Keeping Kids Focused with Thinking Putty

As I have probably mentioned (likely about a million times), my son is super smart. (What can I say – I’m a proud momma!) But what I probably don’t mention as much, are his special needs. They can make life a little more difficult at times, but it’s just part of who he is. One of his challenges is staying focused on a task. Especially homeschool. He’ll start running around, bouncing off the couches, and yelling – just to get out of the schoolwork because he;s feeling frustrated and can’t concentrate. Not the easiest situation to manage.

Thinking Putty_Green

When I first introduced him to Thinking Putty, he really didn’t know what to do with it. But once we talked about it, and I showed him how to use it while trying to concentrate on schoolwork, it has done wonders with his attention span. He is better able to stay focused on his work and, just as important, he stays in his seat.

So, needless-to-say, when a box of the Mixed By Me Thinking Putty Kit arrived at my door, my little guy was way too excited! I actually regret for filming the opening because his enthusiasm was wonderful to see.

Thinking Putty

How can I explain Thinking Putty? Well, it’s a sticky, stretchy goo that you can stretch, roll, and play with in your hands. It actually helps you concentrate while mindlessly thumbing it through your fingers. Almost like a silly putty, but this one won’t dry out and doesn’t smell funny.

I have to just say, that making this Thinking Putty with my son was so fun, both for him, and for ME! We both loved experimenting with different combinations in the kit.

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The Glow in the Dark Mixed by Me Thinking Putty Kit that I received comes with:

  • 5 small tins hand packed with clear Thinking Putty (twist off the lid to remove!)
  • 3 concentrated primary-colored putties
  • 3 special effect putties
  • 1 tin to hold your components
  • 6 colored pencils
  • 5 extra labels for your tins
  • 1 instructional mat with formula suggestions from Crazy Aaron

The instruction mat has formula combinations on it, so we tried a few of them – we even tried a few combos of our own!

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I liked the measurements of “glob” and “heap” and “smidge” and “pinch”. It made the experiments much easier for kids, and you never had to be so precise with your quantities. Eyeballing it worked just fine. A little bit goes a long way too.

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I kept a log of the combinations we tried so he’d be able to look back and see what color/effect packets we used. We started our experiments with a hypothesis of what we thought certain combinations would make. It was fun to look back to see what we did.

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I loved the focus and intensity he used when making his own Thinking Putty. Check out how into it he was.

Overall, for a child with attention difficulties, Thinking Putty is great. But getting to make your very own is just fantastic. His Thinking Putty is never far away when he’s working on his Timberdoodle curriculum!

What’s something you’ve done to stay focused on a task?

Party Time at the Skokie Exploritorium

Exploritorium Logo

For the last two years, we have been invited to a birthday party at the Exploritorium in Skokie. It’s quite a drive for us, but we really can’t say no to an opportunity to hang out at the Exploritorium. We used to drive to Skokie frequently before my in-laws moved to Florida, but never have we stopped at the Exploritorium. Thank goodness for these birthday parties – it gives us a great reason to come out and play.

Exploritorium Tunnels

The Exploritorium is a large indoor playground that is part of the Skokie Park District.  There are multiple areas that are perfect for interactive play. You can play make-believe in a costumed dress-up area; run your fingers through a water play area; make music, climb a wall, play with trains, experience new heights in two-and-a half-story tubes and tunnels, and so much more. My son loves coming here – it’s just a bummer that we live so far and don’t make it out to Skokie more than once a year.

Exploritorium Slides

This place sort of reminds me of a mini children’s museum, complete with a water table, a train table, and a huge lite brite! It would be so easy to spend a few hours here – too bad the party time is only one hour.

Exploritorium Water Table

Exploritorium Water

Exploritorium Train Table

Exploritorium Gear Table

Exploritorium Lite Brite

When you book a party at the Exploratorium, you get one hour of play time, and another hour in the party room. You bring your own food and cake, which is really nice – but it doesn’t seem like you have a dedicated party helper. The play time alone makes it completely worth the drive to Skokie.

