In the new exhibit, visitors use their investigative skills to learn about toys and even create some of their own. Activities throughout the exhibit illustrate the universality of play and toys while showing that toys help develop important life skills.
"We all remember playing with toys when we were growing up," said Gail Ringel, vice president of exhibits. "This new traveling exhibit shows visitors how important playing with toys is in a child's development. By exploring toys from around the world, visitors can also see that toys are an important part of life everywhere. A child's need to have fun is universal."
Visitors to the exhibit enter the "Toy Central" facility by walking through a "biometric sensor" that determines their level of toy expertise. After being named a "Toy Expert," each visitor then puts on a white lab coat and begins exploring the four different departments within the facility.
The first stop is the research department, where kids can use clues and a cipher wheel to determine the original countries of nine different toys and learn about how kids in other countries play with some popular toys. They can also learn about how toys are made by matching up x-rays to their three-dimensional counterparts.
In the engineering department, visitors work at a lab table to create their own toys, solve global brainteasers like Chinese tangrams and a Swiss wooden marble maze, and play with tops of all different shapes and sizes.
The field training department focuses on training Toy Experts about new language skills they will need during their "assignment" in a new country. Using a collection of dolls from around the world, visitors can practice words and phrases from each doll's home country. They can also match sounds to the toys that produce them.
The final area of the exhibit is the prototyping department, where kids can draw and write about their favorite toys or design new ones. They can also play with one of the world's oldest toys, string, and make a cat's cradle or witch's broom.
During the exhibit's run at the Museum, visitors can participate in a variety of programming focusing on toys:
Operation: GAME ON: Play a top-secret family game assignment. (second, third and fourth Friday of each month, 6-8:30 p.m.)
Saturday Morning Toy Lab: Create your own toy using everyday objects. (last Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.)
Created and produced by the Canadian Children's Museum, Top Secret: Mission Toy will be presented at Boston Children's Museum through April 20, 2010.