-year-old son, meanwhile, was more spare and biting in his criticism, dismissing the $7-million, 18,000-square-foot institution as “boring.”

Why is the new interactive museum so “lame,” “boring,” and, according to one Yelp reviewer Dvorak quoted, “a second rate tourist trap”? Its slight size, she suggests, is one factor — it led another Yelper to say that it “isn’t a children’s museum, it’s a mid-sized playzone.” Its small, one-floor space can’t compete with other kids’ museums like Baltimore’s Port Discovery, which boasts 80,000 square feet, the 88,000-square-foot Boston Children’s Museum, or the cavernous Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and its 472,000 square feet.

Part of parents’ and tots’ shared disappointment may stem from the National Children’s Museum’s “national” designation — it is the only kid-focused institution recognized by Congress — which would seem to promise bigger and better things. Others are still enamored with Washington, D.C.’s previous children’s museum, which closed at its location in the city’s northeast in 2004, and has only just reopened at this new spot in National Harbor, Maryland.

As one Yelp reviewer not quoted by Dvorak said, concluding her critique of the National Children’s Museum: “We got a refund on all 5 tickets, and salvaged the day by driving 3 miles away to Chuck E Cheese, which seemed like utopia compared to this museum.”

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image via the National Children’s Museum/Facebook.)

Tags: , , ,

Pin It


  1. by Susan Benton

    Most “children’s museums” are not museums at all – they are indoor playgrounds with overpriced everything, and are utterly boring. I’ve been in the museum field for over 20 years and have yet to see a children’s museum I would return to or one I would want to take children to. A museum should collect and present ’stuff’ that is what people go to museums for, to see ’stuff’ otherwise unseen, not to stare at the pretentious ‘educational’ themes presented by 20somethings who usually create these worthless ‘themes.’

  2. by bob pickering

    Having worked at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum many years ago and visited many children’s museums since then, they can be great places for exploration and engagement.However, they require leadership and staff that are passionate about kids and creating environments and activities that engage kids in many ways. Like any other kind of museum, children’s museums can be done well or poorly…it depends on the folks who run it.

Add a Comment