Open play hours are 9 am – 5pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday and 9am – 1pm on Saturday. They are closed on Thursday & Sunday. The cost for non-residents is $5 per person and they are located at 4701 Oakton Street in Skokie.

I’m on the 2016 Timberdoodle Blog Team + the Mobi Max Game Review

I am a homeschooling mama.

Well..sorta.

My son is currently 5-years-old, enrolled in preschool, AND is being homeschooled at the first grade level. Yeah, he’s all kinds of smart. And I guess that makes me a semi-homeschooling mama, right?

When I was looking for a homeschooling curriculum to use with him, I found that there are so many to choose from. As a mom who has never looked into homeschooling before, the options were intimidating. We researched so many different programs and ultimately chose Timberdoodle because we liked that they sourced their curricula using multiple publishers and they included both literature-based learning, as well as hands-on learning activities with a heavy focus on critical thinking skills. I also liked that you can choose a faith-based program, or a secular program. Lots of options with Timberdoodle!

That being said, the decision to blog about Timberdoodle was such an easy one. I’ll now get to test some of the latest educational supplements Timberdoodle has to offer and I’ll tell you all about them here. I couldn’t be more excited!

TD_2016_blogger

Mobi Max Game

Mobi Max Game Review

I was sent the Mobi Max game to review and my son couldn’t wait to rip it open. The packaging on this game is everything and kids like mine will want to get into it right away. Inside was a pack of tiled numbers and operation signs. Upon reading the game instructions, game play reminded me a lot like a game of Scrabble, but with numbers instead of letters.

Mobi Max Opening

One thing I will say about this game is that it is FUN! We first played at about 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning and my son barely knew he was learning. To him, he was just playing a game with his mom.

Mobi Max Play

This game is perfect for my son because we’ve been working on math drills and he’s trying to improve on his time. He’s learning basic math facts and getting faster and faster with memorization. To make this game easier for young kids, you can simply remove all numbers over 10, and the multiplication and division tiles. His ability to calculate basic equations in his head has already begun to increase in the few weeks we’ve been playing the game.

Mobi Max Equations

My son asked to play this game again the very next day. I have a feeling we’re going to be playing this game a lot – and he is going to be a math wiz in no time!

Mobi Max Tile Game

I highly recommend this game for all kids over the age of 5. It’s great for introducing math concepts, as well as for older kids when using larger numbers and multiplication and division options.

To learn more about the Mobi Max game, visit the Timberdoodle site.

Who would you play this game with?

Trust OxiClean™ Laundry Detergent On Tough Stains

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by OxiClean™ through their partnership with POPSUGAR Select. While I was compensated to write a post about OxiClean™ Laundry, all opinions are my own.

I can hardly believe that the kids are already headed back to school! We have been having such a great summer playing outside, swimming at the pool, and just enjoying family that I get really sad when I start thinking that it will all be over pretty soon. We still have two pretty big vacations coming up (that I can’t wait to tell you all about), so there’s lots more to look forward to, but we’ll be back to the daily grind before we know it. **Insert huge SIGH here.**

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My son, for one, has been enjoying getting dirty in the backyard, playing in the sun. Being the mom of a precocious and active 4-year-old, I love how much he enjoys the outdoors, but I’m more concerned with how I am hoping to keep his clothes clean – and not going broke with constantly replacing clothes! I can’t even tell you how many grass stains, dirt, and dried food I’ve found on his clothes over the years. Trust me, it’s A LOT!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been looking for a new laundry detergent that would help me remove all my son’s tough stains that would also not irritate his super-sensitive skin. I’ve tried some that were way too fragrant, and some that just didn’t clean my clothes as well as I would have liked them to. Recently, I tried OxiClean™ Laundry detergent and think I’ve found the one for us. First of all, who knew OxiClean™ even made laundry detergent?!?! Certainly not me! I was surprised to see it in the store and decided to give it a try.

