On The Road – Please Touch Museum (Philadelphia, PA)

Since summer is ending for the Monster after this weekend, we decided to take part of the weekend to do a mini-vacation.

Originally, we’d planned on taking the entire weekend to go away, but given how we’ve had issues previously with massive disruptions to his schedule and issues we had with finding a reasonably-priced hotel, we decided to knock it down to a single day trip.

The Monster in the Park Concession Stand PTM - August 2012

The Monster in the Park Concession Stand

This wasn’t our first trip to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.  About a year and a half ago, we went while Bank of America was offering free admission for cardholders to the PTM on the first weekends of the month.  However… that was well before the Monster’s diagnosis and back when he wasn’t really old enough to enjoy the museum as a whole.

A bit of background for anyone who hasn’t heard of this museum – PTM is the children’s museum of Philadelphia, based in one of the buildings that was put up for the Centennial Fair in 1876, and is an absolutely gorgeous edifice on its own.  The building is  two-story playground for children to explore different interests, from music to a city scape, to vehicles, to the biggest water table I’ve ever seen.  The museum lives up to its billing, in that children are encouraged to touch everything as part of an exploration of their senses.

Of course, we have the additional complication of the Monster’s diagnosis, which usually complicates going anywhere.

So what was it like, going to PTM with the Monster?

The Monster driving a bus - PTM August 2012

The Monster driving a bus

Firstly, I think it helps a lot that there’s little expectation that we’re going to keep him on a short leash.  There are children streaming every which way, and we just had to make sure that he was playing nice and waiting his turn for exhibits that had limited through-put (such as a steam-shovel they could drive, or sitting behind the wheel of the bus mock-up in the transportation hall).  For the first ten minutes, he literally did 4 orbits of one half of the top floor, running from the water table, across the giant piano on one side, playing with a smaller one, then dashing through the rhythm rainforest before repeating the entire process, all at a sprint.

Second, he loved the restored early Twentieth Century carousel that they have.  Our tickets, through LivingSocial, included a carousel ride with each admission, and since only children need tickets to go on the ride.. we got to go twice.  (We’d have gone a third time, but the kids were melting down already after four hours.)  But even at $3 a ride, it’s worth it.

And finally, really, how can you complain about a place where your kids are free to decide themselves what they want to do, what they want to play, and to exercise their imaginations (if they have one).  Granted, the Monster still plays quite literally with things – he pushes doorbells because he likes the sound of them and because he expects someone to answer, not to pretend to answer the door himself.  His playing in the supermarket mockup was more to go serially along the buttons on the register than to pretend to be a clerk or go shopping.  Still, it’s a big playground however you look at it, and they’re free (and relatively safe) to explore as they wish.

The Monster gets up-close with a street car

I only have two real complaints with the PTM:

  • Children have to pay for admission starting at 1 year old, and there’s no distinction between kids who are too young to enjoy the museum, kids who are the right age, and adults who really can’t fit into most things.
  • There is, supposedly, a guide on their homepage for children with autism, but the documents are currently missing.  I’ve already contacted them regarding the matter, but since it was the weekend…

I can very strongly recommend including PTM in your plans if you go to Philadelphia, especially with kids on the spectrum.

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