Children and art museum blend beautifully thanks to planned programs

Two-year-old Max dips a paintbrush into blue watercolor and dabs the paint onto the frontside of a blank postcard. The little artist then blends in orange, purple and black.

When he finally set his brush down for good, my son had created a beautiful postcard ready to be mailed to his Uncle David, who lives in California.

The art project was part of a program called 1st Saturdays, at the Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E. Broad St. Held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, it’s one of several activities at the recently renovated museum geared to engage families in the arts.

First Saturdays occur from September through May and are recommended for families with children ages 3-8. Activities include a hands-on craft, a live performance and free range of the museum’s exhibits, which include works by Renoir, Degas and Monet. The program is covered in the cost of admission.

My family of four visited on a Saturday in April, when the museum’s spotlighted artist was George Bellows, a Columbus native known for painting scenes of urban life and sporting events.

Bellows’ paintings inspired the postcard craft in an area called Derby Court, a cavernous space featuring a vibrant glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. We grabbed paints, stamps and stickers from a large assortment of supplies to create our postcards.

Afterward we headed to the auditorium to listen to a barbershop chorus belt out upbeat tunes, an American pastime also inspired by Bellows’ artwork.

Max and his 4-year-old sister, Rosie, liked the Wonder Room best, though. And it’s no wonder. The swankily decorated family space is filled with interactive displays that are intermingled with museum pieces, meant to serve as inspiration for guests to create their own works of art.

One station has kids assembling out-of-this-world animals out of wooden body parts with magnetic connectors. Another contains a wall full of common metal gadgets, such as silverware and door hinges, that can be affixed to a giant metal head to give it a face.

And yet another display honors American artist Alexander Calder, who created colorful mobiles inspired by the movement of the sun and the moon. Visitors are encouraged to construct mobiles by balancing bright shapes on metal bases.

The space provides plenty to do and makes a family visit to the museum worthwhile anytime.

A great day to bring older children is on Family Sundays, when activities are geared toward children ages 6 and up and admission is free. Coupled with free parking, located behind the museum, it’s a good deal.

The museum is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday; and 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. on Thursday. The museum is closed on Monday.

Admission is $12 for adults ($6 with an AAA membership) and free for children ages 5 and younger.

For more information, visit

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Exercise is fun at indoor trampoline park

Jumping is something that my young children love to do. They jump on their beds. They jump on the couch. And, sometimes, they even jump on me.

So the idea of taking them somewhere where they could jump to their little hearts’ content appealed to me.

I heard of a place called the Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park in Lewis Center, 20 minutes north of Columbus. It’s basically a warehouse-like facility containing a super big trampoline. It has slanted walls that also are trampolines, so you can literally bounce off the walls.

No reservations are required, and jump sessions start every half hour. The activity is appropriate for any age. “If you can walk, you can jump,” said Sky Zone General Manager Elizabeth Foy.

I also learned that Sky Zone can create a special area for toddlers to jump, which made me happy. The idea of my 2-year-old and 4-year-old getting bounced around by bigger kids didn’t sound safe.

Still, participants under the age of 18 must have a waiver signed by a parent or legal guardian. The form is available online and can be downloaded and signed beforehand. The form also is good for one year.

Rosie, Max and I arrived at noon on a Friday and signed up for 90 minutes of jumping. We wore comfortable clothes and socks that covered our ankles. Guests are required to wear special lightweight footwear called “Spider Man shoes.” They come in many sizes, from a child’s size 10 to men’s size 13. Since my children’s feet were smaller than the offered shoes, they went barefoot.

I put my “mom” shoes and purse in a locker, which cost just 25 cents, for safekeeping.

The big trampoline is actually a quilt of smaller trampolines. This makes it possible for two people to jump on neighboring sections and not affect the other’s bounce. Maybe you’ve been on a trampoline before with someone bigger who nearly bounces you off the contraption when they jump up and down. This can’t happen here, as long as you’re on separate squares. There’s also a safety net below, just in case the trampoline rips.

