Six museums that encourage kids to get hands-on

Escape the cold and entertain the kids by visiting one of these educational, interactive venues.

© Arkady Chubykin, Adobe Stock

Now that it’s getting too cold to send your child outdoors during playtime, you may find yourself searching for new ways to keep the kids entertained. Museums always offer indoor educational experiences that any parent can appreciate, but only some of them let little ones use their hands to learn. Here are a few nearby options:

Children’s Science Center
At this museum, kids can order from a menu of science experiments, some of them involving programming a robotic arm, tinkering with circuits and building various structures. The center also offers science experiments and explanations for you and your little ones to do at home. Admission for nonmembers is $13 but free for individuals with a membership. // Fair Oaks Mall: 11948 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax

Curiosity Zone
This Ashburn organization offers winter break child care opportunities plus after-school and pre-school classes for your young scientist. Some of their daily camp and class subjects include engineering, coding, food science, robotics and more.  Full-day camps start at $75. // Curiosity Zone: 43135 Broadlands Center Plaza, Suite 123, Ashburn

Nauticus Featuring the Battleship Wisconsin
As its name suggests, this museum tends to focus on all thing nautical. Here, children can participate in an assortment of exhibit activities, among them climbing into The Clelia, a submersible, touching crustaceans in the Horseshoe Crab Cove and feeling hurricane force winds in a simulator. There are also prearranged scavenger hunts available. // Nauticus: 1 Waterside Drive, Norfolk 

[Related: Where to take your little scavenger]

Science Museum of Virginia
Hoping to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the exhibits here cover health, space, geology and more. A 76-foot screen resides in The Dome and streams a number of astronomy presentations. A soon-to-happen opportunity for interaction is called “Fruitcake Science,” where kids can shuttle the dessert item down a zipline, build their own sled, play with a Claw Machine and take in cooking demonstrations. // Science Museum of  Virginia: 2500 West Broad St., Richmond

Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
Led by educators, industry professionals and staffers, the events and programs at this museum run daily with special events rotating monthly. This winter, children can create gingerbread houses, learn about water conservation and observe the sky from the museum’s observation deck. Admission costs $8 for children 2 and up. // Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum: 19 W. Cork St., Winchester

Virginia Discovery Museum
The two galleries at this exploratory space hold an A-Mazing Airways exhibit, a STEM Lab, and a Construction Zone, to name only a few. At A-Mazing Airways, kids can place and watch balls and scarves be sucked through the pneumatic air system, while in the Construction Zone they can build structures from foam blocks. Children under 1 are free and admission for adults and children costs $8. // Virginia Discovery Museum: 524 E. Main St., Charlottesville