This article first appeared in Kidsburgh.org, a media partner of NEXTpittsburgh that focuses on making Pittsburgh a better place to raise kids.  

After 15 long months of echoing quiet, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and MuseumLab are ready to welcome their noisy patrons. The museums will reopen on Saturday, June 12, with new exhibits, refreshed spaces and more ways for kids to explore their curiosity. June 12 has extra significance for the Children’s Museum: It’s the date of the museum’s debut in 1983.

Museum staffers have been keeping busy planning, creating, building and updating spaces. To keep up with many changes, here is a guide to all you need to know before your visit. As health and safety concerns are alleviated, some details are likely to change.

1. Hours and ticketing

The museums are no longer open for walk-up visitors seven days a week. The Children’s Museum operates from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. The MuseumLab, geared to kids ages 10 and older, will be open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Avoid disappointment with a  timed ticket reservation, which helps accommodate a safe number of visitors. And, yes, members should reserve a slot, too. If space is available, a walk-up admission will be accommodated, but time slots are filling quickly. Your ticket allows entry to both museums. Tickets are available through Aug. 31.

Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

2. Emotions at Play with Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’

We’ve been looking forward to this collaboration between the museum and Pixar Animation Studios since the project was announced in September 2019. At last, we have a chance to visit the world premiere of Emotions at Play with Pixar’s “Inside Out.” The Oscar-winning animated film delves into 11-year-old Riley’s struggle with her emotions: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The interactive exhibit allows kids to better express and understand their emotions, just like Riley.

Operate the Control Panel to make sounds and music that express feelings. At Dream Productions, kids will perform a puppet show that explores emotions through imaginative play. Family challenges include the Managing Our Emotions Maze and the Train of Thought, which might test emotions like frustration or pride at success.

Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

At the Longterm Memory station, kids can note their emotions in words or sketches on paper, choosing the color that best represents their feelings. Those familiar with the movie know Joy is yellow, Disgust is green, Anger is red, Sadness is blue and Fear is purple. The paper goes into a slot and the glowing orb changes into the matching emotional color.

The bright and colorful exhibit offers interest for kids from toddlers to their older siblings. Emotions at Play continues at the museum through Jan. 9, when it will begin its tour to museums and libraries across the country.

Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

3. The Kindness Gallery

The new Kindness Gallery takes over the former Attic exhibit space. The exhibit draws from the lessons of Fred Rogers to help kids send messages of kindness.

Create a virtual gift box at the Care Package Factory where kids can select products – a teddy bear, flowers, cake – to go into their kindness box, then choose the recipient, like a hospital or school. The computer reads the details and “loads” a cardboard box. Kids toss the box in the hopper or crank a mechanical lift. Then, watch the computer screen that tracks the package to its destination. It’s a great exercise in empathy and a way to consider helping others in real life.

A vintage-style hi-fi includes a Strategy Song Record Player that kids can use to play record-like discs. A pair of old-school wall telephones give kids a chance to call each other to offer messages of kindness. Kids also can write a note or draw a picture that can be pressed into a Kindness Token to keep or share.

And we’re happy to report that the Gravity Room and Virtual Puppets will continue to share the space.

Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

4. Gymlacium

At MuseumLab, the intricately detailed Gymlacium takes over The Stacks in the former Carnegie Library space. Artist Manca Ahlin used traditional Slovenian bobbin lace techniques to build her three-story, three-dimensional sculpture within the steel bookshelves. Enter the installation over a bridge, then explore as you wish through tunnels, up rope ladders and over hillocks. Ready for a break? Take a relaxing breather on a hammock and gaze up through the woven layers.