All posts by jlin

Creation Station at the Museum of Transportation

Located inside the “vintage” (i.e. a little scruffy and quirky but pretty fascinating) Museum of Transportation is the preschooler fun-filled playroom, the Creation Station. Wooden trains, blocks, play cars, miniature parking garages, magnetic trucks, an enormous pirate ship, dress up clothes, a puppet theater, play kitchen, arts and crafts, books, and more await you and your child (age five and under). The open play sessions are one hour.

Summer schedule (May 1 through September 5)

MondayTuesday, Wednesday, Friday
9:15 to 10:15 am; 10:30 to 11:30 am; and 11:45 to 12:45 pm

9:15 to 10:15 am; 10:30 to 11:30 am; 11:45 to 12:45 pm; 1 to 2 pm

Admission fees to the Museum of Transportation

Adults: $6
Children (age 5 to 12), Seniors, Military, and Teachers with valid ID: $4
Children 4 and under: FREE (two kids free admission per paying adult)
Members: FREE (six guests admitted per visit)

Admission to the Creation Station is extra (in addition to the general admission fee to the museum)

The cost is $1.50 per person per one hour session in addition to regular museum admission. Ages 1 and older. Admission is based on availability, tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations or pre-sales accepted.


If you plan on going to the Creation Station with your child several times throughout the year, consider buying a tax-deductible membership (and check with your workplace for any matching gift programs). The $60 conductor membership level gives you 35 Choo Choo Choose Stamps that can be used for Creation Station and/or train ride admissions.


* The morning Creation Station play times fill up quickly, so be sure to arrive early to secure your spots. Especially with school being out for the summer, many of the play times are busy.

* Pack a snack or lunch. The snack bar at the museum is mainly pretzels, hot dogs, and popcorn.

* Encourage your child to help clean up a little before he/she moves on to the next play area inside the Creation Station. During busy play sessions, the place can get a little chaotic.

* There is a nice miniature train that you can ride around the museum’s large parking lot. The scenery is kind of blah but kids love riding the train. The $4 train ride (buy your ticket at the front desk inside the museum) lets you go around a loop two times and you even get to ride a tram to the train. There’s no food or drink on the tram or the train, so make sure everyone is post bathroom and snack break. The train leaves on the hour, and 20 and 40 minutes after the hour. Detailed train schedule.

* Explore the old train cars in the rail yard. Our favorite is the Monsanto tank. My daughter calls it an echo chamber, so break out the Broadway tunes inside!

* There is an old bookmobile located outside of the museum that sells used books for $2 and under. It has odd hours, but take a peek if you catch it on an open day. We’ve found some wonderful out of print children’s books.

* The Creation Station is available for birthday parties on the weekends. Book early. Most time slots are filled two to three months in advance.

Chinese Culture Days

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Chinese Culture Days is this coming weekend, Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22. This annual event highlights the vast and fascinating culture, arts, and history of China. Parades, circus performances, cooking and painting demonstrations, martial arts, fashion shows, tea tastings, traditional Chinese music concerts, folk dancing, and plenty of delicious food to sample will give you and your family much to discover. Finding quality Chinese culture is a bit of a challenge in the middle of the Midwest, so now’s your chance to experience a little something different! Read more about the weekend’s programs.

The St. Louis Chapter of Families with Children from China (FCC) presents the festival’s Children’s Program with hands-on activities, including creating a dragon boat and fans, and trying out Chinese jump ropes, chopsticks, and yo-yos. All children’s activities are indoors at the Ridgway Visitor Center.

Chinese Culture Days
Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22
10 am to 5 pm both days
Missouri Botanical Garden

$12 adults (13 to 64 years old)
$10 Seniors (65+)
$5 Children (3 to 12 years old)
$5 Garden members
Free (members’ children 3 to 12 years old)

* Parking for any of the Botanical Garden’s big events like this can become very busy. If possible, have someone in your group drop off people at the front entrance and then go park. If the parking lot is full, try the lot at Shaw and Vandeventer.

* Bring snacks for your young children. In the past, we’ve ended up waiting for 20 minutes or more in concession lines. Try eating earlier to avoid some of the crowds.

* Buy your tickets online to save waiting around time at the Botanical Garden. If you’re a member, have your membership number handy to get the reduced price.

* Performances in the outdoor Cohen Amphitheater can get crowded and you might end up sitting or standing pretty far back. Bring your binoculars if you want to see some of the Chinese acrobat contortions close up!

* If you have time, be sure to visit the Children’s Garden or play in some of the fascinating tree houses located throughout the Garden.

* Consider becoming a member of the Missouri Botanical Garden if you’re not already. The member benefits and discounts are quite generous. Check with your workplace for any matching gift programs as well.

A video from last year’s festival.

Top photo: Erin Whitson, Courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden
Bottom photo: Brent Johnston, Courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden

Places to go: May 7 and 8

It’s Mother’s Day weekend! Okay, so I had to make my own Mother’s Day lunch reservation and send my husband a link to a gift I had my eye on… but I will take whatever bit of relaxation I can get over the weekend, even if it was self-initiated. Here are some family friendly places and events to experience May 7 and 8:

1. Art Fair at Laumeier is a fun family event where you can view a wide variety of art for sale and talk with the artists. While you are at  the fair, enjoy the live music, children’s activities, concessions (lines can be long), and of course the sculptures throughout Laumeier Sculpture Park. Head into the Eastern Woodland area for a quiet break from the Art Fair mania. Parking can be tough and far away from the entrance, so consider being dropped off with the kids (and have your loving husband go park) or bring your stroller/baby sling. $8 for adults, $5 children ages 6-11, and children under age of 6 are free. May 6, 7, and 8. Read more about enjoying the Laumeier Sculpture Park with kids in my St. Louis Sprout & About article.

2. St. Louis Storytelling Festival. On Saturday, May 7, the annual festival presents many free, family storytelling events throughout the day. No reservations required. By the St. Louis Arch.

3. Cinco de Mayo Celebration on Cherokee Street. Saturday, May 7, 11 am to 9:30 pm. Floats, minstrels, puppets, Elvis impersonators, drag queens, Mexican wrestlers, robot makers, live music, art demonstrations, mask making, and more, are sure to generate some wide eyed kids. Go celebrate the vibrancy of Cherokee Street and the neighborhood’s Mexican heritage.

4. Citygarden. Free and open daily from sunrise to 10 pm, Citygarden is a beautiful spot to interact with outdoor art (touching is okay), play with water on a warm day, climb stairs, skip, hop, and run. Bring snacks or lunch (the cafe food is just okay and kind of overpriced for what you get).

5. Grant’s Farm is open for the season! The park is open this Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm and Sunday from 9:30 am to 4 pm. Enjoy a fun tram ride while viewing the animals, see giant turtles, watch the elephants, ride the carousel, feed the crazy baby goats, and sample a beer. Also don’t miss the famous Clydesdales on your way out near the parking lot. $11 for parking and free admission. Fees for feeding the ravenous goats, riding the carousel, and concessions.

The Cow That Went OINK

Over the past year, my now four year old daughter has been working on not getting frustrated (i.e. screaming, crying, whining, flopping, etc…) when she can’t get something figured out immediately. I recently came across the book, The Cow That Went OINK, by Bernard Most, and was really pleased by how humorously and cleverly the author delves into ideas of learning, frustration, being teased, practice, and persistence. Plus, the drawings are cute and the opportunities for you and your child to play around with animal sounds abound.

The story starts out with a cow who only knows how to say “oink.” All the other cows and animals on the farm laugh at this poor cow who cries about her problem. Next enters a friendly pig who only knows how to say, “moo.” Naturally, this unleashes more laughter from the other pigs and farm animals. The pig cries as well. The cow and pig eventually try to teach each other their sound, resulting in “oimoo, oinoo, oinkoo, moink, moinkoo, and mook.” The farm animals continue to make fun of the cow and pig, but the cow and pig ignore them, continuing to practice their “moo” and “oink.” Finally, the cow and the pig both learn how to successfully say “moo” and “oink.” The book concludes with, “And they were the only animals on the farm that could do both. So they had the last laugh.”