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I was pleasantly surprised with how well my clothes looked and felt – without them smelling like a bouquet of flowers or a summer rain shower. That was the biggest perk for me, the fact that OxiClean™ Laundry detergent has a variant that is free of all perfumes and dyes. Finally – it’s an all-in-one solution that can be used on all of your laundry* to help remove stains, brighten your colors & whites and leave a long lasting freshness. It also helps save you time since it can help you get out tough, dried-on stains the first time*.

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Have you tried OxiClean™ Laundry detergent yet? Did you even know it existed? I encourage you to give it a try and let me know what you think!

* Please follow manufacturer directions for your garments. For best results, pretreat stains with laundry detergent, wait 5-10 minutes and then wash.

Denny’s Partners with Dreamworks Animation on New Kid’s Menu #DennysDiners

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Denny’s. I am a #DennysDiners Ambassador, however, I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions are 100% my own.

I am so excited that I can finally announce that I am a Denny’s Diners Ambassador for 2015. What this means is that I will hear about exciting news on Denny’s and can share them with you. This partnership comes at a great time because, honestly, it’s been a really long time since I’ve stepped foot in a Denny’s restaurant. Circa 2000 in Miami Beach after a very, very late night, to be exact. But I digress.

Dennys-Logo

Needless-to-say, it was about time I tried Denny’s again. Not only because Denny’s is America’s iconic family diner, but especially considering Denny’s new partnership with DreamWorks Animation, and the fact that I have a Madagascar-, thus Penguins-obsessed 4-year-old. (He received the new Penguins movie in his Easter basket and asks to watch it every single day.)

DreamWorks_Kids_Menu_Page 1

Kicking off with Penguins of Madagascar, Puss In Boots and Turbo FAST, in addition to many popular characters such as Shrek appearing throughout the year, the colorful characters adorn Denny’s kids menu in a variety of interactive, themed puzzles and games to enjoy during mealtime. And anyone who knows my son knows that he can be a bit loud at times, especially when he’s bored, and I’m happy to report that the new DreamWorks Animation kid’s menus at Denny’s kept him occupied throughout our entire wait. Thank you, Denny’s!

Denny's Kids Menu

Kids can also color the DreamWorks characters featured on the Denny’s kids menu then use the DreamWorks COLOR app to bring their drawings to life. The characters literally jump off the menu in 3D! So cool!!!

DreamWorks-COLOR-app

As a mom, I was happy to see all the options Denny’s offers to kids. Lot’s of fresh fruit and veggies but, when given the option (my mistake) kids will hardly ever choose those. We dined at Denny’s for dinner – ONLY $3.49 for kids – and my son inevitably chose the Goldfish crackers. I was more than happy to add a bowl of grapes for just $0.89.

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There are 5 lunch/dinner options for kids including my son’s favorite, chicken nuggets!

Kids Chicken Nuggets

So take this opportunity to visit your local Denny’s with the kids and reacquaint yourself with all they have to offer. They will love it!

Tell me, when’s the last time you visited a Denny’s.

Connect with Denny’s

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Day Trip: Madison Children’s Museum in Wisconsin

My family loves to visit children’s museums. I’ve tried to visit all the ones near me and we always seek one out when we’re on vacation. In Illinois alone, we’ve been to the one in Oak Lawn, Rockford, Naperville, Champaign, and Glenview. We hope to hit them all in the coming years too! This time, we decided to venture a couple of hours away from home to visit the Madison Children’s Museum in Madison, WI. It’s only a little over two hours from my house – and it’s totally worth the drive.

Madison Children's Museum

Let’s be honest – any kid would love a trip to a children’s museum. Some of the exhibits at the Madison Children’s Museum, though, make this one of our favorites. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Controlling the water.

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Climbing the Wildernest.

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And running across the Wildernest.

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Transporting the veggies at the Wildernest.

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Painting on the windows at the Art Studio.

