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10 Best Children's Museums: 2011

Tons of cool stuff to touch, one-of-a-kind educational exhibits, and special events galore put these kid-driven museums on top of our must-visit list.
Boston Children?s Museum 4. Boston Children's Museum

Take notes. While your kid is catching a pretend bus, putting books and pencils in a backpack, and playing school in the new Countdown to Kindergarten! permanent exhibit, you can ask a volunteer teacher questions you have about the first day of school. Or drop by PlayLab, where scientists from MIT give child-development advice and may ask if your kid (3 months to age 8) wants to watch a puppet show, listen to a story, or play a game as part of a study. "The results from PlayLab help us shape the activities in our room for babies and toddlers," says Jeri Robinson, Ed.D., vice president of early childhood education and family learning. "We do more with messy materials like shaving cream and sand because the scientists found they're useful for developing fine motor skills in young kids." Parents of Dorothy and Toto fans: Save your visit until the Wizard of Oz traveling exhibit rolls into town from May 23 to September 10. Kids can create a tornado, experiment with color prisms in the Emerald City, and climb into the Wicked Witch's castle. Best for ages 6 months to 8. ($12 for adults and children, kids under 1 free)