An exhibit that gets kids curious about how toys work

Don’t worry, this is a safe space. You can be honest and admit that, at least once in your life, you have tried to trick a Jack-in-the-box.

Toys: The Inside Story

We’ve all been there, wondering just how that sneaky guy always surprises, no matter how slowly you turn the handle or how cautiously you approach.

Kohl Children’s Museum is betting kids always will be curious about exactly how their toys work. That’s why they’ve introduced “Toys: The Inside Story,” an exhibit that examines the simple mechanisms found in popular toys, including gears, pulleys, linkages, cams and circuits.

“We’re making the innate sense of curiosity accessible to explore,” says Sheridan Turner, president and CEO of Kohl. “It’s very interesting for children to be able to explore how things work.”

“Toys: The Inside Story” uses kids’ favorite toys and games, such as Etch a Sketch, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Operation and Hokey Pokey Elmo, to delve into engineering and math concepts. The 12 hands-on stations let kids crank gears, build circuits and turn cams, gaining an inside look at the residents of their toy box.

Turner says she hopes it taps into kids’ natural inclination to ask “why?” and maybe will even inspire a few inquisitive youngsters to pursue a future career in mechanical engineering.

“It’s a very cool exhibit,” Turner says. “Once you start to understand the fundamentals, you can apply them into more complex situations.”

As for that eternal question of how to trick a Jack-in-the-box? Turner says it’s just not possible.

“He always pops up!”

Thanks to a video camera, kids can watch firsthand as a worm gear and cam mechanism work together to make Jack pop.

“We’re helping children to explore and see behind the magic of those fun toys,” Turner says.

And that’s a toy story we can really get behind.

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