We shared the trampoline with a half dozen others for the first hour, during which we were sometimes separated because of the crowd. But for remaining 30 minutes, we had it all to ourselves, which was awesome.

My advice is that if you want to jump along with your children, have two adults accompany them. This way one adult can watch the kids, while the other jumps. However, when nobody else is on the trampoline, you’re able to jump closer to your children. We were lucky to have 30 minutes of alone time, which was just by chance.

Foy said that if you’re looking for quiet times to bring toddlers, try visiting before older children get out of school, such as at 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and noon to 3 p.m. on Fridays.

All that jumping also made us hungry. We ordered two slices of deep-dish pizza, chips and a drink for $6.

Sky Zone is located at 459 Orange Point Dr., Suite E, in Lewis Center, Ohio. Hours are 3-8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday; noon-9 p.m. (and 9-11 p.m. for ages 11-15), Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (and 10 a.m. to midnight for those ages 16 and up), Saturday; and noon -8 p.m. on Sunday.

Pricing starts at $6 for 30 minutes of jumping on weekdays ($8 weekends) and goes up to $18 for 120 minutes of jumping on weekends. Group rates are available as are birthday party packages.

For more information, visit

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 Popular exhibit returns to Franklin Park Conservatory

Blooms & Butterflies is back at Franklin Park Conservatory. The exhibit, which brings winged insects to the conservatory’s Pacific Island Water Garden, runs through September.

Visitors of the beautiful indoor gardens near downtown Columbus can watch hundreds of exotic butterflies flutter among the conservatory’s permanent exhibition of tropical plants and fragrant flowers. Also within the installation are glassworks by Dale Chihuly and a pond stocked with colorful Koi fish.

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On a recent weekday afternoon I took my 2-year-old daughter Rosie to play among the butterflies. I thought she’d get a kick out of seeing a variety of the specimens up close.

But upon entering the exhibit Rosie seemed more terrified than overjoyed. “Hold me, hold me,” she cried as a blue, winged creature flew by her head.

Rosie had never seen so many butterflies all at once. Nor had she ever seen such big, boldly colored ones.

The exhibit features hundreds of the winged insects, many of which are brought to the conservatory in the pupa stage.

The four-stage metamorphosis of the butterfly begins with an egg that develops into a larva, or a caterpillar. The caterpillar spends most of its time eating before it forms a protective shield around itself called a pupa. Inside the pupa the caterpillar transforms and emerges as a butterfly. The adult butterfly then mates and lays eggs on plants, which starts the whole process all over again. The lifespan of a butterfly varies from one week to a year.

Conservatory visitors can watch butterflies hatch from their pupas and see them be released each day at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

By the time of the release Rosie had grown more accustomed to her new found friends, but she still wasn’t ready to have one gently placed on her hand. Other children, though, lined up to give it a try. They were told not to grab the butterfly’s delicate wings because it could damage their exoskeletons and inhibit their ability to fly.

Photographing the butterflies is encouraged. I found it best to just stand still and wait for them to come to me. Doing so also led to a few landing on my back, causing Rosie to beam with delight.

By the end of our visit we were completely relaxed. The gentle beat of classical music and the gurgling sound of a waterfall were calming. This made the transition to Rosie’s naptime quite easy.

Franklin Park Conservatory, located at 1777 E. Broad St. within Franklin Park, is a landmark set amid 88 acres of outdoor botanical gardens and green space.

Built in 1895, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It showcases exotic plant collections, special exhibitions, a signature collection of Dale Chihuly glassworks and a permanent light installation by renowned artist James Turrell.

The conservatory contains more than 400 plant species. Collections include orchids, bonsai and more than 40 species of palms in the Palm House.

The conservatory is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday. The facility is stroller and wheelchair accessible.

For more information, visit

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Young and old will enjoy romping around historic capitol building

When I visit capital cities while traveling about the country I often make it a point to tour their statehouses. Doing so makes it feel as though I’ve stepped inside a state’s living room.

