Playing on the beach on Bainbridge Island during an outing with the Explore Bainbridge activity kit from KiDiMu. Credit: Natasha Dillinger
Picture it with me: an island destination where kids play on the beach and you go on hikes through a lush green forest. On top of that, you sneak in some cool STEM learning opportunities. No, it’s not Hawaii! You don’t have to travel far to get a change of scenery for spring break. Just hop on the ferry or cruise through Tacoma to nearby Bainbridge Island.
Knowing that many families would stick closer to home for the second spring break in a row, the staff and volunteer educators at Bainbridge's Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu) came up with a plan. They scoured the island for its best outdoor spots and landed on 10 gems to feature in a new STEM-focused Explore Bainbridge activity book. (STEM, of course, stands for science, technology, engineering and math). The kit is available for $20, and all proceeds go to support the nonprofit museum during its extended closure.
Escape to the island
Bainbridge Island is a favorite easy day trip for my family. Prevalent mask-wearing and ample outdoor activities (such as great family hikes) make visits feel relatively safe. It’s no surprise that I heard a resounding “Yes!” when I asked my 5-year-old daughter if she wanted to spend a girls’ day on the island to preview the activity kit.
Note: As of March 22, Washington State has moved to Phase 3 of Gov. Inslee’s reopening plan, which allows nonessential travel. We like to reduce our risk by wearing masks even when outdoors if we are at a popular destination (such as a playground) and we stay in our car on ferry rides.
It’s a nature break, so take your time
After picking up our kit at KiDiMu, right in Winslow, we looked at the map of locations to figure out a game plan. My optimistic preschooler wanted to visit every location in one day and see them all in order. I’m more of a realist — the map covers a lot of ground and each stop deserves attention.
Nonetheless, I wanted to encourage my daughter’s ambition, so we headed to the first stop — the Moritani Preserve, a former strawberry farm owned by one of the many Japanese-American families that have built businesses on Bainbridge Island.
We backtracked through some construction after my maps app sent us to a residential area without parking. The activity kit lists GPS coordinates for each location; I recommend using them if you’re not familiar with the area.
Trying the activities
After twirling through blooming cherry trees, we sat down on some rocks from the foundation of the Moritani farm’s old bunkhouse to look at the activities. My artistic daughter particularly loved picking a dandelion and making bright yellow prints with its petals.
The kit creators have thoughtfully chosen locations that also encourage free play. Armed with a tip from another kid about where to find the best climbing trees, my daughter spent a long time problem-solving to reach the highest possible branches. Hello, vacation mode!
The activity kit offers a wide variety of locations that can be adapted to weather, energy levels and interests — visit the forested areas on a rainy day, or the cluster of locations at the south end of the island if you’re short on time.
With sunny skies and the promise of a return trip to complete the tour, my daughter and I spent most of the afternoon on the beach — we crafted mandalas out of shells, explored driftwood forts and searched for sea stars on the pilings of Point White Pier. After all that activity, I made an attempt at encouraging quiet reflection at the labyrinth stop, but hunger pangs drove us to pick up lunch at SuBI Sushi after a short visit.
There are multiple activities for each location in the kit, including questions to prompt self-guided learning and coloring pages to recreate the adventure at home. We didn’t manage to visit all the locations in one day, but the KiDiMu staff encourages effort — so even though we didn't technically finish, we still picked up a prize at the museum on our way to catch the ferry back to Seattle.
Preschoolers are discerning critics, so what was my daughter’s review? “Mom, it was a really, really fun day.” That’s a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one.
If you go …
How it works: You'll need to reserve a kit for pickup at the museum. Families can pick up their kits Friday, April 2, 1–4 p.m.; Saturday, April, 3, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.; or any day April 5–9, 10 a.m.– 4 p.m. Shipping is also available for $10 and reprints of the kit are planned for the future.
When: Use your kit to explore the listed Bainbridge Island sites any time April 5–11. (You can also order a kit now and use it any time you like, but you won't be able to claim a prize from the museum for your efforts.)
Cost: $20 per kit with all proceeds benefiting the museum.
Recommended ages: The activities in the kit are designed for ages 3–8, though most activities could extend to suit an older or younger child.
Visiting KiDiMu: The museum reopens for visitors on April 23. Note that you can visit KiDiMu by walking on the ferry from Seattle. It's located just a few minutes' walk from the ferry terminal on the island.
KiDiMu at home: Not ready for an island day trip? Tour Bainbridge virtually with a STEM-themed activity box ($50 for the general public or $40 for museum members, plus $10 shipping). Designed for ages 3–6, the box contains materials and instructions for five activities, including building your own ferry boat or making an origami frog to resemble Frog Rock, a Bainbridge landmark.
More springtime fun with kids: