As the mother of a 7-year-old who absolutely loves science, I jumped at the chance to check out the new Children’s Science Center Lab at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, VA. Before going, I checked the website to make sure it would also be fun for my 4-year-old daughter and almost 2-year-old son. It’s geared toward the pre-school and elementary crowd (and kids under age 2 are free), so off we went!
The CSC Lab is designed for children to create, learn, imagine and experiment with all sorts of hands-on activities to help them learn STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) principles.
The Experiment Bar was our first stop. My kids first chose to create “magnetic slime.” It sounded messy, and I was thrilled to be doing it somewhere besides my home!
A staff member set out all the ingredients and tools to make the slime. The instructions were simple and shown on a tablet so my second grader could read them himself. As the goo transformed into a solid object, the employee explained how magnetic fields work (in a fun and simple way) and gave my kids a magnet to interact with their slime. The kids were giggling, my son was asking questions and they were having a ball! We did two more experiments at the bar, involving a balloon and bubbles.
The Tinker Shop was just as fun. Stations include building a robotic arm, experimenting with a wind tube, making a magnet train and building with LEGOs. Instructions are included at each station, but kids are also encouraged to create something unique. My kids kept gravitating toward the wind tube. How could they not? You can make a creation of cardboard, cups, straws, etc., throw it up the tube and then watch it float around. It was awesome!
The Inspiration Hub focuses on energy and features wind turbines and a gear table. The most popular display is the “chain reaction.” Basically, kids get to design a wall track for balls to drop into, then they watch the chain reaction as the ball drops from track to track.
The Discovery Zone is geared toward children under age 5. They can build or climb on foam blocks, read a book, play with musical instruments, solve puzzles or just crawl around. My almost 2-year-old and 4-year-old had a lot of fun in this room.
We stayed for about 2½ hours and my kids wanted to stay longer. We all had a great time. My 7-year-old son thinks it’s the greatest place ever and asked when we can go back. My 4-year-old daughter had just as much fun and happily carried her “surfboard” (made of a piece of cardboard, a paper cup and paper clips) back to the car.
I also had a great time not only watching my kids learn with excitement, but I enjoyed some tinkering and experimenting too. A staff member told us they change the activities and experiments frequently, so it stays fresh for the kids. They also offer birthday party packages, workshops and demonstrations.
The Children’s Science Center Lab is located at Fair Oaks Mall (between Sears and Lord & Taylor) in Fairfax, VA. It’s open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (with extended hours until 8 p.m. on some Fridays and Saturdays). Admission is $12 per person for ages 2 and older; ages 2 and under are free.
childsci.org • www.facebook.com/ChildrensScienceCenter
11948 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax, VA • (703) 648-3130
Pamela Prado is a former TV news anchor turned stay-at-home mom in Northern VA, with a passion for social media. If she’s not rushing her kids to acting/modeling gigs or taking them to dance, soccer or baseball, she’s heading out to explore the rich history of the D.C. area.