Residing in a capital city myself, I sometimes forget what’s in my own backyard – the beautiful Ohio Statehouse, which represents one of the nation’s finest examples of Greek Revival architecture. It’s also one of the oldest working statehouses in the U.S., containing the meeting rooms of the Ohio Legislature.

I visited the Ohio Statehouse with my family on a recent Saturday afternoon, partly because it was free and partly because we had nothing else to do. I came away, though, with a sense of awe of its elegant and functional architecture and a bit more knowledge about our country’s law-making process. My two-year-old daughter, Rosie, exited tired and satisfied that she’d romped around a playground of a building.

The Statehouse is located in the center of downtown Columbus at the corner of High and Broad streets. Parking is available for a reduced rate on weekends in the Statehouse underground parking garage. We entered the building at the ground floor where we were immediately greeted by a network of limestone arches and echoing vaults. “Helloooo,” Rosie called out. The architecture is based on nature’s strongest shape, the circle, which supports the weight of the rotunda above.

The ground level contains the Capitol Café and the Statehouse Museum Shop that’s full of unique, Ohio-themed gift items. The level also contains a floor map of Ohio that depicts the state’s 88 counties in various types and colors of marble. Rosie liked hopping from one county to the next. I liked getting a civics refresher course on how a bill becomes a law in the Education Center, which also features interactive displays and a lovely stained-glass version of the Ohio seal.

We saved the grandest area for last, the Rotunda. The first-floor space features a colorful domed ceiling with a circular center illuminated by the sky. At the ceiling’s epicenter is Ohio’s seal, 120 feet above the floor. I lay down on the patterned marble floor to take a photo, but my photos of the ceiling didn’t look as nice as the postcards in the museum store. The circular room also contains enormous paintings representing conflict, courage and growth throughout Ohio’s history.

The Statehouse was built in 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War. It underwent a restoration from 1989-1996. The structure is full of symbolism, which you don’t need to understand in order to appreciate its beauty.

Other areas open for touring include the Atrium, made of 300-million-year-old limestone quarried in Columbus, and the Senate and House chambers on the second floor. Outdoor features include monuments, memorials and four cannons.

The Ohio Statehouse is open 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Free, guided tours are offered daily. Visitors also may wander on their own using a self-guided tour brochure or borrow an audio tour wand. Cell phone audio tours also are available.

Learn more at

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Children, adults can play on large, inflatable objects

Parents seeking to entertain their children or at least tucker them out before an afternoon nap will enjoy World of Bounce in Grove City.

Located inside a warehouse in an industrial area six miles southwest of downtown Columbus, the 12,000-square-foot space contains two rooms filled with inflatable play equipment. The large, air-filed objects are made of strong rubber and plastic and are like the ones found at carnivals or summertime birthday parties.

World of Bounce is a great place for kids to romp when it’s cold or raining. Children ages 2 and older can jump, climb, slide and play on the inflatables. Adults can play too, if they’re so inclined.

The space is open to the public during open bounce periods and rentable for private parties. My family of four visited during a Friday “open bounce session” from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. We were told it was more crowded than normal because a nearby school had the day off. Despite the extra children, it wasn’t overly busy.

With tax, we paid $7.47 for our two-year-old daughter, Rosie, to play for three hours. Adults are allowed to accompany their children for free. Guests are asked to sign a waiver reqlinquishing World of Bounce from injury liability. It also grants its staff permission to perform First Aid. The waiver is available online.

Rosie and I took off our shoes and stored them, along with our coats, in a designated space. I followed Rosie into the bounce area, where we climbed up a ladder inside one of the inflatable toys and came down a modest slide. It was great being able to play alongside my daughter instead of just watching her have fun.

World of Bounce’s friendly staff, called “bouncers,” also keep a watchful eye on children, making sure they take turns going up and down slides and don’t overcrowd bounce areas.

I liked that I didn’t hear any annoying whistles or loud music blaring throughout the space. I hope it stays this way.

