Kids have a new place to cook and shop - in their imaginations - at Marbles Kids Museum.
This month, the downtown Raleigh museum unveiled an updated play kitchen and grocery store in its first floor Around Town exhibit. The popular exhibit, great for toddlers to young grade schoolers, offers a place for kids to play in a mini-version of the real world. There's a fire truck, boat, vet office, stage, kindergarten classroom, farm and more here.
I have spent a lot of time in the play kitchen and store at Marbles (and, before it, at Playspace, which merged with another museum to form Marbles). They were always among my own kids' favorite places to play when they were very young. They'd pick plastic food from the grocery store shelves, dump them in their little carts, check out at the register, "prepare" their finds in the kitchen and then do it all over again.
"Around Town is our grown-up community for little kids," said Taylor Rankin, Marbles' content coordinator. "It simulates what is going to be part of their daily life in the near future."
With funding from long-time supporter Lowes Foods, Marbles staff completely updated the well-used kitchen and store. Some of the furnishings mimic what you'll find at the newest Lowes stores, including the flooring and use of reclaimed wood. At checkout, kids can turn the conveyor belt with a wheel. There are all new (and sturdier) carts and baskets for shopping.
And, in addition to plastic bunches of whole fruits, vegetables and other foods, you'll find plastic pieces of sliced peppers or broccoli chunks, which make it easier to pretend to cook with them. So now kids don't have to try to saute a big stalk of plastic broccoli. There are smaller pieces that they shake around in a little pan before they serve it up. The options in the grocery fall in line with Marbles' emphasis on healthy living and eating.
"There's still a lot of imaginary play," said Michelle Ward, design specialist, "but now you can see it on your plate."
In the kitchen, you'll find a large kid-sized island with laminate countertop; faux stainless steel appliances; and burners and an oven that kids can light up with the touch of a button. (I joked that I kind of wanted that kitchen in my own house!).
Soon after the exhibit opened back up, kids were shopping for food, preparing it and sharing it with their adults, siblings and friends, Rankin and Ward said, all getting ready for the big world ahead of them.
The exhibits are free with admission to Marbles, which is $5 per person.