BY PAMELA KEECH
There are many marvels at WonderLab, the not-for-kids-only science museum on West 4th Street. One of them is the gift store, a bright, lofty space filled with toys, games, jokes, tricks, and trinkets, based on physics, geology, astronomy, mathematics, biology, paleontology, and other scientific amusements.
Colleen Couper, gift store manager, says she chooses stock that relates directly to the museum’s exhibits, with a goal to “balance educational value with what appeals to a child.” She hopes children will take home a toy or trinket to remember something they have experienced at the museum, from a bouncy ball to a bubble maker. Prices are geared to young shoppers, with as many as 100 items under $1.
Gemstones are the number-one seller. Kids fill a bag from bins of polished bits of quartz, agate, and other pretty pebbles, and sometimes spend an hour carefully selecting their favorites. A small bag is $2.98, a large bag is $5.98.
Construction sets by Wedgits, Zoob, and K’nex incorporate principles of science and math and are popular as gifts from grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
Eco-friendly Plan Toys blocks are made from recycled rubber trees and are appropriate for children from ages 3-6 months and up. For children with allergies, Aurora plush bears and bunnies are made from soy fiber and stuffed with 100 percent Kapok, which is completely hypoallergenic. For adults, there are nostalgic toys like pinwheels, toy boats, and Lincoln Logs.
Sea Monkeys, those microscopic shrimp that were a fad in the 1960s, come packaged to hatch, grow, and reproduce in a little clear plastic box of salt water. Long the butt of jokes, they are actually tiny elegant creatures with graceful legs that ripple around them as they slip through the water. Witnessing their life cycle is a drama for the entire family—name them, watch them, cheer them on. They can live for a year or more, and an “aquarium” is only $8.99-13.99, depending on size.
Museum hours can be found at wonderlab.org. It is not necessary to pay admission to browse in the gift store, and museum members get a 10 percent discount on purchases.