Cultural Exhibits at the Children’s Museum

Visitors may have noticed that our last two exhibits have been cultural exhibits that have focused on the lives of people who live in different parts of the world. During the first half of the year we housed the AWESOME Freeman Foundation’s traveling exhibit, Children of Hangzhou. Our current exhibit, Lindo Mexico, focuses on the beauty and culture of our Southern neighbors. But we may find ourselves asking, “why at a children’s museum?” Well, I’m here to answer that question and more!

First, let’s talk about museums and their purpose in society! All museums have one goal in common: to serve the public good. When we think of museums, we may think of fancy places where we have to put our hands behind our back to observe archived collections from a distance–but not all museums are like this! Children’s museums break that barrier and provide a space for experiential three-dimensional learning through play. The value of education is still high and there are endless learning opportunities that our visitors experience in a hands-on and engaging way!

So why cultural exhibits at children’s museums?

Like all museums, the Children’s Museum at La Habra exists to serve the public good, which means presenting opportunities for guests to have positive cultural experiences within our walls. Our goal is to foster understanding, increase awareness, and encourage respect for other cultures by representing them positively. Children (and adults, too!) not only socially benefit from positive cultural exchanges but research shows that “more diverse environments increase all students’ level of critical thinking, raise levels of their knowledge and awareness, challenge assumptions, and raise levels of their contact connections and communications” (Farhadi, 3). Children who learn about diversity and cultural differences at an early age are not only learning about the world around them and how to celebrate difference, but they are learning about who they are and their position in our global community!

The cultural exhibits we’ve housed in our Museum this past year have not only connected our guests to the world around them, but they have connected us to our guests. We have heard older guests reminiscing on their childhoods in Hangzhou, listened as parents and children sang the regional songs of their home states in Mexico, and watched as people smiled seeing bits of their own lives represented in our exhibits. What a joy it has been to expose our community to the beautiful multicultural world around them and, as a Museum, learn about the music, art, and dance of different cultures.

We hope that by opening our doors to the celebration of diversity, guests will leave with open hearts and minds and a new perspective on what it means to live in such a diverse world.

Additional resources on children’s museums, celebrating diversity, and cultural exposure:
The Benefits of Understanding Cultural Diversity in Education by Maliha Farhadi
How to Teach Children about Cultural Awareness and Diversity by PBS
What is empathy and how do you cultivate it? by NBC News: Better
Children’s Museums: Purposes, Practices, and Play by Margie I Mayfield.

A Miniguide to Sensory Play at Home!

Today is National Summer Learning Day and the Museum is celebrating with a few S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) activities related to sensory play. At The Children’s Museum at La Habra one of our goals is to provide parents with the tools to create their own educational content at home, so we decided to create a mini-guide to sensory play for parents who want to do hands-on learning in their own environment!

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Sensory play is any hands-on learning activity that engages a child’s senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, sound) and encourages them to investigate and explore the world around them through play! When a child’s senses are being engaged they are building nerve connections in the brain’s pathways that lead to the development of language, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem solving, and more! Sensory activities are extremely beneficial to all children and they transcend boundaries of neuro-diversity, age, and ability!

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Sensory play is not just the activity itself, it’s being present and intentional with a child and engaging them with open-ended questions about the activity you’re doing together. Open-ended questions allow children to investigate their findings, make observations, and hone in their scientific inquiry skills. Let’s go over some examples!

For our National Summer Learning Day we will be working with Orbeez and conducting an ice-block excavation exploration! Although the activities themselves will be engaging and fun, it’s important to ask a child what they’re experiencing. Some questions we might ask about Orbeez are: can you describe what they feel like? what colors are they? do they roll? do they bounce? can you build with them? can you scoop them with a spoon? can you squish them?

sensory workshop orbeez

While conducting an ice-block excavation, we might ask: what does the ice feel like? what happens to the ice in the sun? what is inside of the ice? what can we do to get objects out of it? if I spray the ice block with water, what happens?


It’s less about feeling the ice block itself and more about how we engage with the ice block! You can make your own ice block at home and use spoons, salt, turkey basters, or even cloth to explore!