The space is thoughtfully designed. It contains two large bounce areas and two party rooms, each with a big, inflatable birthday chair. Wedged between the bounce areas is a room where parents and guardians can hang out and view children through large picture windows. It contains a big-screen television and eight tables with chairs. Several adults were working on their computers while their children bounced.

World of Bounce is neat and clean, and it has spacious bathrooms. There are hand sanitizers mounted at entryways into the bounce area and drinking fountains with step stools for children.

World of Bounce is located at 1649 Gateway Circle. For directions and information on open play times and party rates, refer to the company’s Web site. The cost is $9 per child and $6 per sibling. Adults can play for free when accompanying a child. Discounts are available for groups of 10 and larger and for those who frequent the facility often.

For more information, visit

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Experience all science center has to offer at fraction of cost

So you’re sitting at home in Columbus on a cold Friday evening with your family wondering what to do for entertainment. Do you roam the clearance aisles at Target yet again? Or do you hang out in the play area at Polaris Fashion Place?

Thanks to downtown Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, there’s something exciting and affordable to do once a month during COSI’s Family Friday Nights. On the last Friday of each month, guests can explore all the interactive exhibits and educational activities the 320,000 square-foot science center has to offer for $10.95 per person, a fraction of the regular admission price.

COSI Family Friday Nights run from 5-9 p.m. Admission includes all of COSI’s permanent exhibitions and educational activities on three floors, plus a viewing of a movie on the seven-story-high screen. Entry typically costs $32.50 for exhibits, shows and a movie.

Playing with “coffee dough” in KidSpace.

My family of four decided to give a Family Friday Night a try in October. Family nights generally have a theme, and our theme was “spooky science” in celebration of Halloween. The activities included a face-painting station and a magician. There was a good crowd, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

While there, we investigated a first-floor exhibit called Ocean, where kids can shoot water canons at a statue of Neptune, the god of the sea in Roman mythology. We also watched a movie on COSI’s Extreme Screen, which normally costs extra but is included on Family Friday Nights.

We spent the majority of our time, though, in an area designated to preschoolers called Little KidSpace. My two-year-old daughter Rosie unknowingly learned about the force of gravity while making a plastic ball hover over a stream of air. She learned about electricity by flipping a light switch in a kitchen with exposed framing.

COSI is located at 333 W. Broad St.

Plenty of wall-mounted hand sanitizers helped mitigate my concerns about her playing indoors with lots of hands-on activities.

COSI’s employees are more than friendly. In Kidspace, several of them whipped up a batch of “coffee dough” for kids to play with. It felt liked Play-Doh but smelled like coffee and was fun to squish and mold into fun shapes. (See recipe below.)

For $10.95, Family Friday Night can help inspire future inventors and engineers at a friendly price. Now that’s science you can take home.

For more information, visi

COSI opened in 1964 in Memorial Hall, and has since welcomed nearly 20 million visitors from all over the world. The science center moved to its current location at 333 W. Broad St. in 1999, and celebrated its tenth year there on Nov. 6. Regular hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-6 p.m. For more information and additional discounts, call 614-228-2674 or visit


4 cups un-sifted, all-purpose flour
¼ cup instant coffee
1 cup salt
1 ½ cups warm water

Dissolve coffee in warm water. In another bowl, mix flour and salt. Make a hole in the mixture and pour one cup of the coffee water into it. Mix with a fork or hands until smooth. Add more coffee water if needed. (Dough should be smooth and satiny.) Store in plastic bag to prevent dough from drying. Mold into fun shapes. Finished designs can be baked in a 300-degree oven for 1 hour (until hard). Add two coats of shellac to preserve.

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Easton’s Lego store will please enthusiasts, new fans of building-block toy

As a child I was often frustrated by build-it-yourself toys like Erector Sets and Lincoln Logs. It was hard for me to create something out of nothing. The toy pieces usually ended up in a pile mixed with Lite-Brite pegs and model-car parts. (Maybe that’s why I’m a writer and not an engineer.)

