The National Building Museum is one of our favorite museums. It’s a gorgeous building in of itself and has fascinating exhibits about architecture, engineering and design. I think it’s a somewhat overlooked museum for many tourists in DC who tend to stay on the Mall and do Air and Space and Natural History and call it a day. Sadly, the Building Museum has recently had to start charging admission which makes it even harder of a sell when faced with the many free Smithsonian options. However, if you love architecture or design you really should check it out.
It’s a great museum to visit with kids. The building is HUGE with lots of space to run around and not bother other museum-goers. There is also a nice playroom (which also has a nominal fee) for kids under 6. As homeschoolers we’re especially lucky as the museum offers several Homeschool Days a year with classes ranging from cartography to city design to designing a green roof. While the boys were in their classes Ruth and I hung out and I appreciated that there was plenty to keep her busy.
We also all enjoyed their new exhitbit: Build, Work, Play. There are several areas with traditional building toys. But mostly the kids LOVED an area with giant foam blocks in different shapes. The foam also goes up the wall so you can connect to the wall itself. I saw kid make playhouses and forts, use the foam as swords, use the foam pieces as seesaws and make huge towers. David and Ruth made a pretty cool giant marble run structure (they also provide balls in the play area). The end of the exhibit has a light wall where if you stand in front of it on a special mat you create different block shapes. It’s a bit hard to describe but David really loved that part. He’s a very physical guy and he was just fascinated with watching the different shapes he could make with his body.
It’s not just play, there are more traditional exhibits. David, Ruth and I enjoyed one on different kinds of houses while John was in his afternoon class. It combined models of famous iconic houses, playhouse sized structures demonstrating different kinds of construction, artifacts from homes, and a series of videos of people living in very different styles of houses.