“Will it play in Peoria?”
This catchphrase has been around a long time! In fact, it dates all the way back to the late 1800s. If a new show was successful in Peoria, a main Midwestern stop for vaudeville acts, featuring a mixture of specialty acts such as burlesque comedy and song and dance, it would be successful anywhere.
The Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum is a hit in this community! And, it goes above and beyond for military families, especially the National Guard and Reserve, as once again this year, it was a Blue Star Museum. With a grant from Ameren of Illinois, the museum offered free admittance to military families all summer long. It was the perfect spot to get out of the heat on those hot, muggy days, and get the creative juices of the young and the young-at-heart flowing.
After years of planning, the Peoria PlayHouse was opened in June of 2015. As you step into the PlayHouse, you are immediately greeted by a friendly staff and a life-size tree that gets your children’s imaginations moving. There are six permanent exhibits all related to Peoria. On the main floor, there is so much to see and do. The Family Farm exhibit consists of a barn and a hands-on kitchen where little ones can pick their own vegetables and then take them into the kitchen to prepare. They can even gather eggs and milk a cow!
There is an area for All Construction Big and Small. Peoria is the original home to Caterpillar Tractor company. So, fittingly, there is a “working” Caterpillar excavator that allows you to don a hard hat as the operator to pick up materials and then dump them out. In the “Real Tools” area, older children can use real tools to build whatever their imaginations dream up.
Out on the enclosed Sand Porch is the kinetic sand exhibit where visitors can dig and play in the sand and use their imagination to construct sculptures. Currently, there is a special exhibit entitled, “Journey to the Sea: An SOS from Our Oceans” which is an art/environment project designed by Bradley University. The exhibit explores the underwater environment and the impact of plastic pollution on the marine environment.
On the lower level of the PlayHouse, you will find the exhibit “Peoria: Then and Now.” Here you can play in the iconic Hubcap House and perform on a vaudeville stage where the phrase “Will it Play in Peoria” originated. From here, you can become scientists in the SciLab. Did you know that Peoria is home to the USDA lab where scientists developed one of the first industrialized production techniques for Penicillin?
Motion Commotion is also located on the lower level where physics comes to life with balls rolling and launching to the sound of the Bradley University fight song.
The sixth and final permanent exhibit is always a favorite By Your River Gently Flowing, Illinois. This is a place where imaginations can sail as children play in gently flowing water while they learn of native Illinois animals and pretend to drive boats downstream.
The Peoria PlayHouse truly lives up to their mission posted on their website: The Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum provides children with the tools and inspiration they need to be explorers and creators of the world. We do this in part through understanding, supporting, and promoting play in the fullest sense of the word, one that includes imagination and creativity.
Along with their mission, they have four core values:
- A kid can be anything they want to be. They need only the opportunity and inspiration to imagine, practice, and become.
- We are more effective when we collaborate with others. Collaboration with individuals and organizations throughout and beyond Peoria allows us to effectively support families and achieve shared goals.
- The PlayHouse is for all children and families, regardless of income, abilities, or background.
- We are catalysts. A good museum experience sparks experiences and ideas that happen after and between visits. Who knows where a visit to the PlayHouse might lead?
The Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum is indeed a great place to visit. We sincerely thank them for once again being a Blue Star Museum. Both literally and figuratively this place definitely answers the question, “Will it play in Peoria?”
By Christina Smith
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