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Rearranging the magnets on the refrigerator.

Madison Children's Museum_Magnets

Admiring the sculpture on the Rooftop Ramble.

Madison Children's Museum_Rooftop Ramble_Sculpture

Climbing the hay bales on the Rooftop Ramble.

Madison Children's Museum_Rooftop Ramble

Ahoy matey! Hoisting the pirate flag.

Madison Children's Museum_Pirate Flag

Nice view of the Capitol Building from the Rooftop Ramble.

Madison Children's Museum_Capitol Building

And no children’s museum visit would be complete without a trip to the train table. Notice the building in the center?

Madison Children's Museum_Train

As you can see, there’s lots of fun to be had at the Madison Children’s Museum in Wisconsin. They are open Tues – Sun 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. plus the last Monday of each month. As of April 2014, admission for both adults & children is $7.95.

When’s the last time your kids enjoyed a children’s museum?

Connect with Madison Children’s Museum

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Kid-Friendly Shows at the Staerkel Planetarium in Champaign, IL #visitchampaign

My son is obsessed with our solar system.  He’s four now, but has been able to recite the planets (in order) since he was about 26 months old.  (Totally not a brag, but it is what it is. He is SO smart!) So, what better activity for my astronomer-in-training than a trip to the William M. Staerkel Planetarium?

Staerkel Planetarium-Kids

Photo By: Staerkel Planetarium Facebook

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit nervous to take him to a planetarium show because I wasn’t sure he’d be able to sit still through the whole thing.  I’ve never even taken him to the movies before so this would be our first “movie” experience together.  We had tickets to the “Santa’s Secret Star” show on a Saturday so I was banking on it being kid-friendly.  Thankfully, it was! (Please check show descriptions before visiting with young kids. Not all shows are recommended for children.)

Staerkel Planetarium-Seating

The Good:  The planetarium theater itself was beautiful.  Located on the Parkland College campus, the planetarium’s state-of-the-art digital projection system, operated by the (nicest) planetarium director, Dave Leake, proved to be breathtaking.  His storytelling held my son’s attention the entire time – and I’m sure seeing Santa up in the sky didn’t hurt either!

Staerkel Planetarium-Dave Leake

The Bad:  At the time of our visit, campus construction blocked the front entrance of the planetarium, making it a bit difficult to navigate our way inside. Construction should be 100% now so you shouldn’t have any issues driving and finding parking.

Overall:  We loved the kid-friendly show at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium, and would certainly return for another show!

Staerkel Planetarium-Planets

The Staerkel Planetarium is open August through May on Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:00 and 8:00 PM (barring college closure for holidays). A variety of show types are presented. Check the calendar to find out the current schedule of offerings. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for kids 2-12. Special discounts are available for double-header shows.(Pricing verified February 2015 – check the website for updated information.)

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Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

The New Little Beans Café is ALL Fun & Games #LBEvanston

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A new kids’ play space will be opening in Evanston on Friday and the northern suburbs are in for quite a treat! My family had an opportunity to take a sneak peek at the all new Little Beans Café in Evanston, and we were absolutely blown away.

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Located in a former grocery store building, this new play space offers the same great playspace as their Chicago location, the Little Beans Village (a play area for kids 0-6 years), plus SO MUCH MORE! The new Little Beans Café is such an amazing venue, and after 3 full hours of play, my son did not want to leave.

So what is the Little Beans Café?

Little Beans Café and Family Activity Center is an imaginative playspace, recreational center and café targeted to kids 0-12 years. They offer drop-in play for kids 0-6 years in the Little Beans Village, and for kids 5-12 years in the Big Beans play area. There’s also classes, events, camps, birthday parties and more. At the Little Beans Café, kids have the freedom to play, learn, imagine, and create in their custom interactive indoor playgrounds, while parents and caregivers can enjoy an upscale ambiance, delicious coffee, and a large selection of food.

Highlights of the Little Beans Café

Camp-themed imaginative play village.

