After much anticipation, the National Building Museum debuted its newest exhibition, “PLAY WORK BUILD” just over a week ago. We checked it out last week, so I can tell you firsthand that it is pretty awesome. It’s replaced the much loved LEGO exhibit in both museum location (the southeast corner of the second floor) and as a go-to hands-on experience that all ages can enjoy. Here’s an inside look at what you can expect there.
The first area you walk into showcases toys from the Museum’s world-class Architectural Toy Collection. You’ll see Tinker Toys, an Erector Set, and other building toys of the past. Most of them are under glass, so you can only look at them and feel the nostalgia. Except for the Lincoln Logs (which, I learned, were invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright). There is a whole table full of the wooden pieces, where guests can build mini log cabins.
You can build with more modern toys just beyond that at a table that looks like a giant lightbox. It’s topped with scads of small blue foam blocks and pieces in various shapes and sizes that fit together to help you form all kinds of cool creations.
And then comes the awesome part: The big foam blocks. Every kid there seemed like they were in a state of pure bliss as they played in this sea of soft blue pieces. Many configurations of blocks are there to pile on top of each other, lay end-to-end to make tracks and roll plastic blue balls along, stick into holes in the blue foam on the walls, hang out among, or make use of in some other fun and creative way.
A few older kids looked like they were on a mission, gathering particular pieces for their projects. Babies crawled around the soft space. Sasha was very keen on putting long noodle-like pieces into the walls then trying to hang on them. Other children constructed small platforms, climbed aboard, then jumped into a pile of the soft blocks below.
And there’s more. The exhibit goes digital at the far end of the room, where you can stand on a blue mat and watch as blocks form a “reflection” of your figure on the wall. You can also watch as virtual blocks fill the wall, then knock them down. There’s not much more to it than that, but kids will spend a good few minutes checking it out.
As bummed as I was to see the LEGOS go, I’m pretty psyched about its replacement.
PLAY WORK BUILD is scheduled to be at the National Building Museum until next November. Admission is $8/adults, $5/youth for non-members, but free for members. And just in case you’ve missed my many recommendations to get the NBM Family Membership, I’ll say it again: It’s so worth it. Just $90/year gets you six admissions to exhibits per day, comp admission to select programs, access to birthday parties, and more.