Butterfly life cycles, bat sonar, food chains, dinosaur extinction, and bird migration are just a few of the topics you can learn about while perfecting your miniature golf swing at the Fore! the Planet exhibit at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery this summer.
Even though watching toddlers play putt-putt is equal parts hysterical and frustrating, I took on the challenge with my 4- and 2-year-old daughters and it did not disappoint. Quite the opposite actually!
Each of the 18 holes is beautiful and elaborate. The backdrops are colorful, and the obstacles are large and thematic on every green. It rivals probably every miniature golf course I’ve ever been to. I can’t believe this is a traveling course. I wonder how they pack it all into whatever mode of transportation they use to move it. It is at Boonshoft until August 27. Don’t miss it!
My girls’ faces lit up when we walked in the room, and I could see their minds racing in a what-do-we-do-first fashion. Don’t let the kids have all the fun though. Moms and dads can grab a club and ball at the entrance too!
On the first green, you can aim at one of two holes on a giant painted butterfly’s wings. The butterfly backdrop is full of color and life. My 2-year-old got down on hands and knees to peek under a big caterpillar obstacle.
A quick word of warning for those with young kids: the sides of the course are very easy to trip over. We had a face plant on the very first hole, but nothing a hug and kiss couldn’t fix.
Each hole’s theme teaches an important lesson about the environment, conservation, and other natural phenomena. The butterfly hole has you putt the ball through each stage of metamorphosis. At the recycling green, the ball represents garbage on its way to being recycled. At the predator and prey hole, your ball is a fly that has to avoid a big toad’s mouth and a spider web trap.
It’s cleverly done and super educational. Since my oldest has just one year of preschool under her belt, my kids are a bit young to absorb most of these lessons, but we made the course educational by following the numbers in order to find the next hole.
We found all kinds of cool things as we swung through the course. The girls putted under a big tree, through bat sonar, into a big green frog’s mouth, beneath a fancy boat, and among a trio of snakes.
We took a particular interest in the backyard explorer hole. A huge journal depicts different things found in everyone’s backyard. You can putt through a giant magnifying glass, and check out some oversized bugs and worms on the course.
On the dinosaur extinction hole, players can vote for what they think killed the unlucky creatures. Was it a meteor strike or climate change? You’re the judge by aiming your ball toward either hole on the course. My girls both picked the icy climate change side, where my 4-year-old somehow, sort of scored a hole-in-one and excitedly screamed out “Mommy!”
Even though their technique (you can see their hilarious swings in the pictures) and etiquette (I had to repeatedly say “stop licking that ball”) isn’t quite up to par, the girls had a blast. Even my 9-month-old son had plenty of eye candy to take in from his stroller, which was easy to steer through the course.
While planning your trip to the Fore! the Planet exhibit, make time to play in the rest of the museum as well. There are some new things since I was there last in the spring. The new play pizza kitchen is great fun, and the color sorting bins will keep the kids busy for a while. There also is a special dinosaur exhibit through August 20, complete with a huge t-rex skull and a dino dress-up area.
My personal favorite is the tree house. It’s a fantastic place to take a deep breath and relax for a minute, especially if the museum is crowded and you took three kids 4 and younger through 18 holes of mini golf by yourself. Whew! We took a long break and watched a really determined squirrel hang upside down on a feeder full of peanuts trying to get a snack.
Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, (website) 2600 DeWeese Parkway, is open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $14.50 for adults, $12.50 for seniors (60+), and $11.50 for children (3-17). Children younger than 3 and members are admitted free. For more information, visit BoonshoftMuseum.org.