Family of Four Taking Flight to Financial Independence

FI With Kids: Visit The Children’s Museum During A Global Pandemic?

I have to admit (despite being a huge fan of museums), I was not eager to get back to the Children’s Museum Houston (CMH) during a global pandemic.  It definitely doesn’t sound like the smartest idea to me ... it’s an interactive museum that encourages kids to touch nearly everything!

But a trusted friend that works in the museum world had positive feedback about their family visit in early June so that helped calm some of my fears.  We also literally moved next door, and I have observed (from what I could see) that it looks like a ghost town (good for us during COVID-19 ... not very good for the CMH).  And finally, I plan to utilize the museums in Houston’s Museum District for City Schooling so I wanted to check it out.

We recently had a post (What If You Could Have Recess In A Sculpture Garden?) during COVID-19 that covered the Houston Zoo and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  Today I would like to cover our recent visit to the Children’s Museum Houston and it’s implications for 1) Budget, 2) Visiting during COVID-19, and 3) How might the CMH be helpful for our City Schooling in the Fall?

Children’s Museum Houston: Budget

As we’ve mentioned before, many times it makes the most sense to purchase a Family Membership versus one day tickets.  So technically our visit earlier this week was $0 because we have a Family Membership.  (Read more about Admission cost here).

In Kidtropolis’s Art Studio (Using the Adventure Bag)

Adult Regular Admission Cost: $12 x 2 = $24
Child Regular Admission Cost: $12 x 2 = $24

Total Regular Admission = $48 (Membership paid for in less than 3 visits).

Do you think your family would visit at least 3 or more times in the next 12 months (Summer?  Fall?  Spring?)?  Then a Membership is probably the best bet for you (check out their Membership page for details on various Membership levels that may be best for your family).  If not, check out their regular Admission prices and other discount opportunities.

Any other costs?  We didn’t spend any additional money this visit.  But of course there are other ways you may end up spending money ... a few that come to mind: parking, add ons, food, gift shop.  Let’s look at those a little more closely.  

Parking: Normally in the summer (or weekends) free parking could be challenging depending on the time of day.  But because of COVID-19 ... parking is no problem (including finding free parking).  There is a free (3 hour limit) lot a block away at Hermann Park’s McGovern Garden’s.  The CMH also has a parking lot / “garage”, and there is meter parking available on the surrounding streets.  

Add Ons?: This will depend on what they have available.  For example, right now they have a Secret Spy Game opportunity (ages 6+) which is $7 per mission.  We haven’t tried it yet, but it may be something we do eventually (there are probably some great connections there for City Schooling!).  

Food: It’s easier now for us to avoid spending extra on food since we live in the neighborhood.  But in the past I would make sure to always have a snack bag, and sometimes plan ahead if we would grab some grub (and there is a lot of great grub to grab nearby!).  Also with COVID-19, we are definitely not eating IN restaurants, but we have grabbed take out.  Still want to budget in for food?  The CMH does offer food (I am guessing hours vary), and there are some great bites nearby such as Barnaby’s Museum District (and limited outdoor seating).

Gift Shop: In most situations I would say definitely avoid the overpriced gift shop ... unless your child brought their own money to spend.  BUT .... 1) sometimes museum gift shops offer more unique gifts (or educational materials), 2) Due to COVID-19, the CMH (and other museums) probably could use any extra funds (and some of which come from gift shops).  So maybe if you need a gift, check your local museum gift shop before buying from a big box store (and I noticed CMH now has an on-line store)!  I know when I needed gifts a few months ago, I purchased them from museum gift shops versus big box stores.

Total Cost Today: $0

HEB Market in Kidtropolis

To say I was pretty impressed with their COVID-19 safety protocols is an understatement.

Now of course the safest thing to do would be to stay home.  But we are trying to get out a little bit (mostly outside), and the CMH is basically an extension of our “yard.”  Plus we want to utilize the CMH for City Schooling.

At the time of this blog, they are operating at 20% capacity and timed entry tickets.  We decided to visit on a Wednesday morning when they opened (maybe less people!?).  It was definitely less than 20% capacity. I don’t think I saw more than 10 families / groups there.  Great for us due to COVID-19, but I am guessing not so great for them to have funds to operate.  

They checked our temps before we entered, and they gave the kids adventure bags to do different activities throughout their visit which I thought was a great idea.  For example at the Art Studio in Kidtropolis, they had much of their art supplies in their adventure bag instead of in the art studio to minimize extra touching of materials.  But mostly my kids were too excited to be back in the CMH so we didn’t utilize the bags as much during this visit (next time!).

The Children’s Museum was set up similar to the Houston Zoo - one way traffic and arrows to help with social distancing.  All of the signage was very clear (and in English / Spanish).  There were plenty of employees (distancing) throughout all spaces if we had any questions.  With the exception of the first stop (since it was the first stop - families stopped there), we were easily the only family in a section (or maybe one other family).  There were employees helping with numbers and distancing!  They have a great outdoor space (and luckily it wasn’t too hot since a storm was rolling in) that we had all to ourselves for a good 20 minutes or more.

They had hand sanitizer and huge barrels of wipes (and trash cans) available in each section.  Since a Children’s Museum is very interactive and requires touching, we definitely sanitized before and after each section.  Masks are required for age 2 and up, and for the most part people were wearing them properly.  There were cleaning staff everywhere ... in each section of the museum - actively cleaning.  They also had some “self cleaning” materials on high touch areas like doors.

Some of the touch and feel materials in the museum are “loose”, and they had bins labeled clearly (again in English and Spanish) - for clean and dirty.  I made sure once my kids used something they put them in the dirty bin.  Someone was nearby to scoop it up and clean them.  Now ... will everyone always follow directions?  No, probably not - but it may have helped that we got there when it first opened / not busy.  And the employees seemed on top of things.

My kids love Kidtropolis - basically a small “city” with play sections - HEB Grocery Store, Bank, Vet, and so on.  We had it ALL to ourselves for a while.  This is definitely NOT the norm.  Each area of the “city” had clear signage - one family per play area for social distancing.

We got to learn more about water through three different live science experiments.

Overall how did I feel about safety?  Honestly I think it was safer than schools may be when they open, and the Children’s Museum of Houston will definitely be an extension of our City Schooling.  I think it would be a great idea for school administrators and teachers to visit CMH and take a look at some of their ideas for handling COVID-19 (I know, I know... a school is totally different, but there were some helpful ideas).

Don’t feel comfortable visiting yet?  I’ve noticed they’ve put a lot of time and work into virtual programming.  After Crisis Schooling I was feeling a little burnt out on on-line opportunities, but I will look into their virtual programming eventually - these may be great to incorporate into our City Schooling.

So what do they have to offer us as City Schoolers?  It looks like their School / Homeschool programming is cancelled through 2020 due to COVID-19.  But like I mentioned they are offering Virtual Programming.

They have a pretty extensive and helpful website.  Two things I want to explore more: understanding their Exhibit spaces and exploring their Educator materials.  That can help me make connections to our City Schooling.

And probably most importantly ... we will just visit and let the kids explore on their own with no agenda or learning experience in mind.  They probably will learn the best that way!

So what do you think?  Have you been to your Children’s Museum or another museum / cultural institution with your family / or on your own?

Check out Erik’s latest financial post: How To Adopt Positive FI Habits During A Global Pandemic, and contact him for Financial Consulting here.  We would love to help you on your own journey to FI!

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