Children, parents laud opening of Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery

By Calvin Men, Santa Cruz Sentinel

The museum features a “sandbox” filled with a synthetic sand in which the grains cling together, fascinating the kids. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

CAPITOLA >> After spending less than 30 minutes at the Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery, Lindsey Lyons was convinced that this was the place for her son and daughter.

“This is the ultimate parents haven for a rainy day,” said the 34-year-old Santa Cruz mom.

The Lyons family were among hundreds of people who toured, tinkered and laughed at the grand opening of the museum inside the Capitola Mall on Saturday.

The museum, a former Abercrombie & Fitch store, is nestled next to the clothing store Express and across the way from a Hot Topic and Vans. It began almost three years ago with an idea from Patrice Keet, director for the museum. Keet wanted a playful place for her grandchildren to learn and began looking into how to open the museum.

Her dream came to fruition as she watched her grandchildren play alongside others at the exhibits.

The pitter-patter of each child’s footsteps combined into a thunderous sound as dozens of them ran around the 8,200-square-foot complex. They tinkered with wooden building blocks and Legos and played with synthetic sand.

“It’s a place where parents could come and interact with their children around things that they wouldn’t have at home because they’re too expensive and too complicated,” Keet said.

Before the museum opened at 10 a.m., there were 78 people lined up outside the doors. Keet said the museum’s calendar is scheduled with birthday parties already and will soon offer special educational activities.

Near the front, Joy Jacobs and her son, Ari Mena, admired an exhibit designed to show how air moves. The two fed colored tissue paper into a clear plastic pipe and watched as the pressured air moved the paper through an intricate pipe network.

“It’s amazing,” said Jacobs of Soquel. “This is so great.”

While her son has plenty of toys at home, most of them are senseless and noneducational, like cars. She pointed to the air maze as something both entertaining and stimulating.

“That’s something we’re not going to have at home,” she said with a laugh.

As her children, 5-year-old Linnaea and 2-year-old Jasper, directed the path of a wooden ball through chutes and pipes, Lyons said the museum had stations that were productive and educational for them.

“The closest thing is the mall’s play area or going to a toy store, but that isn’t as stimulating as this,” she said.

She was impressed with the layout and size of the store, sheepishly adding that she wasn’t expecting much from a museum housed in a former clothing store. But Lyons was sold on the idea of becoming a member, contemplating buying an annual membership for the family.

“I’m already planning on having her birthday party here in the spring,” Lyons said.

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