Fredericksburg’s Children’s Museum is turning 5, and the folks there are inviting all to celebrate with them Saturday. In addition to traditional treats such as face painting, balloon animals and birthday cake (while it lasts!), a special highlight of the day will be the unveiling of two new exhibits that will be a permanent feature of this children’s wonderland.

Among the debuting exhibits is “Fredericksburg Co-op,” sponsored by the Cabot Cooperative Creamery, the Fredericksburg Food Co-op, NSWC Credit Union and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative.

“These exhibits show the value of teamwork and what can be accomplished when people come together as a community,” said museum spokesperson Mary Beth Yates.

Each of the co-operatives has sponsored an interactive scenario where children can engage with exploratory, imaginative play that involves role-playing while revealing the world behind the daily experiences that people take for granted.

Young visitors will see that the life story of a package of butter does not begin in the grocery cooler but started with milking cows in a barn. Kids can even use a butter churn to experience how this was once done by hand. While it might be taken for granted that flipping a switch will light a room, a behind-the-scenes scenario shows how electricity makes its journey from a distant source; children can even don workmen’s gear and climb up the spokes of a utility pole to make power lines light up. Through a kids-sized ATM, guests can see how money is dispensed and the how the balance in an account is displayed. Children can also take on the role of vendors as they arrange the offerings of bins of fruits and vegetables at a local farmers market.

Another exhibit making its appearance at the celebration is the “Everbrite Wall,” an interactive light display inspired by the Lite-Brite toy introduced in the’ 60s. Visitors young and old(er) will be fascinated with this enormous wall of knobs that they turn to create giant patterns of lights in the full-color spectrum.

This bevy of new exhibits will join long-standing favorites at the children’s museum such as the bank, grocery store and dental office of Town-Square. “These hands-on scenarios promote imaginative play, and allow children to assume roles that they wouldn’t be able to until much later in life,” said Yates.

A visit to the Construction House provides a peek behind the interior of our homes to reveal the insulation and electrical wiring that makes our daily life enjoyable, and a huge climbing structure made of tires allows youngsters to safely hone their gross motor skills. Visitors are also invited to let their creativity run free with costumes provided at the participatory Star Bright Stage, and who can resist the opportunity for a storytelling session at the huge overstuffed chair in the Book Nook?

Throughout the entire museum, parents and caregivers are encouraged to join in the fun and experience, once again, the creativity-sparking magic of play—which Einstein once declared to be “the highest form of research.” In addition, a series of placards with information about the various stages of children’s development that are displayed throughout help to augment parenting skills.

“We are excited to celebrate our fifth anniversary of the opening of the Children’s Museum in Fredericksburg, which has served over 258,000 children their families, thanks to our partnerships in Fredericksburg and its surrounding counties. These businesses, community leaders, schools and, of course, families have helped us create a valuable early learning resource for children and their families!”said Shannon L. Venable, Children’s Museum President & CEO.

Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.

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