Riverfront Museum to rescue to winter break activities for kids

By Elise Zwicky For Chronicle Media

Running at 1:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 6 and on Saturday, Jan. 7 in the museum lobby, the Boredom Busters will feature hour-long family-friendly sensory activities.

The Peoria Riverfront Museum is stepping up to save the sanity of area parents by offering a series of  “Holiday Boredom Busters” over the winter break.

Running at 1:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 6 and on Saturday, Jan. 7 in the museum lobby, the Boredom Busters will feature hour-long family-friendly sensory activities and easy science experiments that families can recreate at home.

“This is the third year we’re hosting the Boredom Busters over winter break, so it’s become kind of a tradition for us,” said Taylor Stef, Riverfront Museum School coordinator.

The program is geared for preschool to early elementary age, but Stef said high schoolers and adults will also have fun with it. It’s free to members and included with regular paid admission to the museum.

“I know from experience that kids can get a little bit antsy over winter break and it can be kind of hard to entertain them, especially if you’ve got family in from out of town. So our goal is to show families fun, easy and inexpensive things that they can do at home,” Stef added

Many of the experiments use basic pantry ingredients such as flour, salt, corn starch, yeast and baking soda, as well as shaving cream and hydrogen peroxide. Other materials that might require a quick trip to the store are designed to be inexpensive, such as aquarium tubing.

The experiments have intriguing names, such as Fizzing Snow Balls, Elephant Toothpaste and Rainbow Oobleck.

Made with cornstarch and water, Oobleck is a science experiment that allows kids to make a mess that can easily be washed away with water. Oobleck was first introduced in the Dr. Seuss book “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” in which a gooey green substance—Oobleck–falls from the sky and wreaks havoc in the kingdom. The Oobleck experiment takes place on Dec. 30.

On Dec. 28, kids and adults will have a chance to learn about dry ice. “We’ll create a really neat bubble-making machine basically, using aquarium tubing and a funnel to create actual bubbles of carbon dioxide gas that are wrapped in soap film,” Stef said. “They look almost like crystal balls in the air until they pop and release the fog.”

The Boredom Buster program is geared for preschool to early elementary age,

Fizzing Snowballs on Jan. 2 are made by combining baking soda and shaving cream. “When you mix them together, there’s a chemical reaction that takes place that actually makes it cold,” Stef said. “Then we add some glitter in there so it looks like snow.”

Adding a few drops of vinegar makes the concoction even colder and causes it to fizz up, she added.

Elephant Toothpaste will be made on Jan. 3 by mixing hydrogen peroxide, yeast, dish soap, warm water and food coloring.

“Basically you combine all of those things in a water bottle with a narrow spout, and the chemical reaction takes place, creating lots and lots of bubbles that jettisons out of the top and creates a really neat warm foam to play with,” Stef explained. “It looks a lot like toothpaste if you put the right colors in there because it comes out in thick streams. You can make it as small scale or large scale as you want. So it can be clean enough to do in your kitchen or messy enough to do in your backyard.”

Other demonstrations will include Aqua Sand, Edible Water Beads, Puffy Snow Paint and Even Better Snow Slime.

“We’ll have samples there already made that they can have hands-on playtime with to get a feel for it. And we’ll have instruction sheets with information on how to recreate it at home,” Stef said. “I hope the families get excited about science and learning but also walk away knowing they can do some of this cool chemistry stuff in their own homes whether or not they have a science background.”

The Riverfront Museum will also be offering a variety of winter classes and workshops for all ages beginning in January. The classes generally run four weeks and cost $25 for museum members and $30 for non-members.

The museum and planetarium will be open throughout winter break to offer additional stimulation for kids who become bored with their Christmas toys or need a change of scenery, Stef added.

Vicki Ghidina of Pekin said she and her four grandchildren ages 4 to 9 visit the museum frequently in the winter with her daughter and son-in-law.

“It made sense for them to get a family membership with a family their size, and (my husband) and I also got an adult-plus-one membership. I think the kids’ favorite part is the children’s area. It’s very hands-on. It’s a contained area, so the kids can pretty much run and play, and some of the adults play, too,” Ghidina said.

Admission to the Riverfront Museum is $11 for adults, $10 for seniors 60 and over and $9 for kids age 3-17. For more information about hours, exhibits and classes, visit www.peoriariverfrontmuseum.org or call (309) 686-7000.

 Holiday Boredom Busters schedule


Dec 28: Dry Ice Bubbles

Dec 29: Aqua Sand

Dec 30: Rainbow Lockable

Jan 2: Fizzing Snow Balls

Jan 3: Elephant Toothpaste

Jan 4: Edible Water Beads

Jan 5: Puffy Snow Paint

Jan 6: Even Better Snow Slime

Jan 7: Aqua Sand