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Little Beans Village |Photo by: Eva Ho Photography www.evaho.com

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Photo by: Eva Ho Photography www.evaho.com

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Infant Room

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Ninja Warrior-themed obstacle course.

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Ninja Warrior Course | Photo by: Eva Ho Photography www.evaho.com

Half court gym for games.

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A Karaoke room and lots more!

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Photo by: Eva Ho Photography www.evaho.com

Located at 430 Asbury Avenue, the new Evanston location is all set to open to the general public this Friday, February 13th. Drop-in play is $12 per child, with a discount available for siblings. Stop by and take advantage of this wonderful new playspace – your kids will love it!

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Have Fun Learning about Science at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum in Champaign, IL

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’d know that my family loves to visit children’s museums. We’ve been to quite a few and always seek one out when we’re on vacation. In Illinois alone, we’ve been to the one in Oak Lawn, Rockford, Naperville, and Glenview. We hope to hit them all in the coming years too!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Exterior Signage

On our last trip to the Champaign-Urbana area, my entire family visited the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum and we had a good time.  We dropped by on a Sunday afternoon about 10 minutes before the museum officially opened at noon.  A birthday party was just wrapping up while we waited for opening time.   It’s obvious that the museum used to be a theater and we loved the architecture and some of the original details inside.  The museum isn’t very large, but it is situated on 2 levels with various exhibits that incorporate a fun way to learn about science.

The Good

My son had a great time at some of the exhibits at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum.  Some of his favorites were the train table (of course…it was so hard to pry him away from the train table), the water table (again, a favorite among many kids – but this table was different in that it had different sized plastic pieces that you could configure to control water flow), and a sand table with purple sand!

Orpheun Children's Science Museum-Train Table

Kids love the train table!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Water Table

Cool water table!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Purple Sand

Purple sand play was awesome!

My teenage daughter and I really enjoyed the Momentum Machine on the lower level.  A small spinning circle teaches angular momentum –  just like you see the figure skaters do on the ice.  You kick off with one leg, hold your leg out to the side, then slowly bring your leg back to your other leg.  You’ll start spinning faster and faster!  We were so dizzy but kept trying it out over and over again!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Momentum

During the summer months, the outdoor courtyard features a dinosaur dig area where kids can excavate dinosaur bones from the large sand pit. There were many opportunities at the museum to teach your kids a science lesson.  My son, while only a toddler, had lots of “Why?” questions for us about different exhibits – thank goodness my husband was there to answer many of his science-related questions.

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Vet Area

Vet area

The Bad

The museum was a tad bit on the small side, and we couldn’t get some of the exhibits on the second level to work – due to missing pieces and such. That didn’t deter us from trying everything though!

Overall

The Orpheum Children’s Science Museum is a great way to spend a few hours.  Children will benefit from the many science lessons found throughout the museum – and they’ll have tons of fun doing it!  Admission is only $5 per person (as of January 2015, please check website for details), so it’s an inexpensive educational outing for the kids!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Mirrors

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Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

Classic Comfort at the Comfort Suites Urbana Champaign #visitchampaign #chambana

Sometimes you just need a vacation. For me, a vacation doesn’t have to be thousands of miles away, only reachable by plane. A vacation is anywhere I can get away with my family, be it a few towns over, or a short road trip away. My family visited the Champaign-Urbana area of Illinois for a weekend in the fall and stayed at the Comfort Suites hotel. The Champaign-Urbana area is located roughly 140 miles from the Chicago area, a little over a two-hour drive. My entire family was along for the trip – my husband and myself, my teenage daughter, my preschooler son, and my mom. Thankfully, the Comfort Suites offers adjoining rooms, making our stay as comfortable as possible.

Comfort-Suites-Exterior

Photo By: Comfort Suites Urbana Champaign

Hotel

The Comfort Suites hotel may not look like much from the outside, but I can assure you that we loved this hotel.  The staff at the front desk was very friendly and accommodating.  They were happy to answer all of my questions.  Aside from the front desk, there is a sitting area located near the entrance.