We’ve only read this book once together, but my daughter has mentioned it a few times after she worked on buttoning her sweater by herself (a 10 minute project) without crying and taping a plastic cup that had cracked. She said, “I practiced and did it by myself! Just like that cow!”

The book of course is also good in pointing out how cows, pigs, and yes, people are different and have unique skills and knowledge. Being apart from the crowd can be hard at times, but can often have more lasting and worldly benefits!

The Cow That Went OINK is a nice length for 3 to 6 year old kids and excellent at being opened ended to prompt lots of questions. Oh, wait. Did your child already ask you enough questions today? Perfect for bedtime or nap time.

Be sure to check your local library for a copy of this entertaining and engaging book.

Things to Do Indoors on Easter Sunday

After the Easter celebrations are over, what to do indoors on a rainy day when most places are closed in St. Louis? Here are some family friendly places that are open on Easter Sunday.

Children’s Zoo at the St. Louis Zoo
One part of the children’s zoo is indoors. It’s a great place for a little climbing, pretend play, watching and petting animals, and scooping sand. Also be sure to check out the free indoor Bird House (separate from the Children’s Zoo). There are some incredible and crazy looking birds in here.
Open 9 am to 5 pm.
$4 per person. Children under two are free.
Free for certain member levels.
Admission for Children’s Zoo is free the first hour the Zoo is open.

CAM (Contemporary Art Museum)
A just right amount of art and images for your little one. Be sure to go upstairs to explore the books, puzzles, and overall space.
Open 11 am to 4 pm
$5, adults  |  $3, seniors  |  Free for children, students, and members

St. Louis Art Museum
A fun place to just roam. Be sure to download some of the museum’s family gallery guides for ideas to keep your kids engaged.
Open 10 am to 5 pm

Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden
After splashing outside in some puddles, head over to the indoor and warm Climatron building for some tropical plant viewing and family fun. Towards the exit of the Climatron is an excellent education room featuring numerous kid geared puzzles, puppets, magnets, pretend play, coloring, books, and more.
Open 9 am to 5 pm
$8, age 13 and up  |  $4, St. Louis City and Country Residents  |  $3, St. Louis City and County Senior Residents (65+)  |  Free, Members and Children (12 and under)

Butterfly House
Experience thousands of butterflies whirling about inside this beautiful conservatory. (Or view the hallway exhibits featuring “enclosed in plexiglass insects” while your family enjoys the conservatory if you’re bug phobic!)
Open 9 am to 4 pm
$6, general  |  $4.50, seniors  |  $4, children 3 to 12  |  Free, children 2 and under and MO Botanical Garden members

Photo: Jennifer Lin

The Children’s Garden is open!

The adventure filled Children’s Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden opened for the season this month and the beautiful spring weather has made visits to this outdoor gem even more ideal. The Children’s Garden is mainly designed for toddlers up through middle school age. It features elaborate tree house type constructions, rope bridges, a creek with boats and locks, slides, fake branches to hang from, pretend play areas including a general store, an unending amount of structures to climb on, a big sand box, musical instruments, water play, and much more. Plus, you have the nature aspect of the garden as well, so you may find your kids entertaining themselves with piles of bark or fallen leaves.

The Children’s Garden is open daily, April through October, 9 am to 5 pm. The cost varies from free to $5 for ages 3 to 12 (see tip number five below). View a map of the Missouri Botanical Garden. The Children’s Garden is number 29 on the map.


1. The bathrooms are conveniently located inside the Children’s Garden and do not have automatic flush toilets (in case your child has a complex about this). There is also a nice frog step stool for kids to use at the sink.

2. You can easily spend a couple of hours at the Children’s Garden with preschoolers. Be sure to bring a snack and drink for your child with you. Technically no outside food is allowed, so be discreet, clean up, and definitely no picnicking. More about the Garden’s rules.

3. The Children’s Garden is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the parking lot (and double or triple that if you have a meandering toddler). So if you anticipate that your child may not walk the whole way, bring your stroller. You can park your stroller near the waterfall by the front entrance of the Children’s Garden.

4. Beyond just running around and going crazy (an important experience in itself!), there are lots of socialization, shape recognition, texture, tempo/speed, color, size, and counting learning opportunities throughout the Children’s Garden for your little one.

