If you’re looking for a low maintenance way to entertain your kids for a few hours, this museum located on the grounds of Chaoyang Park could be the answer. It’s easy on both the legs and the pocket: RMB 20 per child gets you access to three small floors packed full of interactive exhibits designed to let you experience “the excitement, the wonder and the joy of science in action.”
Get Tech-ed Up
English explanations for all of the museum’s exhibits are available thanks to a smart electronic system: register at the reception desk when you arrive and you’ll be given a handy little card that you can place against any exhibit’s information screen for English instructions and scientific info. (Those with poor handwriting beware: the card activates a welcome message in flashing capitals, and the receptionist’s interpretation of your scribbled signature will be displayed for all to see!) If you’d like a memento of the day, plan ahead and go to the photography booths just behind you and to the right. Use your card to activate the camera; your image is then stored on it until the end of your visit, when a museum guide will print it off for you free of charge.
Flex Your Vocal Chords
To get things off to a booming start, head straight upstairs to the Visual Voice exhibit. Your kids can holler into two microphones and watch as their shrieks are converted into colorful speech bubbles which dance across a huge screen, then get echoed back electronically. The louder the holler, the bigger the bubble, so there’s no need for restraint! Tease your toddler by shouting out her name and waiting for it to ricochet back – how on earth can you be calling her with your mouth shut?
Blow Some Bubbles
One of the first exhibits on the ground floor is a gigantic soap bubble machine. Slowly pull the cord and raise the bar out of the water to form a translucent sheet of soap, then compete within the family to see whose lungs can turn it into the most impressive bubble. Reward the victor with one of the delicious savory mini pies from the cafe opposite, which also offers a good selection of curries and an extensive drinks menu.
Older kids will get a real kick out of the Creative Room (just down the hall from the bubble machine), where a museum guide will take your child’s photo and show her how to superimpose objects onto it. Your aspiring superhero can indulge her wildest fantasies by appearing in a snapshot as Batman’s sidekick. Sessions run hourly – check the schedule at reception so you can plan your visit around them.
Blow Your Baby’s Mind
Even if they won’t understand the science bit, smaller children will love the exhibits in the basement. The Heartbeat Chair is low enough for even apprentice crawlers to scramble onto, and your baby’s slightest touch will cause a field of digital daffodils or roses to burst out from under her curious limbs. Also not to be missed is the enormous fish tank that lines the circular room. Hidden cameras inside the tank reflect your image so you appear to be swimming among your fishy friends.
Make Some Shadow Puppets
Kids (and grown-ups) of any age will be fascinated by the shadow table on the basement floor, where those with nimble fingers can create all manner of wildlife with the help of some basic instructions. If your shadow bird, snake or lion is deemed good enough, a digital version of it will fly, slither or rampage across the table.
Although the museum’s exhibits are very child-friendly, its overall layout hasn’t really been designed with families in mind. There are only elevators at the north end of the museum, so you will need to backtrack or use the stairs if you want to get to another floor. Toilets are on the ground floor only, so its best to take a pre-emptive approach to bathroom breaks. Strollers have to be checked in at reception – bring a baby sling if you find them helpful. And lastly, it’s worth checking the Sony ExploraScience website before you go – it offers lots of useful information about key exhibits.
RMB 30, RMB 20 (students), free (kids under 1.2m) – buy your tickets at the museum booth outside the park’s south or east gates and you won’t have to purchase park entry tickets. Mon-Fri 9.30am-6pm, Sat-Sun 9.30am-7.30pm, closed on second Mon and Tue of each month. Inside Chaoyang Park (near the south gate), Chaoyang District (6501 8800) 索尼探梦, 朝阳区朝阳公园内（南门附近）