Confort-Suites-Free-Coffee

My favorite part of our stay, honestly, was the complimentary breakfast offered by the hotel.  While coffee is available all day (we LOVED that), breakfast included fruits, yogurt, bagels, donuts, cereal, oatmeal, a waffle-making station, and some hot options like eggs, sausage, etc. (those items varied by day).  This is definitely a great option for families, as dining out for every meal can get expensive.

Comfort-Suites-Pool

Photo By: Comfort Suites Urbana Champaign

My kids loved the pool area at the Comfort Suites.  The pool wasn’t very large, but there weren’t a lot of people in the pool when we visited, so we didn’t feel cramped at all.  There was also a hot tub and complimentary pool towels to use for guests.

Comfort-Suites-Sitting-Area

Room

I was most surprised at the size of our rooms at the Comfort Suites.  We were fortunate to secure two adjoining rooms – one with a king bed and the other with 2 queens. Each room had a large sitting area with a couch and a small table, and had a writing desk and television.  A great feature for families is that all rooms come with a small refrigerator and microwave.  The room was also very clean and I did not notice any stains or rips in the upholstery.  I also liked the fact that the hotel offers free WiFi to guests, as we needed it for my son to view content on our tablet.

Overall

We enjoyed our stay at the Comfort Suites Champaign-Urbana. The amenities offered by the hotel is just what my family needed for a comfortable stay.  I would definitely recommend this hotel to any family wishing to visit the Champaign-Urbana area.

Disclosure: My family received complimentary accommodations in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

Let Out Your Inner Rock Star at the Rhythm! Discovery Center in Indianapolis #VisitIndy

Rhythm Discovery Center

 

If you’re visiting Indy and are looking for something totally awesome to do indoors, I hope Rhythm! Discovery Center is on your list.  Rhythm! Discovery Center is THE place to be to let your inner rock star out – and have loads of fun doing it too!  We visited Rhythm! Discovery Center on our last trip to Indy, and my son still  has not stopped talking about it.

Rhythm-Discovery-Center-Beatles

I hadn’t heard much about Rhythm! Discovery Center before my visit, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had no idea that this place is totally interactive.  What kid wouldn’t have a good time here?!?!  My 3-year-old had a blast and, I’m not gonna lie – I totally did too!  Percussion, percussion, percussion.  Instruments made of wood, skin, and metal.  We tried them all!

Rhythm-Discovery-Center-Steel-Drum

We must’ve banged on every drum, shaken every tambourine, and played every xylophone in the place!

Rhythm-Discovery-Center-Headphones

We really loved the interactive tribal-like circle featuring the many percussion instruments created right at home by The Leedy Drum Company, a company that began in Indiana.

Rhythm-Discovery-Center-Leedy

Their Interactive Area was also a lot of fun – I can see many field trips having a good ol’ loud time here.  So many instruments to choose from.  Believe me, my son tried them all!

Rhythm-Discovery-Center-Interactive-Room

Probably our favorite parts of the museum were the sound-proof rooms that allowed you to play a real drum set and be as loud as you wanted to be – we felt like rock stars!

Rhythm-Discovery-Center-Sound-Proof

Handy Tip: Visit this museum late in the day.  We arrived about an hour and a half before closing and had the entire museum to ourselves.  I’m sure it’s very noisy (and migraine-inducing) at peak times.

Rhythm! Discovery Center is located at 110 W. Washington Street, Suite A (in the basement), in Indianapolis, IN.  Admission prices (as of January 2015) are $10 for adults, $6 for kids 6 and up, kids 5 and under are FREE!

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Disclosure: My family was invited to visit Indianapolis by the Indianapolis CVB, Visit Indy, and were provided with complimentary admission to many attractions and a hotel stay.  I was not compensated for this post.  I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions expressed are my own.

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