5. Although there is a $3 to $5 fee for kids ages 3 to 12, the Botanical Garden offers ample options to experience the Children’s Garden for “free.” Ages 13 and up and 2 and under are free. Garden members Tuesdays all day, and Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 am to noon are free. Family-level members and above are free everyday and St. Louis City and County Residents are free on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 am to noon. Depending on what membership level you join at, members also receive varying numbers of “Bonus Bloom Passes,” that can be used for a complimentary anytime visit to the Children’s Garden or a tram ride. Memberships start at $65.

6. If you have a child who isn’t taking afternoon naps anymore, the Children’s Garden is less busy on weekday afternoons. This is often a fun time to visit.

7. The Sassafras Cafe located inside the Visitor’s Center is a nice place to eat after a morning at the Children’s Garden. The Cafe serves lunch until 2 pm on weekdays and until 3 pm on weekends. It tends to get very busy from noon to 1:30 pm and the lines can get long so plan ahead.

8. Bring a change of clothes if your child is going to play in the water area. They can get soaked!

Photos: Jennifer Lin

Two engaging music classes for preschoolers

Do you like to listen to soul, jazz, and global music or are you more of a classical and folk song kind of fan?

In the St. Louis area, Robert’s Music Together (tends to be more soul, jazz, global music focused) and Lori Burkhardt’s Kindermusik classes (more classical and folk music oriented) are both excellent options for preschooler music classes. We’ve taken Robert’s mixed ages class (infant to 4 year olds) for a ten week session and he is engaging, funny, and genuinely great with kids. We’ve also taken Lori’s Kindermusik classes for about a year (in addition to taking Kindermusik in California for a year) and liked how consistent her classes are, how nicely the activities flow (think Mary Poppins singing through her day and tasks), and how organized she is.

Here are some thoughts about Music Together and Kindermusik.

Robert’s Music Together

1. I really want to emphasize how genuine Robert is in his teaching. Robert enjoys sharing music with people, isn’t easily ruffled by whacky kid moments, and has an open heart. I’ve heard from a lot of parents that Robert was the first teacher their child had hugged. This is big!

2. The typical class format is 45 minutes of a greeting song, rhythm patterns, pitch play, instrument play (rhythm sticks, egg shakers, bells, etc…), movement, lullaby time, and a goodbye song. The order of these varies from class to class. Robert brings his guitar and banjo to class, in addition to integrating recorded music. I think it’s really important for kids to see real musical instruments being played especially in our digital life. There is something very tangible and wonderful about hearing an instrument resonate in person.

3. Some of the songs in Music Together are very rhythmic, have a lot of fast syllables in the text, and in some ways are designed for people who don’t have much of an ear. Think of it as chanting/singing songs more than soaring melodies (which Kindermusik does tend to lean towards).

4. One of the Music Together locations is at Shirlee Green Preschool (Robert has two other class locations in St. Louis). The room has a nice big sunny window, new facilities, and clean bathrooms. Also, because it is located in a fairly large preschool, there is a security door at the entrance.

5. A Music Together session meets 10 times and costs $165 total. This is pretty much on par with other kids classes in the area.

6. Robert’s Music Together tends to be more focused on not so structured play than definite music knowledge. What the class seems to be best at is encouraging your child to enjoy music (with you), see how she/he can create it, and experiencing sound/rhythm/movement in a social setting. All very valuable experiences!

Lori’s Kindermusik

1. Lori has been teaching Kindermusik classes since 1995 and is really at ease with all sorts of things that come up in her classes (i.e. the kids that decide they are going to start a game of tag during music class, the cutie pie toddler who refuses to get out of Lori’s lap, or the child that starts screaming and sobbing at every transition point and does so for eight lessons in a row, etc…). She is good at reassuring parents that children learn in different ways and encouraging to let the process unfold at its own pace.

2. Lori’s typical class format for the 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 year olds is 40 minutes of a greeting song, instrument play (rhythm sticks, egg shakers, bells, xylophones, toy cars, etc…), active listening, specific movement (e.g. fast/slow, high/low, staccato/smooth), pretend play with objects like hula hoops, storytime, lullaby time, a goodbye song, and hand stamps. The order of these can vary from class to class.

