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7 Great Children’s Museums for Northwest Families

Guide to kids’ museums to visit around Seattle, the Eastside, North Sound and South Sound

Author Elisa Murray

Published on: January 01, 2024

Hands On Children’s Museum climbing structure

Interactive, hands-on fun

Confession: I didn’t get children’s museums for a while. My 2-year-old would happily play with pots and pans at home, so why would I pay admission to a kids’ museum just so he could play with fancier toys (and potentially ruin his yen for playing with kitchen gear)?

It wasn’t until friends invited us to Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett when he was about 3 years old that my light-bulb moment occurred. As he moved from delightedly tossing handkerchiefs up the air maze to playing veterinarian to climbing outside to quietly making beaded bracelets in the art studio, I became a convert to the variety of hands-on play experiences that children’s museums offered. (Did I mention that he never, ever did art at home, and that while he bopped around I got some solid social time with my friends?)

Children’s museums became an essential part of our play menu, especially in the sun-don’t-shine months.

This isn’t accidental, of course. According to the Association of Children’s Museums, early children’s museums (the first opened in 1899 in Brooklyn) were part of a progressive education movement that promoted the then-revolutionary concept of child-centered environments and learning experiences. (Think Maria Montessori.) In our increasingly plugged-in world, kids’ museums offer a time-tested, real-world antidote to the allure of screen time.

Thankfully, most area children’s museums are fully open and welcoming families, though at some you might need to make advance reservations. Pop in for a play time or make a day of it with a trip to a museum a bit farther from your home.

First stop: Eastside play palace

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