Visiting the dinosaurs at the Smithsonian — Mommy Daze

DinosaursAtSmithsonianIt was my son James' big field trip of the year — a trip to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. All month his preschool class had been learning about dinosaurs. This, of course, meant I had been learning about dinosaurs too, in particular how difficult it is to pronounce their names.

On the day of the trip, my husband and I packed up both our boys and met the class at the New Carrollton Metro Station to head into Washington, D.C. Some of the kids seemed to enjoy the Metro ride even more than the museum.

The last time I visited the Smithsonian was right before the National Fossil Hall was closed for renovations in 2014. My youngest, Luke, wasn't a year old and James was only 3. I had Luke snug in my Ergo carrier, James in an umbrella stroller and my mother-in-law along to help.

I remember the exhibit being insanely crowded. It was summer and maybe more tourists were visiting, but we could barely get close enough to let James see some of the massive fossil displays. It was also extremely dark in the Fossil Hall, and I was nervous about losing my little redhead. Needless to say, I was glad we went, but not upset that the exhibit was closing through 2019. So when I learned about Jame's field trip to visit “The Last American Dinosaurs” exhibit, I was skeptical.

We started by walking through a few rooms of various animal fossils, getting creeped out by the snakes with their gazillion bones, before emerging into the dinosaur exhibit. The kids were immediately faced with an impressively large Triceratops fossil. The entire area was bright and open with plenty of room for visitors to see the fossils from all sides.

Various hands-on areas allowed the kids to explore questions like “What's a dinosaur?”, “What doomed the dinosaurs?” and “What do fossils reveal about Triceratops?” My boys had fun playing the arcade game “How to Become a Fossil,” and I enjoyed the FossiLab where you could watch scientists actually working on the fossils through observation windows. My kids were most fascinated by the fossilized pile of T. rex poop.

I'm not sure if it was the layout of the exhibit, the less crowded day or the fact my boys are older, but this trip to the museum was more fun and informative than our last visit. If you go, definitely check out “Q?rius Jr.: a discovery room” on the first floor, which offers hands-on exploration and activities with real museum artifacts and fossils. It's appropriate for kindergarten through grade 8. Be sure to check their hours though, since unfortunately it was closed during our visit. There is also a helpful article on the Smithsonian's website with tips on taking kids to visit the dinosaur exhibit.

For details and hours visit the National Museum of Natural History website.

Watts FamilyClick here to read more Mommy Daze.

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, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.

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