Think history is too complex for children to understand? The Missouri History Museum’s History Clubhouse exhibit and its Summer Family Fun Series will put that theory to rest.

The History Clubhouse features a blend of beautiful recreated environments and actual artifacts from the Missouri Historical Society’s collections; this free, interactive exhibit helps children grasp the concept of time.

“To understand the past is tricky, so we put them in environments where they can try things for themselves,” says Lindsay Newton, youth and family programs manager for the Missouri Historical Society. “They’re able to harness their natural sense of imagination and skyrocket back in time. It’s all about making connections. When they do something in the gallery, they might realize, ‘This isn’t an outfit someone would wear today; what I wear is so much different. But they ate ice cream, and we do too.’ So they can see the differences but also the similarities.”

The journey into the History Clubhouse begins with models of iconic buildings in downtown St. Louis, then moves backward in time to immerse children in various aspects of historical periods, including trolley rides, a café at the 1904 World’s Fair, steamboat rides down the Mississippi and the ancient city of Cahokia. This children’s gallery is rife with hands-on activities, including 18 custom-made costumes the children can wear, a puppet show, a steamboat whistle, “fishing” from a canoe in the ancient city of Cahokia and more.

“We often see adults jumping right in with the kids and sharing stories that relate to the exhibits,” Newton says.

In celebration of the third anniversary of the clubhouse, a new installation will open June 27 based on “Growing Up with the River” by local authors Connie and Daniel Burkhardt.

“It talks about the Missouri River Valley — Hermann, New Haven, Augusta, Washington and St. Charles, among others — and covers nine generations of people who lived there at various times,” Newton says. “It also tells stories of the Katy Train and how the train [route] turned into a popular outdoor trail.”

To keep children excited about learning, the museum will present its Summer Family Fun series, which runs four days a week beginning at 10:30 a.m. June 4-July 27.

“Our goal is all about getting families into the museum so kids are excited about museums as they grow up,” Newton says. “When they have fun, they’ll keep coming back and exploring exhibits. At the Museum, we also feel it’s important to offer our community summer learning opportunities that keep kids and families engaged during the school break.”

Music Mondays include live music and dance performances, while on Wednesdays (aside from July 4), children will have a chance to “Step Into the Story” as books are brought to life via storytelling, printmaking, dance workshops, whistling contests, hands-on activities, yoga classes, drumming, scavenger hunts through the galleries, opportunities to read books to PAWS support dogs, and more. Tuesdays and Fridays feature storytelling for kids ages 2-5 followed by Make-and-Take workshops where kids of all ages can get creative with art projects inspired by exhibits.

The fun doesn’t end with the summer, however. Throughout the whole year, the History Clubhouse is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and a plethora of other family-friendly events are featured every season including storytelling, Parent & Me classes, family days, holiday parties and more.

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