Children's museums can be just the ticket for family vacations, a rainy day, or just plain fun

Seattle Children's Museum

THE Children's Museum in Seattle is in the process of tripling its size to 32,000 square feet.

The expansion will help accommodate a growing number of visitors, including many from out of town, such as three-year-old Shon Case of Wellington, Ohio. When approached by a reporter, he hands over the taco he has made out of plastic ingredients in a kid-size restaurant. Then he runs over to a mock fire truck and picks up the radio handset. "I'm calling my mommy," he says.

"This is a great place if you're baby-sitting," says Joni Tamalonis, Shon's aunt.

Seattle's museum offers a variety of activities designed to teach simple concepts. Several new exhibits will open this October as the $4-million expansion is completed.

Current exhibits include:

* The neighborhood, where kids can play roles such as delivering mail, tending a grocery store, or serving up fast food in La Cocina Del Taco.

* Imagination Station, where children create their own works of art, guided by a guest artist. Each month features a different artist.

* Activity Annex, also with monthly changes. June is pegged as "gardening month," and kids learn to make and use worm bins to recycle organic waste.

* Cog City, in which children guide small wiffle balls through various pipes, mazes, and conveyor belts.

* A theater where children can act in a play or help with stage work such as lighting. One or more kids interact with recorded story lines.

Coming this fall are:

* Mountain and Forest, a simulated mountain where kids can climb or learn about trees, geology, and camping.

* An enlargement of the already sizeable "Keys to Your Health" exhibit, which focuses on health care and the functions of the human body.

* Global Village, which will help kids understand contemporary lifestyles in Japan, Ghana, and the Philippines.

* Historical Zone, exploring ancient cultures of Greece, China, and the Mayans.

Center House, Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle, WA 98109; (206) 298-2521

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