For all those curious cuties who keep their parents working overtime exploring interesting subjects and answering endless questions, we’ve rounded up a slew of stimulating experiences to keep those big brains busy (and maybe even give you a break). So bust out those mini pocket protectors, it’s time to kick that grey matter into high gear at these brain-stimulating events and classes that’ll leave you and your Littles wanting more. It’s time to get your geek on!
The Seattle Public Library is pulling out all the stops in recognition of National Engineers Week (what, you didn’t know it was a thing?). In fact, they’ve expanded the celebration beyond the last week in February to include the whole month, and teamed up with the Pacific Science Center to host lots of cool classes that teach engineering concepts to the littlest designers. The party kicks off with a sweet lesson in pulleys, weights and strings, for kids 6 and up. Then continues on throughout the month giving budding scientists a chance to play with slime, test out the floatability of boats, and even participate in a classic egg drop that will bring back memories of your own school days (shhh… no hints allowed). Each class runs about an hour and most meet on the weekends or early evenings, so families can geek out together. Check out the complete list of classes below for maximum brain engagement.
photo: Seattle Public Library
Good to know: Many of the classes require registration, so be sure to call the hosting branch ahead of time to save a spot!
Slime!: Feb. 17, 2 p.m.-3 p.m. at the Montlake Branch; Feb. 22, 2 p.m.-3 p.m. at the Greenwood Branch; Feb. 26, 3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Queen Anne Branch; Feb. 28, 3 p.m.-4 p.m. at the Beacon Hill Branch; Mar. 1, 3 p.m.-4 p.m. at the Magnolia Branch
Egg Drop Rescue: Feb. 21, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Capitol Hill Branch
Robot Challenge: Feb. 21, 11 a.m.-noon at the Lake City Branch; Feb. 21, 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Greenwood Branch; Feb. 21, 4 p.m.-5 p.m. at the Magnolia Branch; Feb. 23, 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. at the Northeast Branch; Feb. 26, 4 p.m.-5 p.m. at the West Seattle Branch; Mar. 1, 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Rainier Beach Branch
See-Saw Savvy: Feb. 27, 4 p.m.-5 p.m. at the Southwest Branch
Boats Afloat: Mar. 7, 2 p.m.-3 p.m. at the Delridge Branch
Seattle Public Library
Ages: 4 & up, depending on class
Game like a Grandmaster
Whether your little smarty pants is a chess neophyte or a grandmaster wannabe, testing out strategies and playing skills at a tournament with Chess4Life is the perfect way to foster a little competition, while learning character-building skills, like perseverance and gamesmanship. Novices can get a taste of the game against similarly-skilled opponents at the Saturday Beginner Tournaments, held almost monthly (be sure to check the online schedule first) at Chess4Life centers around the Eastside, Bothell and Renton. And those with a little to a lot of playing experience will love showing their chops at the Friday Night Quads tournaments (held at the various center locations), where experienced players of all levels go head-to-head playing in three rounds of this timeless game. Be sure to register in advance for this one. Our favorite part? That Chess4Life emphasizes it’s all in how you play the game, focusing tournament play on positive and fun outcomes, even if you lose. That and there’s trophies. Check mate!
Good to know: For Littles who know that more chess means good chess, Chess4Life offers weekly class options too. After a quick assessment, you can drop in ($25) to test out the class and get registered if it’s right for you.
12729 Northrup Way, Suite 15
Bellevue, Wa 98005
Date and Time: Fri.; 7 p.m. for Friday Night Quads; Sat., Beginner Tournament times vary by location.
Cost: $20 & up, depending on tournament type
Go for the art, stay for the crafts on Saturdays at the Bellevue Arts Museum. This weekly drop-in program is a spectacular way to introduce petite Picassos to the inspiring works on display at BAM. But it can also stand on its own. Each Saturday’s crafty activity changes based on season and what’s on display at the museum, because each craft ties into some experience families will find inside, if they dare to venture beyond the first floor and explore the intriguing exhibits within (yes, please!). Expect to spend about 30 minutes creating the day’s project, but more time is definitely allowed for kids who want just can’t seem to get enough. And helping hands are on hand if parents get stuck or lay no claim to the artistic gene carried by their mini artist. Bottom line: It’s a messy good time for families to spend together.
photo: Emilie Smith
Good to know: If you have an absolute blast at the Get Crafty time, be sure to mark your calendar for the BAM KIDSfair, on the books for July 24-26, where kids can experience bigger, better (and possibly badder) of the same.
