My kids are past the children’s museum stage of life—a stage that lasts roughly from 6 months to 10 years old—but we have years of afternoons spent in both of these NYC institutions (did you know that the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, founded in 1899, was the first children’s museum in the world?) under our belts. I’ve even lost a kid—temporarily, of course—in both, so we know of what we speak.
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) is considerably smaller than its Kings County counterpart, but it makes the most of its five floors, cramming in more kiddie-tractions per square foot: It has a mini president’s desk, where your kids can declare executive orders (“Screens on weekdays!”) and you can make Trump jokes; a 4,000-square-foot indoor playground with a fire truck and an MTA bus; an interactive health exhibition in which kids can crawl through a digestive tract (yay?); and a Dora and Diego–themed floor that focuses on problem-solving and Latin American culture. Though parents may not love the Nickelodeon sponsorship of the latter, the “Dora floor” is usually a favorite of the preschool set.
Live sciences—in the form of hands-on gardening and animals—are emphasized at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (BCM), along with global culture and sensory exploration. Kids love the mini grocery store, where they can pick up a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter—then scan the items and restock the shelves.
But most families run straight for the Totally Tots area, where toddlers and preschoolers age 6 and younger can twist gears, bang on cymbals, play in sand, swoosh down mini slides, and generally overstimulate themselves until they collapse in spontaneous naps (there’s a Sensory Room, as well, for kids who enjoy a quieter pace of play). It was a sad day when my twins turned 7 and could no longer wreak havoc in Totally Tots.
The Upshot: BCM may appeal to a slightly broader range of ages, including parents who appreciate the airy building and thinner crowds. CMOM, though, gives kids more opportunity for pretend play and is a no-brainer for 3- to 6-year-olds. But who are we kidding? On a cold afternoon, you’re going to go to the one that’s closest to you. Good thing your kids will love them both.
Whichever you choose, make a day of it by staying in the area for pre- or post-museum eats and treats. Check out the picks below—culled from the WSWD mobile app—of family-friendly restaurants near both museums: