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Chapel Hill's Kidzu Children's Museum Gives Kids a Hands-On Space For Creative Play

By S. Mathur

The Kidzu Children's Museum is a space for creative play, with unique exhibits like the Makery, Gravitron, Build Guild and Farm to Fork. The Flexible Forest has a safe climbing wall, tree house and the Forest Theater. There's the Book Nook where kids can read stories in English and Spanish, write their own stories, or tackle the puzzles.

Communications Manager Candace King explains why and how the museum was founded: "Kidzu was brought to life 10 years ago for the children, caregivers, and families in the Chapel Hill - Carrboro area. We stand out with unique exhibits made by local designers and artisans using recycled and locally sourced materials."

The exhibits and programs focus on the arts, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), child health and wellness and literacy. There's also a strong emphasis on the environment. New exhibits like The Hive and The Front Yard explain the significance of pollinators like bees, as well as the human impact on the environment. Both exhibits and programs are built around community collaborations with local artists, authors, scientists and craftspeople.

The best thing about Kidzu, as the kids doubtless agree, is that it is hands-on. King says that "Our most popular exhibit in the museum is our Makery. This makerspace lets visitors use real tools, create with recycled materials, and meet local artists, scientists, and makers. Weekly rotating themes expose children to a wide variety of art mediums, engineering and mathematic principles, and scientific categories."

There's a serious purpose behind all the fun, and the exhibits and programs promote the development of motor skills, literacy, social skills, and whole body health and wellness. It's also a haven for caregivers. Not only is there plenty to keep kids busy all day, and keep them clamoring to come back, there are special programs for caregivers. Attendants at all exhibits are both knowledgeable and friendly, and parents, grandparents and caregivers can feel sure that the kids are safe.

The Caregiver Coffee Chats help caregivers to connect to local parenting resources. Parents' Night Out provides Friday night childcare so parents can take a well deserved break. And for Halloween, there's the gownups-only CrafterDark, Nightmare at the Museum, with all the frights you can handle: a haunted escape room, the ZimZoom Ghostly Photo Booth, Zombie Video Game Lounge, and the Whodunit Mystery Game.

Kidzu is a good destination for field trips and group visits. There's also a space that can be rented for kids' birthday parties, and those planning larger or more ambitious events can rent the entire museum for a unique experience.

Though Kidzu has moved twice since its inception, there's need for a larger space for a permanent museum. The permanent location would add more exhibits, program spaces, classrooms and outdoor exhibits. At the present time, the Board of Directors is exploring site and partnership options that will allow Kidzu to fulfill its educational vision.

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