BUSY BRAINS: TOUCH & LEARN INDOOR DAYTRIP IDEAS TO ENGAGE KIDS’ BRAINS
No matter a person’s age, touch and movement are essential to everyday life and learning. With this in mind, the winter months provide the perfect opportunity for kids to develop skills through hands-on learning and activities in fun indoor spaces. Whether it be trying a new activity, dancing to music or exploring a new museum, the kids are sure to have a blast getting their hands dirty while also learning about the world around them with these Interactive Daytrip Ideas for the Wee Ones.
Children first learn to explore and understand their environment by touching and feeling with their hands during their developmental years (ages 4–7). In school, tactile learning is developed through activities like building, coloring and painting, creating a foundation of skills that are later translated into more complex abilities, such as reading, writing, speaking and critical thinking. This all supports the idea that “busy hands lead to busy brains,” and research has shown that when a person, especially a child, is combining activities that require movement, talking and listening, he or she is activating multiple areas of the brain; whereas, when a person is just listening, he or she is activating only one part of their brain. Scroll on for some daytrip ideas for your family.
Interactive Daytrip Ideas for the Wee Ones Near Charlottesville
(Lynchburg) 1–2 hour drive
This four-story, hands-on museum is sure to spark imagination, creativity and curiosity with so many places for your little ones to learn firsthand. Allow them to scramble up and down Amazement Tower, one of the tallest climbing structures in the nation, filled with slides, ladders, tunnels and even a zip-line. Or, they can step into a unique glass-wall paint box and fulfill their wish of painting on the walls. Learn about livestock at the Big Red Barn by helping milk a life-sized cow, collecting different crops and greeting an array of animals. These fun exhibits allow children to learn more about our region. The museum also offers multiple weekly programs, including Art Expeditions and Pop-up Programs. During Pop-up Programs, instructors lead demonstrations and hands-on exploration with fun science experiments that focus on electricity, air cannons, rocketry and more! These programs are all free with admission.
Children’s Museum of Richmond
(Richmond) 1–2 hour drive
Play the day away at the Children’s Museum of Richmond, CMoR, where playing is learning. Complete with a Virginia limestone cave, a kid-sized grocery store and a toddler-sized museum, it’s no surprise that CMoR is one of the nation’s top-ranked children’s museums. Children can engage their creativity and exploration in a variety of hands-on exhibits where they can report the news, milk a cow, dig for dinosaur fossils or create their own art. With 44,000 square feet, it offers several interactive exhibit areas, a museum shop and more to keep the whole family entertained for hours. The kids will love using their hands and stimulating their minds while engaging in the exhibits. CMoR also has satellite locations in Short Pump, Chesterfield and Fredericksburg.
Explore More Discovery Museum
(Harrisonburg) 1–2 hour drive
This intimate Shenandoah Valley museum understands that children are naturally curious and learn by exploring their surroundings. Their appreciation for a child’s broad spectrum of learning inspires their visual, auditory and tactile exhibits with which little ones can engage their minds and bodies. The multisensory exhibits, such as construction and toy building, a garage service center and a farm and farmers market, open children to a variety of stimuli that teach them how to problem solve and think critically. Exhibits also allow children to be creative by participating in a TV studio exhibit, an art center, a science area where kids can use the microscope and a theater. This museum packs a lot of learning and fun into its cozy confines, and admission is free on the first Friday of each month.
The Front Porch
(Charlottesville) 0–1 hour
What better way to stimulate the mind and body than through music? Pick up a musical instrument and get playing at The Front Porch. This non-profit music school is a great place to start learning a new instrument or to continue mastering your musical skills. Learning a musical instrument is not only fun, it can also improve hand-eye coordination, memorization and creativity. Visit their website to see a schedule of the classes and workshops they offer. All instructors are professional musicians and love to share their knowledge and passion for music with students of all ages and skill levels. Whether you want to learn the guitar, fiddle, banjo, ukulele or harmonica, learn about songwriting or simply jam out during the week, The Front Porch is the place to be.
Jefferson-Madison Regional Libraries (JMRL)
(Charlottesville & Surrounding Counties) 0–1 hour drive
With eight locations in Charlottesville and the surrounding counties, JMRL offers a wide variety of regularly scheduled programs for kids (and adults!) of all ages. From storytimes and crafting programs, to specials talks and workshops from local experts, there is something going on at the libraries pretty much everyday. There are also various clubs and groups kids can join. Each branch also offers take & make crafts, puzzles, games, and other in-library activities for even more hands-on educational fun.
Lazy Daisy Ceramics & The Pottery Paintin’ Place
(Charlottesville) 0–1 hour drive
Spend an afternoon exercising your creativity at Lazy Daisy Ceramics & The Pottery Paintin’ Place. Let your inner artist shine as you make a special mug, plate or bowl in one of the clay classes, or paint your own beautiful pottery piece in a painting class. With several levels of classes, from beginner to advance, Lazy Daisy Ceramics allows students to really hone their craft, starting from simple bowls and cups, and then graduating to more complicated designs such as a model planet or intricate flower. Open to kids and adults, the clay workshops occur are all year long, every Saturday at 11:30 a.m., while painting classes are offered every day the studio is open.
Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center
(Charlottesville) 0–1 hour drive
Art and history come together at the Exploratory Center with hands-on activities for everyone to enjoy. Located in Charlottesville’s Darden Towe Park, the center is currently open by reservation only. Kids can explore full-size replicas of the different types of Lewis and Clark’s boats, as well as different hands-on stations that allow participants to explore and learn, such as the Science Station for bird learning and water studies, the Carpentry Corner for nail art and bird houses, or Art in Action for mask making. Nature journaling, scavenger hunting, painting and oar smoothing are only a few of the activities kids can enjoy. Older children can make their own Keelboat or launch pirogues in a supervised workshop.
(Charlottesville) 0–1 hour drive
The Brooks Family YMCA at McIntire Park offers wellness activities for the entire family. Enjoy the pools, walking tracks and group exercise, and take part in the intergenerational and teen centers for mindfulness and conversation. Other special events for children in kindergarten to fifth grade are offered throughout the year to help kids stay active and learn through physical and imaginative play. The many programs and activities offered will allow kids to safely explore their surroundings while learning key skills and staying active. Heads up! The YMCA is membership based, so contact them about cost and any guest pass promotions they may have at the current time.
For more Interactive Indoor Daytrip Ideas for the Wee Ones, visit the Family Fun section of our website. Searching for specific activities and resources to get those little brains going? Check out the Education section for a plethora of ideas and the Calendar of Charlottesville Events for upcoming activities.
is a University of Virginia graduate with a degree in Media Studies. She is a former intern at Ivy Life & Style Media and enjoys writing about the art, wine and culture of Charlottesville.
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CharlottesvilleFamily.com, a collection of local resources including a popular calendar of events, family services guides and features on education, health and family day trips for parents and teachers in Charlottesville, as well as the CharlottesvilleWelcomeBook.com a guide to resources for Charlottesville tourists and newcomers. Ivy Life & Style Media also creates other projects including Wine & Country which celebrates elevated living in Virginia Wine Country. Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an annual art book celebrating elegant Virginia weddings, are complemented by the Wine & Country Shop in Ivy, VA—a beautiful lifestyle boutique that brings the pages of the magazines to life. The Shop features over 40 Virginia artisans with everything from tailgating essentials and Dubarry attire to locally made foods and award-winning Virginia wines and craft beverages for your next event. Wine & Country covers the grape-growing foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Lynchburg to Leesburg, including points in between like Charlottesville and Middleburg.