3. As I briefly mentioned above, Kindermusik songs are quite melodic and easy to remember. The Kindermusik curriculum finds some really catchy yet beautiful melodies that you can sing over and over and over and over with your child. Many of the songs also relate to everyday activities like cooking, laundry, waking up, riding in the car, and more.

4. We took Lori’s Kindermusik class at the Webster Groves Presbyterian Church and I must admit, the room is tiny (not much room for movement), and is in need of new carpeting, a paint job, and happier lighting. There is no window in the small room.

5. A Fall or Spring session meets 15 times and costs about $240 which breaks down to $16 per class. For my 3 year old daughter, I felt like the 15 class session was a bit long.

6. Curriculum wise, you can’t go wrong with Lori’s Kindermusik classes. It is beautifully thought out from a pedagogy standpoint (yeah, I’m the nerd who went to music school and listened to Mahler all the time instead of going to the bars after finals) and smart in its organization. Your child will definitely gain language, cognitive, emotional, physical, social, and musical abilities during Kindermusik. Lori does a great job at actively engaging kids with sound, sight, touch, and speech within a rich learning framework.

So if you’re on the fence, I would recommend taking a preview class and seeing what best meshes with you and your child (and your crazy schedule of course!). But overall, Robert’s classes are a bit more spirited and laid back in some ways and Lori’s classes may do more for your child’s overall development, partly due to the fact that she has narrower age specific classes instead of broad mixed age classes.

Q&A with Robert Bernstein, Music Together

Culture Mama [CM]: What do you like most about teaching?
Robert Bernstein [RB]: I have been enjoying interacting with families during classes as well as watching them interact with each other. Music Together really succeeds when it is a shared experience (between teacher/families and between child/parent or caregiver), so I have come to appreciate how important and fun that aspect of the classes can be.

[CM]: How will a child benefit from taking your Music Together classes?
[RB]: Music Together is designed to be an introductory and interactive music making environment (for infants to 4 year olds) and is intended to be experiential, so it is a very “hands on” class. It also promotes family interaction and sharing the experience of making music with each other.

[CM]: Is enrollment available now?
[RB]: Enrollment is currently available for the spring session which starts on April 21st.

Q&A with Lori Burkhardt, Kindermusik

Culture Mama [CM]: What do you like most about teaching?
Lori Burkhardt [LB]: KIDS and FAMILIES! And watching them have ‘aha’ moments experiencing the joys of music and seeing faces light up as entering the room, knowing they will have a fun-filled, musical (and learning) experience. Parents, too!!

[CM]: How will my child benefit from taking your Kindermusik classes?
[LB]: When you take class with me you get a Kindermusik educator that has a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Therapy, excellent customer service, fair studio policies, flexible make-up policies, and 16 years of experience teaching Kindermusik (since 1995). In a Kindermusik class, I lead a group of parents and their children through joyful activities, using music and movement to nurture skills in the whole child: cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and language.

[CM]: Is enrollment available now?
[LB]: Families may enroll at anytime for Spring, Summer and Fall classes. Tuition is prorated for late enrollment and home materials (CDs, literature books, activity books, instruments) are generally in full. Families may also preview one class for free at anytime with a reservation.

[CM]: A big thanks to Robert and Lori for helping our kids grow and making our daily life a little brighter, happier, and musical of course.

Circus Flora, a little magic for your soul

Are you a fan of the Tiger Lillies, Tom Waits, Krzysztof Kieslowski, the accordion, whimsy, and um, face paint? Or, do you just like a little no brainer entertainment, sawdust, laughter, animal antics, and popcorn? Then here’s something for you. I mean, for your child.

St. Louis’s very own nonprofit, unique one-ring circus, Circus Flora, opens its summer show on June 2. Tickets for these delightful performances are on sale now. Celebrating their 25th Season, Circus Flora gives you heartfelt twisting acrobatics, humorous clowns, amazing “choreographed” animals, solid music performances, rope and ribbon dancing, and maybe a little bit of inspiration, among other circus thrills. Circus Flora isn’t exactly about the utmost precision in performance, but there is a genuine, mysterious, magical, and memorable quality about this company.

