Field Trip: The Sandbox – An Interactive Children’s Museum

Whenever we can we join my pastor-husband when he travels to conferences. Not only is it a chance for us to connect with other families in ministry, often within our own denomination, but we also try to take time for new family adventures along the way. I was a little skeptical when I found out we’d be traveling to Hilton Head, SC in January. The beach sounds great, but in January? Anticipating cold weather I began searching for some fun experiences for the girls.

The Sandbox is one experience for elementary children you will not want to miss! This interactive experience for kids kept my girls thoroughly engaged for our entire visit. To be honest, they could have happily stayed much longer. The museum is divided into themed rooms where children can fully interact in a variety of ways. 
The staff were friendly and welcoming as we entered, asking that we stay together as a family and make sure the kids pick up after themselves. I was pleased to see the effort which was put into encouraging this to be a family time, not just a chance for parents to have a break while the kids played. Let me tell you, we all had fun! 
Each picture is linked to more information about that exhibit. I hope you enjoy a peak into our experience at The Sandbox! 
All three girls enjoyed playing in a giant sand bowl in the Loggerhead Sandcastle room. The sand was what is known as moon sand or cloud dough. I have seen how to make this online several places, but I never imagined it could be so much fun! Since this is the first room we entered it took some time to move the girls forward to the next one. 
In the room called Builders of Tomorrow the girls tried out their skills at carpentry and construction. There is a simple pulley system as well as other kid-sized tools and activities which completely fascinated Grace. 

The Adventure was probably my personal favorite. The ocean captivated my imagination as a child and I would spend hours playing mermaids, imagining ocean voyages, and romanticizing a life at sea. I would have loved to get a better picture of this area, but my girls were all over this amazing ship! I couldn’t keep them in any one place long enough to capture their fun! One really cool feature here is the webcam. They called both sets of grandparents and waved hello from miles away! 

Onward we moved to Track The T-Rex. The girls didn’t spend as much time here, but they are more into pretend play rather than active play at this point. This was a neat experience for them to try rock climbing in a safe environment. Beth seemed to like this the best. She even posed multiple times on the wall for me as I tried to find the right setting on my camera! The kids can climb across from one wall to the next and try to reach the T-Rex at the end. 
By far the winning location for my girls was the cafe. Grace sold food to Beth, who in turn supplied the food to Rose, the chef, who cooked a fabulous meal for Mommy and Daddy on a date! We spent the most time here and this was the most difficult area to pull them away from. We had fun being on a date and Rose took our picture. 
There was a really great economics lesson in here that I didn’t even have to teach! Grace told Beth how much something was, but since Beth said she didn’t have very much money she had to ask Rose what they needed most at the restaurant. Grace also kept her shelves well stocked and Rose kept her kitchen neat and orderly. Watching them do all these things on their own really made me realize just how grown up they are becoming! 
Just beside the cafe is an area set up to be a bank called the SCTB Bank. Rose demonstrated her fabulous math and money skills by giving money in return for a check. She loved the challenge!
Other exhibits downstairs include An International Bazaar (kids can pretend to fly an airplane), Charlie’s Perfect Playplace (perfect for toddlers), and Rhythm and Hues (an artists dream room!). You are encouraged to let your child explore the areas he/she wishes and since these didn’t capture their interest we moved on upstairs.

What an upstairs it is! I believe you could visit the Learner’s Loft multiple times and experience something new each time. Some of the cool stuff in this area are a model train, a puppet theater (which is being projected onto a large tv in real-time so the kids can see what they are performing), a veterinarian clinic, another art center, a gigantic light-bright, a light table, a reading nook, an interactive train table, more books, puzzles, and games than you can imagine! The girls enjoyed this area immensely. They each made an art project to take home with them. 

The best part about this experience for me was that it has inspired me to create some new learning adventures for the girls. Here is a list of what I hope to do over the next few weeks based on what I saw my girls interacting with.
1. Laminate several over-sized checks to help learn about adding money
2. Create some moon sand/cloud dough
3. Make their art supplies more accessible
4. Build a rock climbing wall…okay…so this one won’t be happening, but wouldn’t it be cool if we could?
As I was getting excited about our visit and began searching, I came across some reviews for this museum. Most of the reviews were extremely positive, but a few negative ones caught my eye. I wanted to address them because our experience was very different.
The first complaint was that there were too many rules. I felt the two guidelines we were given were more than reasonable. I really like the Collective Wisdom listed at the bottom of this page. I wish more parents would follow this all the time! The second complaint I read was that it was not clean. Again, this was not our experience at all. Yes, the building is older. Yes, the toys and activities are well loved. However, it was extremely clean, neat, and well-ordered. I even observed some of the staff cleaning the areas which weren’t being used. 
The last two complaints were about the name, a museum and charging adults admission. I feel both are rather petty complaints to be honest. It is not a typical museum with exhibits kids cannot touch…I’m glad! My children experienced, played, and learned for 2 hours. It is truly interactive and very kid-friendly. As far as admission, I felt the price was very reasonable ($7.00 per person) for an afternoon of fun play for the whole family. 
Here are my ratings on a 10 point scale…
Family Friendly: 10
Kids Engagement: 10
Likelihood to return: 10 (Although we don’t live very close!) 
We received admission for our family to The Sandbox in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. No other compensation was received. 

Field Trip: The Zoo!

One of the great things about homeschooling is the freedom to take field trips as a family to the places we want the girls to experience. I have a whole list of filed trips both local and far away.

We have a really nice children’s museum where we get free admission after lunch on Wednesdays. Our library also often has things for kids. My girls really feel like a trip to the library is a field trip even if there isn’t anything special going on!

Sometimes we like to make day trips. We bought a season pass for which is about an hour and a half away from us. We made our most recent trip on a Friday. It was great! The last time we went it was crowded and sweltering. The fall provided a beautiful day with only a handful of other families.

The girls really like the North America area. So many of these animals are found near us and they enjoy seeing them up close. This is the first time we’ve been able to see the black bears and they were fascinated!

The girls really like taking pictures with the various animal statues. Some are small enough to climb on, but others are a bit larger as you can see! While I appreciate the effort the zoo puts into making sure their statues are accurately portraying the animals, I have learned to strategically place children in order to make our photos a little more family friendly!

92008X: Zoo Guide: A Bible-Based Handbook to the ZooWe want our girls to have a biblical world view and we believe the biblical account of creation as told in Genesis. This creates a bit of a problem when we want to go to a secular zoo or museum. I stumbled across this zoo guide from the people at Answers in Genesis last year. Not only do I appreciate the content, but the pictures are beautiful! My daughters love reading it for fun while we’re at home and I love that we can take it with us to the zoo. Since learning to read my oldest two daughters absorb everything they read and I am finding myself working to train them to be discerning more and more. You can click the link below to find out more information!

We were excited to get to walk the Dinosaur trail as well before it closed for the season. The dinosaurs are animated and noisy too! The line during out last visit was much too long to enter the trail, which costs a little extra. Because there were fewer people there the girls walked back and forth through the trail a few times. Sadly, this is when my camera flash sparked and blew out. I was glad I had taken most of the pictures I had wanted already. 
So our day was a success and we decided from now on we will only visit the zoo during the fall, winter, and spring…no more sweltering days for us!

Here are my ratings on a 10 point scale…
Family Friendly: 10
Kids Engagement: 10
Likelihood to return: 10 (We love our season passes!)