COSI – the Center of Science and Industry – in Columbus, Ohio might sound like some stuffy intellectual university institution, but it’s the total opposite. Far from boring, it happens to be one of the most entertaining – and popular – children’s activity centers in the country.
Ranked #1 by Parent’s Magazine, COSI (pronounced Co-Sci – as in Science) is “bound to inspire more than a few pint-size Einsteins.”
Why wouldn’t you want to encourage your toddler to learn and wonder?!!
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Young at heart
One of the many perks of having a kid is that you often get to be a kid – again. There are many experiences that fall out of our purview as we age. We have less opportunities to enjoy innocent thrills born of playful curiosity colliding with socially acceptable (i.e. “age appropriate”) activities.
Yes, you’re only as old as you feel– and really, if you want to repeatedly ride Pirates of the Caribbean (guilty) or watch a Pixar movie in the theater by yourself (also guilty) – no judgement, man. Seriously.
I’m just saying that when you have a kid, your focus starts to revolve more around previously “closeted” fun, and it becomes not only totally acceptable, but a preferred way to spend your days.
The Little Kidspace
Once we arrived at COSI (our admission was free, BTW, because we’re members of Nashville’s Adventure Science Center!), we made a B-line to the Little Kidspace on the second floor, because with two two-year-olds? Um- that’s naturally where you go, right?!
My first impression was – impressed. When entering the secure area, you receive a ticket with the number of adults and children in your group that you must show in order to leave the area. To prevent, you know- someone else from walking off with your child. That’s a nice added security feature that gives a little extra peace of mind. Because let’s face it, even the most diligent parent can lose track of their excited tot for a split second or two.
There is so much going on in just this one area. Mock houses with kitchens, a farm and farmer’s market, a play doctor area with “X-ray” display, a good size tree-house right in the middle.
The place just keeps going and going and going. There are trains, critters to observe, and around the right corner – an entire water play area!
It reminded me of the (really cool) Thinkery in Austin, TX.
COSI Kidspace Water and Paint Play
The water play area was equipped with waterproof rubber smocks for your kiddos to toss on as they splash around in the moated rivers, water wheels and water falls.
It was like The Thinkery was encapsulated in just this one section of COSI. So, you see, you could easily spend hours, or most of the day here at The Kidspace!
There was even a room for kids to paint and play with fluttering, fan-blown scarves.
At one point, I looked over at my friend and said, “Man, I’m really jealous of the families that live here and get to come all the time!”
Not that I don’t love Nashville. But seriously, one could never get tired of bringing their kids here to COSI.
We eventually peeled ourselves away from the Little Kidspace, which was hard to do because the tots were having so much fun. But we knew there was so much more to see!
So we headed to the Life Exhibition, which explores the human body, life and spirit. It was fascinating, but perhaps not quite geared toward toddlers.
Next was Progress
This was a very cool Epcot-like recreation of Main Street USA, through several decades of progress. You can “travel through time and interact with the technology from 1898. Then turn a corner and find yourself generations later – in 1962 – in that same town.”
Walk in to a telegraph shop and talk to a crow, hula hoop in front of the post office, shop for some 1950’s area appliances, or sit in a stage coach.
It was neat; very entertaining and interesting- for kids and adults alike.
Then we made our way to Gadgets at the end of the left section. The kids loved all the nuts and bolts in the bridge-building area, and of course my kiddo was stuck like glue to the interactive ball activities (where you can shoot balls in the air into/down a pinball maze or float several balls in air “fountains”)
Once downstairs, we discovered the cave entrance to the atmospheric Ocean Exhibit where everything was water play.
A massive Poseidon greeted us with his trident outstretched, fountains shooting in every direction below him (which are adjustable), leaving quite the first impression.
You can make waves, chase bouncing water droplets, and feel the soft plume of the water bulb fountains. Exploring the science of water might be more of an older child activity, but younger toddlers can appreciate all the fun-ness of the splashing and visual stimulation in here.
The Poseidon environment was also pretty cool. You can climb in a submersible or walk in to one, which starts to bob along the sea floor once you’re inside (like a little ride), giving you views of the underwater seascape through the video portholes.
The outside “Big Science Park” has the quintessential car lever lift, a model home of tomorrow POD, the whisper chamber, a native prairie, and a ball suction machine (tubes suck tiny balls in at the bottom and spit them out at the top. The kids loved that).
Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to do and see everything at COSI. We missed the last Adventure in the Valley of the Unknown show, where you can explore ancient ruins of a remote island and discover artifacts of a secret culture (how cool!)
I’m actually thinking we’ll need to return again to explore more, perhaps when my little girl’s a few years older!
I would like to acknowledge the photography talents of my dear friend Ashley Colon and thank her for letting me use her images here in this post.
Check out her site and services over at Life’s Mirror Images.