Today’s generation of children seem to be much brighter – bright like the bold, primary colors of Legos, another toy that requires lots of tiny pieces to build something larger.

I recently joined dozens of other parents and their children at the new Lego store at Easton Town Center in Columbus. The 2,000 square-foot store at 4004 Gramercy St., only the second in Ohio, opened in July. A sales representative said they’re already doing a brisk business.

Kids gawk at Lego box sets of pirate ships, houses, trains and a variety of other objects stacked nearly to the ceiling on two walls. Some are themed in popular television shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants, or movies including Star Wars. One showstopper is the 5,197-piece Millennium Falcon of Star Wars fame. At $500, it’s the most expensive set in the store. Each toy has a recommended age range marked on the box.

Some Lego creations are displayed in the store like museum pieces. The more routine pieces stand behind round Plexiglass covers in the wall, at child level. For instance, you can look through a porthole and see little Lego people seated in a movie theater.

You can even customize your own mini Lego people. They’re called MiniFigures.

True enthusiasts can buy Legos by the brick in the bulk section behind the checkout counter at the back of the store. There are lots of colors and shapes in various sizes to choose from. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to reach the pieces at the top level. That was over my head.

Now that I have children of my own, I feel like I want to steer them toward intelligent toys that build motor and problem-solving skills. On a recent Saturday afternoon at the Lego store, many parents apparently shared that feeling, although I didn’t see anyone pony up $500 for the Millennium Falcon.

Maybe they’re saving up for Christmas.

For more information, visit

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Concoct a customized scent

I perused the names of more than 120 candle fragrances at The Candle Lab in the Columbus suburb of Worthington: “Georgia Peach,” “Snickerdoodle,” “Tomato Leaf.” My goal: to choose two perfect fragrances that represented my husband and three-month-old son, and thus create the perfect candle.

The Candle Lab, with three central Ohio locations in Worthington, Grandview Heights and Gahanna, is a specialty store where customers can buy pre-made, scented candles, or concoct their own. Fragrance selections vary by season, and customers can choose up to three scents. They combine the scents with pure soy wax, which co-owner Steve Weaver says burns long and is environmentally friendly.

The process of picking a scent, mixing it with liquid wax and allowing it to harden takes a little over an hour. A 12-ounce candle costs $12.

“The customers who are happiest with their candles are the ones who have a meaning behind the scents they’ve chosen,” said Weaver, who co-owns The Candle Lab with his fiancée, Katesha Freeman.

Weaver said a newlywed couple recently visited his store after returning from their honeymoon. They recreated an aroma they remembered from a spa they visited using the fragrances of lemongrass, rosemary and mint. Other customers, Weaver said, just want to create a personalized gift.

The Candle Lab also is a popular spot for candle-pouring parties, especially among teenage girls who enjoy prepping the candle, then spending the hour it takes for the wax to set doing something else. Some opt for a quick manicure or pedicure at the Elli Nail Spa next door. Others seek out a cone at nearby Graeter’s Ice Cream.

Weaver says The Candle Lab has hosted dozens of parties for Girl Scout troops, who also enjoy a lesson on the shop’s eco-friendly products derived from renewable resources such as essential oils and soy. Typical parties include 8-12 people. (Those who are interested in having a candle party should reserve the space two weeks in advance.)

Popular fragrance recipes among the younger crowd include mixing “Bubble Gum” and “Watermelon” to produce a scent resembling watermelon-flavored Bubblicious chewing gum. Another mixes “Campfire,” “Toasted Marshmallow” and “Dark Chocolate” scents to yield a s’mores-scented candle.

I settled on a scent called “Dad’s Den,” which smelled like cigars and spices, and one called “Baby Powder” that smelled like, well, baby powder. The Candle Lab’s fragrances are stored in amber bottles with white labels. I poured each of my selections into a bartender’s jigger, like a chemist. Then I emptied the concoction into an 8-ounce tin filled with soy wax and a wick. Voila! In an hour’s time, I had my own personalized candle that reminded me of my loved ones.

For more information, visit

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