Bellevue Arts Museum
510 Bellevue Way N.E.
Bellevue, Wa 98004
Dates & Time: Sat., 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: $2/child; $4/child after Feb. 20
Gaze at the Stars
Get ready to boldly go… to a monthly star party hosted by the Seattle Astronomical Society at Green Lake in Seattle or Paramount Park in Shoreline. These free, open-to-the-public parties are a great way to turn some of those out-of-this-world questions into real life experiences for little stargazers and future astronauts. Each party is scheduled for the Saturday closest to the first quarter moon (check the online schedule to make it simple–hint, the next one’s February 28), and is an opportunity for volunteer astronomers and enthusiasts to share their knowledge with astronomy novices of all ages. SAS volunteers provide telescopes and come equipped with a wealth of knowledge to tap into. So queue up the questions for this one! Remember to dress for the weather, especially during these cooler, wetter winter months, and bring a sense of adventure with you. It’s out of this world!
photo: Sean Chin via Flickr
Good to know: This time of year, it’s especially important to check the SAS website before heading out to a star party, as grey skies and clouds make for poor visibility and parties do get cancelled when the weather’s bad.
7201 E. Greenlake Dr. N.
Seattle, Wa 98115
946 N.E. 147th St.
Shoreline, Wa 98155
Seattle Astronomical Society
When: Viewing times vary based on the month and season
Get a Backstage Pass
What kid doesn’t love getting a behind-the-scenes look at, well, basically anything. After all, figuring out how things work is forever fascinating when you’re a half pint. That’s why the Paramount Theatre’s free backstage tours appeal to little drama kings or queens and curious kiddos equally. The tour meets at the corner of 9th and Pine St. on the first Saturday of the month, and puts a whole new spin on the “theater experience” for families. During the 90-minute guided tour, you’ll get to check out the player piano, hear an engaging demo on the Wurlitzer, peek your head into dressing rooms and even wander the basement of this historic building. Top it all off with a trip to the theater library that’s bursting with mesmerizing memorabilia, and you’ve got a whole new set of brain cells to call your own. Expect about 20 people in each tour group, lead by very knowledgeable volunteers, who can answer every question your little smarty pants throws at them (theater related or otherwise). Bravo!
photo: Allison Sutcliffe
Good to know: Expect to climb up and around all four floors of the Paramount building on this tour. That means strollers are a no-no, so plan to strap kids on or piggyback them if their little legs wear out during the tour.
911 Pine St.
Seattle, Wa 98101
Dates & Times: First Saturday of the month, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Reach New Heights
Aspiring architects will jump at the chance to design and build their own creations at the Seattle Architecture Foundation’s monthly family build workshops. Each workshop introduces kidlets to architectural examples that provide a framework for that day’s project, followed by time to construct your own creation, using familiar materials like pre-cut cardboard shapes, construction paper and wood. As families work to bring their project to life, designers walk around giving feedback and asking questions like Tim Gunn, a la Project Runway style, engaging budding builders in some real-world “design thinking.” So have your thinking caps at the ready! The munchkins love creating, but there’s something in this for parents too. Getting to work together with your mini me to create something new is always a blast! February’s workshop topic looks to the future, as families design a city in the year 3000. In March, plan to bring some green spaces to the urban environs. A building we will go!
photo: Seattle Architecture Foundation
Good to know: Pack a sack lunch for your crew to enjoy during the break. Brain fuel is a must on this creative endeavor.
Seattle Architecture Foundation
1333 5th Ave., 3rd Floor
Seattle, Wa 98101
Dates & Times: Feb. 21 & Mar. 21, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Cost: $20/workshop; $15/workshop with an SAF Family membership
Hear Spellbinding Stories
What happens when storytellers from the Seattle Children’s Theater team up with art educators at the Frye Museum? Magic of course! Take your brainy sidekick to witness this perfect pairing on the first Friday of the month in the Frye Galleries. The storytelling talents of local actors will captivate little listeners, as they breathe life into fanciful stories, before handing the crew off. From there, mini learners can paint, sculpt and draw their way through the morning, getting messy and making connections between what they heard and what they’re creating. And who doesn’t love a little preschool learning disguised as fun? We do! When all’s said and done, don’t forget to head into the museum for some extended viewing, complete with wide-eyed “oohs” and “ahhs” from your sidekick. What an art-astic way to end your week!
photo: Lou Daprile
Good to know: Register for just the craft or both activities online beforehand, as seating and craft supplies are limited. But there’s no limit to storytelling time.
Frye Art Museum
704 Terry Ave.
Seattle, Wa 98104
Date & Time: First Fri. of the month; 10:30 a.m.-11 a.m. (storytelling), 11:15 a.m.-11:45 a.m. (art)
Where do you like to hang out with your brainy kiddo? Share your favorite spot in a comment below.
— Allison Sutcliffe