Kids Can “Play Grown-Up” at Jacksonville’s Hands On Children’s Museum

Lil Winn Dixie at Jacksonville Hands On Children's Museum

Lil Winn Dixie is a child-size grocery store, where kids can shop with tiny carts or play cashier at the tiny checkout.

We picked a rainy day to visit Jacksonville’s Hands On Children’s Museum, and our toddler literally could have stayed there all day.

The nonprofit museum has a train depot, post office, bank, firehouse, cafe, grocery store, TV station, all designed for kids to play make-believe. It seemed more like a giant play center than a museum, completely packed with ecstatic kids bounding from one activity to the next.

The Puppet Stage at Hands on Children's Museum in Jacksonville, FL

The museum has a puppet stage stocked with puppets.

My son spent a lot of his time driving trains around at a little train table, but we eventually managed to drag him away to see the rest of the museum.

The 6500-square-foot building has a firehouse with a 12-foot play fire engine. My little guy climbed right behind the wheel, pretending to drive. Daddy showed him how to slide down the fireman’s pole, and he tried on a genuine fireman’s jacket and hat.

Meanwhile, some kids nearby tried on white doctor coats and took turns giving each other checkups. In another, fenced-in section of the museum, kids sat in wheelchairs and shot hoops, getting a feel for wheelchair basketball. And in the pretend post office, kids could write, sort or mail letters.

My 10-month-old daughter was content to watch the other kids, but they do have a separate play area exclusively for children age 3 and younger. The whole museum is also totally stroller accessible.

Somehow, we were “adopted” by one little boy who decided to stick with us for most of our visit. He found us at the “You’re the Star” stage, where kids can choose from over 50 costumes behind the curtain. The boy and my son banded together and moved on from that stage to a puppet theatre, where they proceeded to make one set of puppets after another battle each other.

Bank at Hands on Children's Museum

Children can open an account or cash a check at this pretend bank.

We lost the boy at Lil’ Winn Dixie, where he decided to start playing cashier for the children pretending to grocery shop. My son bypassed the grocer and instead went straight to the climbing tubes, ball pit and slides.

There was also a gear center where kids could play with various gears, a “Veterinarian” center where kids could doctor stuffed animals, areas for playing games like checkers, and lots more.

After well over an hour, my husband was worn out trying to keep up with the little guy, and the baby was starting to get cranky. But as far as my older child was concerned, we could have stayed a lot longer. If you’re looking for a place to pass away some time indoors, the Hands on Children’s Museum will definitely keep your child entertained for a long while.

If you want to go:

Where: 8580 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, FL

Who: Children ages 1 to 10

Cost: As of March 2012, admission was $4 for ages 1-3 and $5.50 for ages 4 and up, including adults.

For More Information: Call 904-642-2688 or visit www.handsonchildrensmuseumjax.com

The Hands On Children's Museum in Jacksonville, FL

The Train Depot, right, and fire station, left, are among options at the Hands on Children's Museum in Jacksonville.

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