As part of my summer staycation last year, one of the things to which I was most looking forward was going to Eden Park in Cincinnati with my mom and nieces (ages four and six). We were going to a playground, to eat a picnic, and then to the Cincinnati Art Museum. They couldn’t contain their excitement as we made sandwiches and packed sketch books and pencils. Finally we were in the car and ready to go. I felt I was going on a field trip again. The expectations of children are contagious. The sun was shining and we had the fullness of the last day of summer vacation before school.
The first stop was the playground. The overlook in Eden Park was already filling up with people. We pointed out the boats on the river and then went to the playground. All the equipment was shaped into woodland scene – old tree trunks, rock ledges. After a brief stint on the swings the girls spent a good half hour climbing and imagining on the ‘trees’ and ‘rocks’ – and even involved other kids in their games. No one was left out.
It was hard to tear them away to eat, but we finally convinced them to come see the ducks and geese in the pond. On the way we stopped to get the food and found a table where we could watch the birds. We took out the food – peanut butter sandwiches, juice boxes, spotted cheese (co-jack) – and ate. However, watching the birds was more interesting than finishing lunch. One crust thrown soon led to others and a visit by a gaggle of geese.
On the way to the Art Museum, the girls noticed a greenhouse, the Krohn Conservatory, and asked to stop. Immediately out of the car, the four-year old saw a butterfly bench and wanted a picture taken by it, so there they posed for the first of many pictures. In we walked and they were awed by the colorful flowers – look here, what is that? Don’t touch the sharp cacti, let’s see the waterfall, look at the mouse. Isn’t that fish large? There’s a mermaid. Where? So much to see. It must seem like a virtual jungle to children. Outside they saw footprints painted on the sidewalk and had to follow them. Everything was a potential adventure.
Into the car one more time and finally off to the Art Museum. This place was familiar to them. They remembered the blue Chihuly chandelier hanging in the lobby. We had to detour through different galleries this time, which caused some discontent and near tantrums. But we soon came upon kid friendly, touchable exhibits and all was right for awhile. As we came out of the detour, they noticed the Miro mural for the first time and exclaimed about its bright colors and shapes.
Up the stairs we went to galleries where they could sit and draw. They weren’t really copying any of the paintings before them, but engaged in their own drawings. Gardens this time, reflecting the ones they had just seen at the Conservatory. A jigsaw puzzle in one room brought us to another stop. After awhile exhaustion overcame them. Our time ended with a visit to the Damascus room. A wood paneled room from the city of its name – decorated with exquisite painting and surrounded with built-in, satin-covered couches. It was like a room from a fairy tale. I asked them what they thought was behind the door. Dresses and fairies were their answers. Here the could see another world and imagine themselves in it.
The fun wasn’t over when we left. Taking a short detour from the parking lot, we went to a swinging platform underneath a large, red steel-beam sculpture. Gently rocking back and forth we rested. What a day. My nieces helped me see the park and museums from a new, wondrous perspective. They explored and were ready to ooh and ah. They didn’t enter with any pre-conceived notions of how they were to act. At times I asked questions, but mostly waited for them to look with their eyes and curiosity. Not a bad way to live life.