Anyone who has ever seen the incredulous look a child gives you when you say, “When I was a child,” or, “You know, I was a kid once,” can understand that explaining history to children can sometimes be hard.
My 4-year-old can barely understand yesterday and tomorrow, and the fact that grandma was once also 4 is completely lost on her. Local history museums are a great way to help teach history to kids by giving them hands-on experiences about how life was different, sometimes very different, than the life they are living now.
Here are four Lake County museums that have some great current or upcoming exhibits, which are perfect for preschoolers and up, to learn about life before we all had the internet in our pocket.
The village of Barrington is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and there are lots of events and activities going on to give you a look back at what Barrington looked like in the 1860s. This weekend, they are celebrating with an 1865 Street Festival on Sunday, April 26, 2-8 p.m. Enjoy the Barrington Junior Women’s Club’s Children’s Vintage Carnival, street performers, a vintage baseball game and more. Visit www.Barrington150.org for a full schedule.
For a more low key walk through history, visit the Ice Hall Mall (200 Applebee St, Barrington) through April 30 as they present “What Our World Looked Like in the 1860s: A Tribute to Barrington’s 150th Anniversary Sesquicentennial” display. This exhibit features furniture and other historical items related to its Bowman Dairy heritage. The mall is open daily Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Lake County Discovery Museum
The Lake County Discovery Museum, located at the Lakewood Forest Preserve, is a gem that should be on your must-visit list. Their permanent collections document the history and growth of Lake County from its prehistoric days, complete with dinosaur bones, to today.
The current special exhibit, Growing Up in Lake County, is perfect for kids. We visited over spring break with all four kids, (ages 2, 4, 8 and 10) and they all found something they enjoyed and were interested in. The exhibit uses the stories of people from Lake County paired with historical artifacts to teach kids how children worked, played and went to school in the past. Children can sit in a one-room classroom with chalkboards at each desk, carry in buckets of water from the field and play with old-fashioned toys.
They won’t complain about their chores after that! But don’t fret, kids. Television is part of the experience too. A cartoon version of Bess Dunn as a child guides you through each section in a cartoon series. The museum is open Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 pm and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for seniors and students and $2.50 for youth. Children three years and under are free. On Discount Tuesdays, admission is $3 for adults, and youth 17 years and under are free.
Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum
When you first walk in to the museum you might think it’s just like any other small town historical society, but don’t just walk out! Ask the attendant to take you to the annex. The annex opened last summer and is perfect for kids. Its main feature is Wilbur, the 1954 fire truck, but there are lots of other artifacts as well that kids can identify and understand.
Coming in June is a special traveling exhibit, “Sox vs. Cubs: The Chicago Civil Wars.” This special exhibit will explore the history and rivalry between the teams with interactive displays, trivia and the ability to create their own dream team. The Heritage Center also fields a vintage baseball team that will play at least once each summer. The center’s hours vary, check the website, but they are always open during the farmers market and usually have a table with activities for children.
The Raupp Museum in Buffalo Grove (901 Dunham Ln.) covers the history of Buffalo Grove. Children can milk a replica cow and learn about the Potawatomi and how they worked the land. They can also visit the 1900s in hands-on exhibits of a train station or general store.
Visit this summer as Raupp brings its museum outside. Meet the museum staff at local parks where they’ll bring out games and artifacts to teach the kids in their natural habitat: the playground. The museum is open Sunday-Thursday and is free to visit. Some programs require advance registration and a fee.