The Met is opening a free science and art play space for kids

There are usually a few rules at art museums: No yelling, no loud music and certainly no touching the displays! But at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new 81st Street Studio, these rules don’t apply. 

This art and science play space designed for kids ages 3-11 and their families welcomes visitors to use their senses for exploration. Kids can smell different types of wood, look through a microscope, play oversized musical instruments, and try digital activities to learn about different materials. Best of all, this newly designed drop-in space on the Met’s ground level is completely free for kids and their caregivers; it opens on September 9 with a daylong children’s festival. 

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Within its 3,500-square-foot area, 81st Street Studio features both digital and analog experiences designed to encourage making, investigation, critical thinking, problem-solving and appreciation for materials and their properties. Drop-in activities and self-directed art- and science-making activities will be available during museum hours. 

We are dedicated, of course, to nurturing a lifelong experience of fun, of learning, and of engaging with art.

“We are dedicated, of course, to nurturing a lifelong experience of fun, of learning, and of engaging with art,” The Met’s Director Max Hollein said during a preview event. “It is an immersive, interactive area that reimagines in that way how the Met can inspire this exploration of its collection, but also really enhance the museum’s ideas of what learning means as a resource for our communities.” 

Two kids sit in a reading nook.
Photograph: Courtesy of The Met

Located in a former library area, 81st Street Studio incorporates several quiet reading areas as a homage to its previous use. Visitors will find books in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Braille and more. Museum staff plan to host storytelling times as well. 

While many of the inaugural activities are inspired by wood, different materials will take the spotlight on a rotating basis over time. Other stations will engage the senses through hands-on building using cardboard boxes, tape, wooden blocks, wheels, fabric, and Velcro.

Two kids feel a wall of different woods.
Photograph: Courtesy of The Met

Music plays a big role inside the studio—literally. A large music station includes a standing guitar, a castanet wall, an organ, and a marimba, all designed by the music/audio pros at Yamaha. Yamaha also created a bird chime that will play sounds to mark important times of the day in the studio. The musical components are designed to help kids understand how materials influence sound through instruments. Plus, they’re a ton of fun for kids of all ages. 

Families who want to continue the exploration after leaving the studio can pick up a Met Field Guide, a packet of tools with guidance for an adventure in the museum and in Central Park. The field guide encourages kids to learn more about the scientific aspects of The Met collection and Central Park as a field scientist, collecting data while also earning stickers and badges. 

A girl plays a percussion instrument in the Met's 81st Street Studio.
Photograph: Courtesy of The Met

It’s all designed to reimagine how the museum can inspire exploration of its encyclopedic collection, amplify curiosity and create new experiences for little learners. 

Heidi Holder, The Met’s education chair, conceived the space; KOKO Architecture + Design designed it.

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