Boston sightseeing is child's play-and more

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Boston provides ample opportunity for visiting youngsters to participate in what they see. And, like kids, the possible activities come in all shapes and sizes.

Museums, instead of being austere "don't touch" places, become lively, hands-on learning tools.

At the Museum of Fine Arts youngsters may put on smocks and paint their own masterpieces in the museum's Children's Room, while adults wander among the masterpieces. Drop-in workshops are also available at the Children's Arts Center. Along with dabbing in paint, outdoor summer sessions might include a visit from an exhibiting artist, or a ballet performance. Workshops are held weekday afternoons and Saturdays.

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Museum Wharf on Boston's waterfront contains the Museum of Transportation and the Children's Museum, both reached by an outside glass elevator. Children are kept so busy touching, looking, and doing that they can't be bored.

The Museum of Transportation is housed in a renovated 1880 wool warehouse. Children can climb on a Model-T fire engine, slide down a firehouse pole, and operate a small steamboat.

There's a taxi to "pretend drive;" a model suspension bridge to take apart and put together, then walk across; and an antique car to "get out and get under."

At the Children's Museum youngsters may explore the old Victorian days at the "Grandparents House" display. There's a working kitchen, old trunks in the attic, and furnishings that enable them to "be there."

The exhibit "What If You Couldn't?" allows a child to feel what it is like to be handicapped and what helps are available. The museum and its exhibits are designed to include the handicapped.

The Aquarium at the waterfront near Quincy Market features dolphin and sea lion shows and scuba divers feeding fish in a giant ocean tank.

The sky's the limit for youngsters who want a bird's-eye view of Boston. The Skywalk on the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower offers an audio-tour. The John Hancock Observatory, 60 floors up the John Hancock building, has a 15 -minute audio-visual presentation bringing back the Boston of 1775.

That was the year of the Battle Bunker Hill, and at the Bunker Hill Pavilion in Charlestown a multimedia presentation, "The Whites of Their Eyes," reminds youngsters of the first major battle of the American Revolution.

Visitors can go from land to sea by climbing aboard the United States Constitution -- "Old Ironsides" -- docked near Bunker Hill. At the Boston Tea Party Ship on the Congress Street bridge, tourists may hold their own private protests by throwing a tea chest overboard.

American historic sites are everywhere. In the North End, children see the Old North Church where the famous lamp was hung for Paul Revere -- "one if by land, two if by sea." The Freedom Trail is painted in red on the sidewalks of boston so it is easy to follow.

One of the best ways to familiarize a youngster with Boston is to walk along its streets taking in the variety of shops, eating spots, and faces. The Historic Neighborhoods Foundation sponsors the walking tour "Make Way for Ducklings," introducing children to Boston's Beacon Hill and Public Garden. The tour route is based on the one taken by the mallards in Robert McCloskey's well-known children's book of the same title.

Boston also offers a gamut of theater and music of special interest to children.

The Puppet Showplace located on Station Street in Brookline presents puppeteers from the Boston and New England area each weekend.

Crosswalk Theater at the Children's Museum holds creative dramatics workshops for both handicapped and nonhandicapped children. The opening of Jay O'Callahan's "The Little Dragon" is scheduled for early in May.

Enjoyment while learning is the aim of Youth Concerts offered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Three different series of concerts are offered, each with excerpts from fine music. Lecture demonstrations, and a "peek behind the curtain," on a Symphony Hall tour also add to a child's musical discoveries.

For those walks on summer days children can laugh with mime troupes that may appear out of nowhere. Or move with Boston Ballet dancers, and hum with the Boston Pops -- both appear at the Esplanade on the east bank of the Charles River at various times during the summer.

For a copy of the guidebook, Greater Boston Museums and Entertainment, call the Greater Boston Convention and Tourist Bureau (617) 536-4100.

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