Paris is filled with good memories, as it was the first stop of my honeymoon back in 2010. The last time we were here, we basked in the enveloping warmth of summer. We were back with two young kids in tow this time, to breathe in the city’s chill air and play in the orange sunlight of autumn. I would love to come here as often as possible in my lifetime, to enjoy it in all the seasons. To me, it is the most romantic city – not just in personal nostalgia but also in the visuals of the uniformly colored French Renaissance style buildings throughout and the culture of al fresco Cafes and Bistrots. There are few things better than hearing the distant tunes of an accordion while overlooking the cityscape at Montmarte’s artist village or strolling down the banks of Seine on the Ile Saint-Louis with some mulled wine and a La Cure Gourmande madeleine in hand. Ah.. Paris, je t’aime.
I gave the kids a few options for the day, and they unanimously chose to visit the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie and the Cité des Enfants. It was a fun educational hands on experience.
One of over three dozen French cent biggest Science museum in Europe and specializes in the fostering of science and technical culture for kids of all ages and teenagers alike. They aim to promote interest in science, research and industry. The biggest attractions of the museum are the IMAX theatre, a planetarium, a submarine, and the Cite des Enfants. In 2008, the museum hosted the 3rd International Salon for Peace Initiatives. The building exterior and interior are massive. Since we were there mostly to experience the Cite des Enfants we didn’t make any inquiries on the other features, although the theatres seemed inactive at the time of our arrival as we wandered around.
We were delighted to run into a temporary interactive exhibit on children’s fairy tales including Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Little Red Riding Hood, and others we weren’t as familiar with as Americans. The kids had fun running trying out the attractively designed stations which utilized games, mechanics and building blocks for storytelling and educating. It was a great way to start our tour of the facilities. We were led into a space where we learned about climate change and sustainability as well as artistic displays strewn throughout.
The kids were excited for the main event of the day, to explore the Cite Des Enfants. This requires a separate ticket, but is well worth the price. There are two separate areas designated for ages 2-7 and 5-12. In the 2-7 area, the kids are encouraged to learn through play – by learning the movement of a ball, moving through a long circuit, experimenting with water, and block building. The 5-12 area encompasses 6 themes: Body, Communication, TV Studio, Water Games, Garden and Factory. My kids were much more enticed by the latter area and spent most of their time there. My daughter in particular, was enamored with Factory, working on the screens to artfully design and print out her own sticky labels. She must have gone through a good handful of them before being forced to move onto other things! The large Die Cut machine was really fascinating, and they loved watching it cut out their box folding creations.
The water play area was massively engaging for my son. The well-designed machines invited him to shoot, pump, and twist objects and handles to manipulate the water or objects within the water. I particularly enjoyed throwing balls into a fountain like structure, and as they land in the right spots watching them balance in the streams of water and float up. It was very neat!
The TV studio area was a lot of fun. We were able to choose different songs and pretend to be in a band. My daughter’s latest dream of what she wants to be when she grows up is to become a “Rockstar,” so it was really exciting for her to play it all out. My son was happy to join in as the keyboard player, mimicking one of his favorite singers, Elton John. Other fun things we tried there was pretending to be movie actors in a car with moving background, acting against a backdrop and operating a moving camera on a track to capture it all. They loved pretending to be weather reporters, and my daughter made up some really funny presentations, reporting on some pretty severe weather conditions about to hit Paris at any moment. The Body section gave us quite a work out as we tried hard to beat each other’s running speeds on a fun contraption. We tried our hand at some of the machinery but my kids were too little to have them function properly.
The museum is perfect for both youth and adults, I was impressed at the nice balance between educating and hands-on play. We left feeling the good kind of tired, where all you need are some gelato to rejuvenate you and round out the day.