KidsPlay Children’s Museum in Torrington opens Asian exhibit

TORRINGTON— KidsPlay Children’s Museum brings kids’ imaginations to life, with interactive exhibits that let them play, build, pretend and learn, all in one place.

The museum, located on Main Street across from the Warner Theatre, was recently chosen to host a Freeman Foundation Asian Culture Exhibit prototype, providing learning opportunities about South Korea, China and Japan. The new exhibits showcase the different cultural elements of each country.

Eileen Marriott, executive director of KidsPlay, said the exhibit, simply called “Play,” is designed for children and families to explore contextual book structures that depict different types of play; interactive with role-playing and storytelling. The South Korea exhibit, for example, is about Jeju “Mermaid” divers from the Jeju Islands, where a real group of female divers called Haenyo. They are able to dive deep into the ocean to gather seafood to sell. “These are the real Jeju sirens,” Marriott said.

The exhibit features interactive bubbles built into the structure and an “ocean tunnel” that reveals sea creatures. Nearby, a stall at the Busan Jagalchi Fish Market teaches children how to use a working scale to weigh fish and shellfish.

For China, the exhibit represents a panda sanctuary, where children can care for imaginary pandas, feed them giant bamboo, listen to their heartbeats and watch x-rays of their paws. The panda section also has Chinese street food stalls, where visitors can pretend to sell candied berries, scallion pancakes, and steamed dumplings.

The Japanese part of the exhibition features a Kigumi building wall, explaining and showing the traditional craft of joining wood without nails or screws; in Japan, this craft is still used to build temples, houses, toys and furniture. Children can try this practice.

The Asian programs also include a build series, where children can identify the landmarks of each country’s capital and then build their own city on each other’s plans.

As part of participating in the exhibit prototype showcase at KidsPlay, the members ask visitors for feedback and share that feedback with the foundation. “We’re hearing from people after their visit saying they want more programs, series and longer-term things that integrate culture with learning,” Marriott said. “That’s where interactive exhibits come in for that, because kids learn through play, and it also incorporates culture. We’ve never done that before; we use STEM, we use music; our space of creation (which recently reopened), but not something like that.”

KidsPlay helps the Freeman Foundation expand its work to develop a greater appreciation for Asian cultures and histories. The exhibition will be on display in Torrington until the end of the year. For more information on KidsPlay and all it has to offer, visit

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