The Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge

There is so much pressure to fill our children’s lives with enrichment and development opportunities. Moms know that the investment in a child’s learning is critical and an essential part of parenthood, but unless you are a formal educator, you may find, like me, that you need a little help facilitating new learning experiences. Also, if your child is in daycare or school, it can be hard to know what new leaps they’ve made and what new challenges they are ready to tackle.

The Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge proved to be a great place for my son to stretch his development skills and demonstrate new interests to invest in. CMOR is a science, history, and culture museum designed for kids with interactive exhibits and programs. Each exhibit offered my son the chance to engage by seeing, hearing, and touching. I kept my careful-mom distance to allow him the chance to explore and invite me into his world. If nothing else, the museum provided new topics for discussion and a chance for my son to see me as a continual partner in his learning and development.

Like many parents, I want my son to have a global perspective with eyes wide open to the world but I also want him to understand his heritage and history. CMOR features several exhibits that highlight the history and culture of East Tennessee as well as the cultures of other countries. E loved putting together the quilt puzzle and this mama who has lovingly touched quilts made by her parents loved seeing the patterns he created.

I’m not sure who enjoyed building with the Lincoln Logs more, my son or my husband. I can remember building elaborate cabin mansions and
villages with my brother when we were young. Lincoln Logs, like blogs or other building toys, allow two-way imaginative expression. A child can create what they see in their mind with a toy and a child can assign an identity to a toy without any resemblance to the actual thing. A great exercise in imagination!

Every exhibit was a huge hit! The rainforest exhibit was like the Rainforest Cafe but without the popcorn shrimp and E loved the sound his feet made running on the board walk. Although I was having flashbacks to the first time I watched Jurassic Park, E seemed unaffected by the darkness and jungle sounds.

The bird room was the only exhibit that caused momentary anxiety for my son. There are some large taxidermy birds on display with this exhibit and with the accompanying bird sounds, I could understand his hesitation. But there’s nothing you can’t overcome if mama is holding your hand on the impossibly small ladder up to the observation deck.

Perhaps the biggest hits were the rocket room and waterworks. My son insisted on visiting the rocket room twice! The exhibit features an extraterrestrial landscape mural around the room, space rover, a two-story rocket with lights, buttons, and sound effects, and a climbing feature with a tunnel. E bounced from rover to rocket to climbing mountain and back. There is also a PVC pipe talking tube that allows kids (or in our case, parents) to sit on opposite ends of the room and whisper through the pipe to one another. My son was not impressed with this technology since he can FaceTime with his cousins across the country in less than 10 seconds from a handheld device, but it’s clever nonetheless.

Waterworks. Well, there’s irony if I do say so. My son loved this exhibit so much that he bawled his eyes out when it was time to move on. We also left this exhibit soaked through but thankfully, we still carry around extra clothes for accidents and whatnot. These factors aside, the waterworks is highly education and demonstrates so much about how we use the water ways. I’m not sure E understood all my trivia about river locks but he successfully navigated his toy boat through one!

There were so many other exhibits that are worth mentioning but at the risk of spoilers, I’ll stop with the World of Trains exhibit. We are Thomas and Friends fans in the Davis home. We love trains of all kinds. Model trains. Real trains. Magic trains. Dinosaur trains. Steam trains. Diesel trains. You get me? So anytime we have the chance to visit a model train exhibit, we go for it! E loves the small cityscapes and I have to admit, I’m a sucker for miniaturized things. This exhibit includes a model train HO scale layout open to museum visitors everyday. There are small train tables and a mock diesel engine that produces real train sounds. The CMOR leases space to the Knox Area Model Railroaders which in-turn provides access to the club rooms, a full-size Norfolk Southern caboose and garden railroad on the third Sunday of each month from 1:00-4:00pm. Seriously, if you have a kid that loves trains or even the mechanics of infrastructure, this exhibit is amazing!

Our visit to the CMOR lasted just over 2 hours but my son mentions it all the time. We found new avenues for exploring and have amped up our own pretend play at home thanks to the inspiration of the museum exhibits. Nothing is a replacement for the real deal though so we will be back to the CMOR very soon!

The museum is open year-round (except on Mondays during the school year) with limited closings on special holidays. Their regular hours are below and summer hours are listed on the website. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for children 3 and up, and FREE to children under 3.

Tuesday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

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