This year’s production, “Vagabond Adventures,” reunites Circus Flora favorites: the Flying Wallendas, the St. Louis Arches, the Flying Pages, and the famous clown, Giovanni Zoppé as Nino, along with several new acts.

Tickets start at $8 and shows run June 2 through June 26. Children under 2 are free when seated on an adult lap.

Some tips:

1. If you’re bringing a child under the age of 5, consider the Wednesday at 10 am performances. These are one hour shows and cost considerably less.

2. If you don’t mind sitting up close, try one of the side box seats. They are less expensive than the center boxes but since the show is essentially in the round, you don’t really miss much in terms of sightlines. Your child will be amazed at watching dogs and other animals run around the ring right in front of them.

3. If you have allergies to dust, fur, or hay, etc… take your Nasonex or SOMETHING before the show. The tent is air conditioned but the animals and performers stir up a lot of allergens.

4. If you are one of those types who prefers to drive round and round for free parking, arrive early! There is a nearby paid lot as well.

5. In case your child is wondering, yes… there are port-a-potties. Bring your hand sanitizer.

6. Last year, there were pony rides adjacent to the tent. Bring your camera (and your cash).

7. There is NO photography allowed inside the tent during the performances.

Photos: Scott Raffe

Discovery Room at the St. Louis Science Center

The Discovery Room on the second floor of the St. Louis Science Center is a brilliant room filled with magnets, water play, construction toys, cars, puppets, sound and music toys, pretend play items, doll houses, fish, books, arts and crafts, x-rays, and much more. Basically it is a pumped up preschool room filled with beautiful wonder for kids ages 2 to 6. You’ll have to work a little bit at transitioning your child out of this fun place… they definitely won’t want to leave.

Discovery Room sessions last 45 minutes and start at the top of the hour Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 3 pm; Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm; and Sunday, noon to 4 pm. Space is limited to 50 people (one adult chaperone for at least every four children) and the cost is $3.50 for adults, children, and seniors. Members of the museum get free Discovery Room admission depending on their membership level. General admission to the museum is free.

Some tips:

1. If you can, go on a weekday. There are usually only 10 kids or less playing in the room on most weekday mornings that we’ve visited. Avoid holidays, school breaks, and weekends. During those busy times, tickets are often sold out and the museum is crazy loud, so call ahead to confirm Discovery Room availability, 314.289.4424.

2. The bathrooms are a bit of a walk from the Discovery Room (at least it’s far for your
four year old who has to stop and look at everything along the way). Make sure that you use the
restroom BEFORE your Discovery Room visit. Oh, and there is automatic flush in the bathrooms,
so bring those post-it notes or stickers to cover the sensors if your child is concerned.

3. The Discovery Room play session only lasts 45 minutes. Most likely, your child will only get to see half of the room during this time frame. Give ample warnings (i.e. “you have ten more minutes to play… what would you like to play with before we have to clean up?”) before the session ends. For those with jumpy kids, the Discovery Room staff usually announces on a loud microphone that it’s clean up time right when the playtime ends. Please note that they do not give time warnings.

4. There is limited food service during the week at the museum. Kaldi’s Cafe (but not Pizza Hut) is open but their food isn’t necessarily appealing to some little kids, so be sure to bring some of your own snacks.

5. There are lockers on the lower level for 25 cents so you don’t have to schlep coats, bags, and the stuffed animals that your child insisted on bringing into the museum and then decided they didn’t really want to hold.

6. Consider a membership if you plan on coming several times throughout the year. Parking is regularly $9 and the Discovery Room is $3.50 per person. With different levels of membership you can get both of these free as part of your member benefits.
Plus your membership donation is tax-deductible. If you work for a larger company,
your donation may be fully matched which bumps up your membership level and benefits.

7. If you are a member and you have unlimited free Discovery Room visits, you can play in the room more than once a day! Especially on the not-so-busy weekdays, we’ve played in the Discovery Room, had lunch in the cafe, and then went back to play again.

Museum Directions & Hours of Operation

Pricing & Amenities

Photos: Jennifer Lin