Exploring the Aquarium’s new Living Seashore exhibit with kids — Mommy Daze

The boys and I got a sneak peak recently at the brand new "Living Seashore" exhibit at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and as we walked in James gasped and whispered, "holy smokes."Aquarium4W

He was right. This place is awesome! I've always loved the aquarium, but for the cost, it isn't always the best place to take two little ones. After the first 10 tanks of brightly colored fish, they get bored and eventually just run up and down the spiral ramp in the shark exhibit. But with the opening of the "Living Seashore" exhibit May 12, there will be something to keep kids attention and give them a memorable experience they won't find anywhere else nearby.

In the new exhibit, there are two touch tanks where you can interact with marine life. In the largest tank, which twists around the majority of the exhibit, kids can watch and touch a variety of rays, skates, sea urchins, horseshoe crabs and sea stars (and here I've been calling them starfish all this time). One spot has a raised step so the littlest of visitors can reach in to the tank or get a better view. The second touch tank is for their moon jellies, which look like they're almost glowing as they float around.

Staff members are at the tanks instructing how to safely touch the animals and sharing interesting information. My brave little 1-year old, Luke, couldn't get enough of touching the marine animals. The jellies were a little tricky since you could only touch their bellies, not the tentacles, but he was able to do it with me guiding his hand. James loved watching everything through the glass, waving hello to every ray that swam by, but he assured me that he had no desire to touch anything at least, "not till I'm older." That was ok because there was plenty to see and do without participating in the touch tanks.

Aquarium1BWA large fish tank houses a reef environment with various crabs, flat fish hiding under the sand and prickly burr fish (or as James calls them, the "puffer fish from Finding Nemo"). James was enthralled with the touch-screen display where he could learn about different parts of the fish and crabs. Both boys especially liked the sand dune display where they could watch through a little hole a video of ghost crabs scurrying out of their burrows. A tactile discovery wall allowed them to touch seashells, dried seaweed and other beach treasures.

Since the exhibit is still under construction, there were some areas not yet open, such as an interactive digital seashore scavenger hunt table and some additional sea life displays on hermit crabs and other fish. But even without everything open, we spent 45 minutes just in this exhibit alone.

As we exited through the curtain out into the main area of the aquarium, James looked up at our tour guide and said, "That was SO cool!" Then again, he thinks elevators are "SO cool," so you may just have to go check it out for yourself.

You can get a sneak peak before May 12 as part of the "Insider's Tour," or wait for the opening next mont. For more information, visit the National Aquarium website.

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Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.

 

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