Kids are born loving “Sesame Street.” Babies go gaga for Elmo, and the appeal of Kermit and friends endures for the toddler set and beyond. That’s why Somebody Come and Play: 45 Years of Learning on Sesame Street, on view now until January at Lincoln Center, is a must-see for both new and old fans of the groundbreaking show. It’s got life-sized Muppets, archival art and clips, and an off-the-hook play space. Kowabunga! (Double Kowabunga: It’s free!)

Where the Air Is Sweet

Where the Air is Sweet

A collaboration between Sesame Workshop and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the exhibit fills the 3700-square-foot Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery with over 250 items from “Sesame Street”‘s history. When you enter (at the West end of Lincoln Center plaza) you’ll first encounter a mechanized Oscar the Grouch, who lifts his head out of his trash can when a green button at kid-height is pressed. While the little ones are occupied “disturbing” Oscar, you can check out the surrounding room, filled with production photos, early promotional prints and videos, and information about how the show was (and is) inspired by New York City.

Word on The Street: Grab a program guide outside the gallery entrance. Toddlers will still be paging through it days later.

The People in Your Neighborhood

Moving further into the space, you’ll find many of the most popular “Sesame Street” characters: life-sized Big Bird (along with his sizable nest), Elmo, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, and others. Though the Muppets aren’t for touching, they’re still a treat to see: pristine, well-lit and surprisingly compelling. Interspersed throughout the space, collections of original sketches, style guides, and behind-the-scenes footage pay tribute to the talented writers, composers, animators, and puppeteers who have contributed to the show’s success. While you’ll probably enjoy it, the material is pretty dense for kids, so sit them down to watch video reels from early shows, play with apps on strategically-placed iPads, or let them dig into some real live Muppet hair.

Word on The Street: Beware the Plexiglass. We saw many a kid make a run for Big Bird and bounce off.

After you’ve consumed all the history you can handle, take the kids to where the real hands-on magic happens: a huge play space filled with desks where they can color, read “Sesame Street” books, or watch clips from the show. The interactive area also includes a giant chalkboard, an illuminated hopscotch board, and a photo booth where you and the kids can take pictures with Honkers.

Word on The Street: Check for your photo on screens outside the gallery entrance.

Sesame Street Exhibit

Everybody’s Song

After 45 years of Muppet magic, we’d be hard-pressed to find a person who didn’t have at least one memory of watching (or letting someone else watch) “Sesame Street.” “Somebody Come and Play” is a truly comprehensive look at the show’s past, and Muppet lovers of all ages will enjoy the behind-the-scenes peek at the landmark series. While the exhibit is a great activity for any day, it’s also a perfect option in the face of rain, and — thanks to a generous run through January — even snow.

Word on The Street: Want the maximum Muppet experience? Check out Family Day on October 13 from 1-4 p.m. The afternoon will feature storytelling, giveaways, games, a full-bodied Muppet, and complimentary goodie bags for the first 50 children under 10 years of age. On select Wednesday mornings, the library will offer storytelling at 11 a.m. (Check the website for exact dates).

“Somebody Come and Play”: 45 Years of Learning on Sesame Street
Now through January 31, 2015, Mon. – Sat., noon – 6 p.m.
Tickets: Free
The Library for the Performing Arts’ Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery
40 Lincoln Center Plaza
Manhattan
With strollers, use ramp at 65th St. & Columbus Ave.
Without strollers, you can also enter at 111 Amsterdam Ave., just below 65th St.
917-275-6975
Online: nypl.org/sesamestreet

— Anna Knoebel
 
What’s your little Muppet’s favorite thing about “Sesame Street”? Let us know in the comments below!