We were invited to a preview of the exhibition Curious George Saves the Day at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. My daughters had no school that day and I thought that would be a nice family moment, even though my children do not like Curious George. Apparently, the cartoon killed it for Olivia. So we were up for an adventure!
The museum has created a colorful little suitcase full of activities that will help the children have fun while learning about Margret and H.A. Rey and a cute little monkey named George (actually George was not its name at first). Keep in mind that you will have to give the suitcase and most of its content back to the counter but the white cards with titles on them, the envelope (story challenge game) and the Passport to Adventures story journal are yours to keep.
My advice: open the suitcase and go through the content BEFORE entering the exhibition. You will have more space and you can start on the right note.
The suitcase holds 4 big colored cards that are titled Characters, Settings, Pickles (problem not the food as my daughter thought first), and Story Telling. Each big colored card represents one part of the exhibition.
Each big colored card goes through the same process: Find – Discover - Wonder – Connect
White cards where the children are free to draw come with each big colored card. Each white card has a sentence on it. For example, for the character card, you will have one titled: couple on the tandem bike. The child has to look for the couple on the tandem bike pictured on a frame. When he finds it, that is the start of a conversation. He then can draw the tandem on the card, write about it, talk about it, or even think about it. I believe that as parents in a museum, we do not have to be always talking or sharing with the children, they also need to have some quiet time to process things.
The exhibition is taking the child on a journey to discovery, learning, and discussion. Each child will approach and take that journey differently depending on their skills, age, interests, and here I say it Mood!.
At the end, you will pick two characters, one setting, one pickle and you will be able to tell or write in your yellow passport a story following your picks.
Even though my daughters had voiced their negative opinions about Curious George many times (and believe me they are vocal!), I was pleasantly surprised to see how interested they were. After going through the first two parts/cards exhibitions with me, they were exploring and reading the information on their own and taking full advantage of the opportunities of learning provided by the suitcase. I let them observe and draw. It actually gave me some time to explore the exhibition on my own.
For children a little bit younger, you will need to supervise and interact more. There is a small room with an interactive screen, seats, books, tables, and chairs where they can be more creative or talkative.
I really feel that with the Curious George Saves the Day package, they got it 100% right for the kids. They created a perfect balance of whimsicality, learning, fun, exploration, and learning.
Do my children like Curious George more after the exhibit?
I do not believe they do but they have a better understanding of the life of its creators, where they come from, what they had to endure (I am not letting out any clues, you will have to go to the exhibition to find out more).
More importantly, they learned that not liking something does not mean closing yourself to it, that you can still learn from something you are not crazy about.
- You will learn a lot. I had no idea how much struggle the authors went through. One of my favorite interesting facts: my favorite: Curious George first name was Fifi, it was then changed to George.
- It is nice to see the dummy books, the personal belongings like the passport, inspirational for the children and it makes the Reys more real.
- the setting has a Parisian feel that us French, loved!
- the love and enthusiasm of the museum curator and staff. They definitely put up very interesting exhibitions year after year and this is one is no exception.
We would have loved
- more places to seat and draw. Call to see when the museum has low attendance and try to go these days. My children were sitting on the floor and drawing. It may have been more difficult if the places would have been open to the public. At the same time, I understand that the place is limited and putting crayons on the hands of small children in a museum setting is also hazardous
- if the suitcase had a strap to hang it on your shoulder. I sometimes did not know what to do with it. I guess that’s when I regretted I did not have a stroller anymore to put it on.
Know before you Go
- if you go with smaller children, you may not have time to really fully explore the exhibition as you would like to do, with an adult eye. Going through the activities in the suitcase is really interesting but it is hands one if you are with smaller children. Go as a couple or with friends and take turns supervising the little ones and their activities.
- No cameras allowed.
- Because children will draw and take some space, you may want to go when the museum is the least crowded. Weekdays first thing in the morning are the best times (Monday or Tuesday are the best of the weekdays).
Curious George saves the Day is open till March 13th, 2011
Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm
Closed on Wednesdays
The Museum is closed the first day of Passover, July 4, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, and New Year's Day.
The Museum is open on Christmas Day.
Senior and Students: $8
Thursdays after 5 pm: $5
Children under 18 are always free
Tips for a drama-free visit to a museum with kids