Sensory activities don’t have to be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. Sensory play can be open-ended, like setting out materials and asking questions about the materials and their application. Sensory play can also be structured, like asking children to sort or organize things by color or shape!

There is no “wrong” in sensory play, just learning! And remember, messes can be educational too!

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As stated earlier, we want to provide parents, educators, and caretakers with the tools to recreate these activities (and more!) at home. Educational activities can, and should, be easy, fun, cheap, and accessible to everyone! Below are a list of everyday items that you can use to create an awesome and educational sensory activity by yourself:

Pom Poms
DIY Slime

Helpful web resources:
Sensory Activities for Children with Autism
Exploring the benefits of sensory play
The Complete Guide to Sensory Play
Sensory Play List and Activities
Why Sensory Play is Important to Development

Bienvenido, Lindo Mexico!

In our last post we gave a sneak peak of our brand new exhibit, Lindo Mexico. You may have seen on our Facebook or Instagram that we had a special event to celebrate the opening of our beautiful cultural exhibit, but if you missed it–here’s your chance to experience the fun yourself!


As guests walked towards the entrance, the amazing and talented Rhythmo Mariachi Academy were playing hits such as “Poco Loco” and “Cielito Lindo”! Rhythmo Mariachi Academy is an awesome organization dedicated to the preservation of Mexican art and music through music advocacy and youth programming! Check out the video below for a small part of their wonderful performance.

La Central Bakery, a local bakery in La Habra, generously provided the delicious and colorful pan dulce that our guests enjoyed while listening to the sounds of the Mariachi! How yummy does that pink concha look?! I think I see a cuerno or two in there, as well!


After enjoying the Mariachi and munching on delicious breads, we decided to bust open our piñata. Our Assistant Museum Director didn’t want to buy a pinata, so she decided to show off her incredible piñata making skills and create one herself! Our Museum logo has never looked so festive!

But the celebration didn’t just stop outside! The craft in our Family Art Center celebrated the Aztec’s symbolic history of face masks with our Jaguar Mask craft. We saw a ton of different spins on the Aztec masks but those heart shaped jaguar spots are extra special!

Thank you to all the guests who were there to celebrate our brand new cultural exhibit, Lindo Mexico. An extra special thank you to La Central, Telemundo and Acceso Total, KTLA 5 News, and Rhythmo Mariachi Academy for being a part of this extra special day!

To check out Telemundo’s segment, click here.

To check out KTLA 5’s segment, click here.

Upcoming Exhibit Sneak Peek!

As our Celebrating China Series winds down and we prepare to send Children of Hangzhou back to the Boston Children’s Museum, many museum guests are left wondering, “what’s next?”

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Well, the Children’s Museum at La Habra is so excited to present our new “Lindo Mexico” exhibit, a cultural exploration of the fun and beauty of our nearest neighboring country! I’m sure the papel picado gave it away! We don’t want to give away any of the key features of the exhibit yet, so we’ll just share some of the little details that our Exhibits Curator, Lisa Reckon, put together to make this exhibit not only historical but rich in culture!

Sweet bread, also known as pan dulce, is a staple of Mexican culture. Lisa wanted to create a realistic pan de muerto, a special pan dulce eaten during the holiday Día de los Muertos. To create these special sweet breads, Lisa used polyurethane, Modge Podge, paint and salt to create realistic (and yummy-looking) sweet breads!




As mentioned before there is a Dia De Muertos portion of the exhibit (stay tuned for more details)! Since we can’t keep calaveras de azúcar, also known as sugar skulls, in our exhibit, Lisa had our amazing and artistic volunteers create these beautiful and vibrant masks! To celebrate the lives of their loved ones who have passed, calaveras de azúcar are placed on an altar as an ofrenda (or offering) to the dead!


Also making an appearance in our exhibit is our full-body skeleton friend! You may notice the skeleton has butterfly elements, a significant part of Día de los Muertos as well. The butterfly’s return to Mexico not only signifies the return of the corn harvest but also the beginning of Día de los Muertos.


