9 Splashy New Things at the Providence Children's Museum

The popular "Water Ways" exhibit has been renovated and expanded and is scheduled to open next weekend.

Little kids love to splash, and for many growing up in Rhode Island, the “Water Ways” exhibit at the Providence Children’s Museum was the room they never wanted to leave. The museum’s most popular exhibit has attracted more than two million visitors since it opened sixteen years ago.

But that’s a long time for water to be flowing seven days a week. The infrastructure needed updating, and new technology had been developed in the meantime.

So about two years ago, the museum decided to reimagine “Water Ways” — and make it even cooler.

“Water is just the ultimate material for kids,” says executive director Janice O'Donnell “They can do whatever they want with it. It’s physics and it’s imagination and it’s beauty.”

The museum shut down the exhibit in September to renovate the space. They have expanded the exhibit to include water in other forms: mist and ice. It opens next weekend. Here are some features to look out for:

  1. After entering the exhibit, kids will see a mist bell. They will be able to manipulate the shape of the bell with a valve. And when they break the surface tension with their hands, they will create “a ghostly mist.”
  2. A new, nine-foot-tall waterfall tank will show kids how heavy water is. “We want kids to work for their water,” says Exhibits Director Robin Meisner.
  3. They’re bringing back the popular water fountain, but adding a mist component so kids can compare how different forms of water move.
  4. The waterfall tank will also feature a new activity with running water that replicates the experience of building a dam, with a vortex at the end.
  5. The popular maze building activity is coming back, and kids will be able to change the flow of water in two different directions.
  6. The exhibit will also feature a new contemplative area, where kids can use tools such as ice cube trays and cookie cutters to sculpt ice.
  7. The new “Water Ways” will also feature some impressive, kid-friendly art, including a windwall created out of nearly 2,000 fishing lures that moves in response to the wind, and a ceramic and glass mural inspired by the sea.
  8. Kids can also get to “paint” with water on a slate blackboard recovered from a school. “The challenge will be to see how much they can cover before it disappears,” says spokeswoman Megan Fischer.
  9. A new toddler area features kid-level troughs with spigots, where kids can scoop and pour water. It also features a vortex that kids can touch and interrupt the flow, changing its shape, or throw a ball in. And the popular zig zag tank is also returning.

The museum will have a preview of “Water Ways” for museum members on Friday, November 7. The opening weekend celebration will take place Saturday, November 8, and Sunday, November 9. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Free for members, $9 for non-members. 100 South St., Providence, 401-273-5347, childrenmuseum.org.