Just off North Water Street in Poughkeepsie is a place where kids can come face-to-face with a mastodon, get an up-close look at the Big Dipper, or swim with the fish 60 feet under the Hudson. For more than 20 years, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum (MHCM) has been using hands-on exploration and play to impart lessons about our region’s history, environment, and diverse culture. Open year-round, the not-for-profit museum is home to many special permanent exhibits, as well as several mobile educational programs that visit schools throughout the Valley. “It’s a great place for young kids and their families to learn through play,” says Executive Director Ed Glisson, who has been with the organization for 10 years. “Kids have fun, but they’re learning.”
The museum first opened in downtown Poughkeepsie in 1989. It then spent a decade at the South Hills Mall before moving into its current, permanent location in 2002. The two-story building right on the river houses more than a dozen exciting exhibits, like Rivertown, a series of play storefronts which each feature a different culture, from the Middle Eastern grocery to the Mexican bakery. Other popular exhibits include the inflatable STARLAB planetarium, a giant bubble machine, and the Hudson River Dive Bell, in which kids can use a robotic arm to retrieve items from the river floor. Recently added to the museum’s repertoire is a climate change and paleontology exhibit featuring a fully reconstructed, 12-foot tall mastodon skeleton, a replica of the bones found in Hyde Park in 1999; and a computerized Water Monitoring System, which is linked directly to a device in the river that reads water temperature, and oxygen and salt levels. “[These exhibits] are all starting points for a conversation about our regional environment,” explains Glisson.
In addition to the exhibits — mostly geared towards school-age children — the museum has a toddler play room, and holds weekly programs for younger kids: there’s Activity Table Time for toddlers up to age three on Wednesdays, and Early Explorers Playgroup on Thursdays for ages up to five. It also hosts birthday parties; school field trips; and special seasonal events, like this month’s Super Sunday Flush in honor of Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 5), and Ice Your Sweet Cookie Decorating for Valentine’s Day (Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. and Feb. 14 at 10 a.m.).
Admission to the museum is $7.50 per person; children under one are free, and memberships are available. For more information on events and programs, visit www.mhcm.org or call 845-471-0589.