We don’t want to give away any of the structural elements yet, but Lisa and our staff have been putting great detail into making the exhibit as authentic as possible. Here’s a sneak peak at the entrance into the Día de los Muertos portion of the exhibit.


We are so excited to bring this exhibit to life and we can’t wait to see you all there! For more information about our Lindo Mexico exhibit that opens June 19th, visit

Saying Goodbye to Hangzhou!

For the last six months we have had the privilege of hosting the beautiful Children Of Hangzhou exhibit, one of five showcases funded by the Freeman Foundation as a part of their Asian Culture Exhibit Series. Developed by the Boston’s Children’s Museum, Children of Hangzhou: Connecting with China is a traveling exhibit that exposes viewers to life and culture through the eyes of four young people in Hangzhou.

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The Freeman Foundation’s mission is for visitors to gain new awareness and understanding of Chinese culture and what it means to be Chinese. Our Museum not only wanted to appreciate the culture that was presented in the exhibit, but also provide a space for folks from all over to learn about Chinese culture through music, writing, dance, and the practice of cultural traditions. We relish in the opportunity to increase cultural awareness and celebrate the diversity of our beautiful community. As we say goodbye to Hangzhou, we look back at all of the amazing events where we brought our community together to celebrate.


One of the many special events our Museum hosted during the duration of the exhibit’s time here was a music and opera event, complete with performers playing the Tanggu drums, a traditional Chinese drum from the 19th century!


This “ceremonial hall drum” was the perfect way to ring in the Chinese New Year and an even better opportunity for children to dance their hearts away!

We also explored the art of calligraphy, a writing style that has existed since 200 BC! Kids loved learning about the different styles of calligraphy as well as seeing all the amazing things just one brush could do!

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Intricate paper folding is also a Chinese cultural staple. Known popularly as “origami”, Chinese paper folding dates back to the 6th century, but possibly even before! We were so excited to show our guests the beauty of this special art form!
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And lastly, our Wishing Tree. The practice of the Wishing Tree dates back to hundreds of years ago in Lam Tsuen, where fisherman would throw their wishes into a tree to wish for good fortune, safety, and prosperity on their journey to the new territories of Hong Kong. Hundreds of Museum guests threw their wishes up into our Wishing Tree while our Hangzhou exhibit was here and we hope every single one of them comes true! We are extremely saddened to take down our Wishing Tree as it serves as a beautiful reminder that all of us, from the youngest child to the oldest adult, have dreams to dream.
Thank you to those who came to celebrate China with our Museum. Hosting this exhibit was such an honor an privilege and truly something unforgettable for both our Museum and our community.
Lastly, thank you to all the organizations and individuals who made this exhibit possible:
Thank you to the Children’s Museum of Boston and the Freeman Foundation for providing us with this amazing and impactful exhibit. Thank you to the U.S. Hangzhou Association and special thanks to Annie Wei, San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. Thank you to our media sponsors, R&C Media Group and to Amie Chen Re/Max 2000 Realty, Joanne and Tony Su, B&M Interior Decoration, Even Life, and Vegi Wokery. The Children’s Museum at La Habra is so grateful for your commitment to supporting our programs!

Celebrating China Series: Hangzhou in La Habra!

You may have already been one of the thousands of people to come and see our Children of Hangzhou: Connecting with China* exhibit, but if you haven’t been yet–this is for you!

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The Children’s Museum at La Habra is currently hosting a traveling exhibit from the Boston Children’s Museum called, “The Children of Hangzhou”. This interactive exhibit follows the lives of four real-life children from the Zhejiang Province in China in their daily lives at school, home, in the city center, and in the countryside. The exhibit developers hope to show children from our area how life in China is both similar and different from what they know through the eyes of children just like them!

Here are a few sneak peeks into the awesome exhibit!


When entering, you’re greeted by a bus station terminal that gives AMAZING facts about Hangzhou, it’s population, and the local treasures! We love having this interactive platform that gets guests engaged in learning! This isn’t the only screen you can watch though, our exhibit has SEVEN flat-screens with informative videos!


This exhibit also displays a typical classroom in Hangzhou, complete with two desks, a blackboard, a Build-A-Great-Wall game, and a space to learn about the Chinese characters and how their language and writing changed over time.


As stated earlier, the exhibit follows the lives of four real-life children in Hangzhou. Can you guess the hobby of this child? Theatre? Opera? Come see and learn!


And last, but definitely not least, everyone’s favorite area–the kitchen! Complete with a fridge, two cabinets FULL of food, and bok choy that looks real enough to eat–little ones LOVE spending time in the kitchen and preparing a meal for their grown-ups!

Come join us at our Children of Hangzhou exhibit before it leaves on May 27th, 2018! Don’t forget to come and see the last events of our Celebrating China Series!


This Saturday, April 21st from 11AM – 1PM we’ll celebrate the remarkable invention of paper by the Chinese with demonstrations and hands-on art stations featuring Chinese Paper Folding and beautiful Calligraphy! Workshops for all ages to take part in! Included with Museum admission!

*Children of Hangzhou: Connecting with China was produced by Boston’s Children’s Museum as part of the Freeman Foundation Asian Culture Exhibit Series, funded by The Freeman Foundation and administered by Association of Children’s Museums. All underlying materials, including all artwork and the use of Children of Hangzhou: Connecting with China characters are used with permission of the Boston Children’s Museum.

Butterfly, Butterfly, There You Are!

In our last blog post we discussed the process of a caterpillar forming their chrysalis and we promised to update our blog as soon as our butterflies emerged… well, guess what day it is! Painted Lady Butterfly emergence day!


Our Painted Lady butterflies were in their chrysalis for 7-9 days and we saw them emerge one by one this week! At first their chrysalis was gently shaking, letting us know that they were close to emerging. After about 15 minutes, they gently ripped through the soft chrysalis and hung in a vertical position so their blood can pump into their wings, preparing them for flight!


The butterfly pictured above has JUST left it’s chrysalis, while the butterfly picture below has been out for a full 24 hours and has gained the ability to move freely!


If you’re interested in checking out our Painted Lady Butterflies, they will be on display in Museum lobby until further notice! Thanks for following our journey!

Another huge thanks to Chase ‘N Butterflies for providing us with live caterpillars for our 3rrd annual Caterpillar Adoption!
For more information on Chase ‘N Butterflies, visit their website at:

Caterpillar, Caterpillar, Where Are You?

Did you accidentally miss our 3rd annual caterpillar adoption? No need to fret, we have five of our caterpillar friends in our lobby for viewing right now! Aren’t familiar with the life cycle of a caterpillar? Well, you’ve come to the right place to learn!


Our caterpillars started out teeny tiny, at a quarter of an inch, and ate their way to a whopping one inch! After a few days of eat, rest, repeat—they formed their chrysalis and fastened themselves to the top of their containers. A few of our awesome museum staff members safely transferred the chrysalis to the top of a butterfly habitat where they’ll remain for 7-10 days.


Although we can’t see anything from outside the chrysalis, there are BIG changes going on inside! Their old caterpillar body parts are being replaced by new butterfly parts and soon we’ll have beautiful Painted Lady Face butterflies!

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Interested in seeing their final transformation from chrysalis to butterfly? Stay tuned and watch this space, we’ll be updating soon!


A huge thanks to Chase ‘N Butterflies for providing us with live caterpillars again!
For more information on Chase ‘N Butterflies, visit their website at:

From Steam Engines to a STEAM Lab: 40 Years of Play at the Children’s Museum

In the year 1977:

  • a gallon of gas was .65
  • a movie called Star Wars came out
  • Jimmy Carter was president
  • The Eagles, Stevie Wonder, and The BeeGees ruled the airwaves
  • Apple II personal computers went on sale
  • and, last but not least, the first children’s museum on the West coast opened on December 2nd in a town called La Habra!

That’s right, the Children’s Museum at La Habra just celebrated its 40th birthday! Most of you know that part of our museum is housed in a historic train depot dating back to 1923. The Union Pacific Railroad Depot carried both passengers and freight, especially produce grown and processed in the area. Check out this picture showing the last run of a steam engine on the Union Pacific line on June 9th, 1956.


The depot closed to the public in 1950 and lay unused for over 20 years. In the early 1970s, following a visit to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, La Habra City councilwoman Robin Young presented a visionary plan to open a children’s museum here. The Union Pacific Depot, with its historical significance, unique architecture, and central location, was a natural fit for the proposed museum. The plan was approved. From 1972-1976, the city was able to achieve the monumental undertaking of securing funding and purchasing the Depot building and surrounding property. Architects worked to transform the interior of the building for use as galleries while maintaining original structures and design. If you squint your eyes a little, you can imagine how our Nature Walk looked as a waiting room, with tickets sold from the window in what is now the STEAM Lab.


Meanwhile, the city of La Habra Community Services department began to dialogue with the community and educators as to what exactly this museum would become. Remember that in the 70s, most museums were formal spaces geared to adults. Few models existed for an interactive, play-based space that appealed to children. The newly-created Friends of the Museum (now a 501c non-profit called Friends of the Children’s Museum) formed committees in the areas of fundraising, permanent collections, programming, and more. The Children’s Museum at La Habra officially opened on Friday, December 2nd, 1977. From its very first days, the museum served as a community hub where children could play, learn, and have fun!


Since then, the museum has been fortunate to have grown both in size and in scope. Another capital campaign project began in the late 80s to add a new wing which now houses our Science Station, Kids on Stage, and Preschool Playpark, as well as adding storage and office space. The museum staff (with many contributions from our Museum Guild and student volunteers) served about 90,000 visitors last year! We have diverse exhibits and programs spanning from arts education, school outreach, conservation, and performing arts. In October we opened a STEAM Lab (in what was the Nanny’s Travels room) as part of our commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics education in early childhood. We think our 40th year will be an exciting one- from January through May we’ll host Children of Hangzhou, a traveling exhibit from the Boston Children’s Museum. From June-December 2018, the changing gallery theme will be “Lindo Mexico,” an exhibit about the culture and beauty of our neighbors to the south. We at the Children’s Museum are so grateful for the support of our members, guests, volunteers, and community partners. We’re looking forward to see what the next 40 years will bring!


Dino Updates

Here at the Children’s Museum, we’ve always got dinosaurs on the brain! If you’ve visited recently, you may have noticed some changes in our Dinosaur Garden. Our curator and interns have spruced up the dinosaurs outside, as well as adding our model Parasaurolophus (“Jennifer”) who used to live inside the museum. The well-loved dinosaurs have been cleaned, repaired, and painted.

For a long time, paleontologists didn’t know what color dinosaurs really were. Teeth, bones, and claws- the hard parts of the body- are the most common fossils that we find, and they don’t tell us what color the dinosaur was. Sometimes scientists find fossil impressions of skin and scales but, again, no color is preserved. However, in 2010, scientists at the University of Bristol made an exciting discovery. They knew that a substance called melanin is what gives modern day birds (and humans!) their color. Melanin is stored in little capsules with each color having its own particular shape. Using a very powerful microscope, these scientists were able to see melanin in fossilized Sinosauropteryx feathers! For the first time, we could say that the Sinosauropteryx had an orange and white striped tail. However, this method only works on more recent dinosaurs- we still don’t know what color our friend the T. Rex was!

In other dinosaur news, did you know that here in California we just got an official state dinosaur? Augustynolophus morrisi is a hadrosaur, a type of herbivorous dinosaur known for its duck-shaped mouth. Specimens were found near Fresno in the late 1930s and were thought to roam California about 66 million years ago. Only two specimens have ever been found, both right here in what is now California. A. morrisi was about 25 feet long and weighed about 3 tons.

There’s always more to learn about dinosaurs, including the ones that lived in our own backyards. Have your future paleontologist try our Dinosaur Scavenger Hunt the next time you visit the museum!

Sinosauropteryx photo credit to Jim Robbins via A.morrisi photo is from Stephanie Abromowicz/Natural History Museum of Los Angeles)