Pretend City Museum in Irvine, CA is an awesome place where children can learn how the real world works through imaginative play using the museums’ interactive exhibits mirroring the real world. Everything at the museum is so lifelike and real that it’s kind of funny to look at it from a child’s perspective.
The crazy part is that while there, the kids know exactly what each exhibit is, how it works, and the magnitude of the work behind it all. That’s because the kids can “work.” As in, clock in/clock out and get “paid” for their “job” at the exhibits.
It just goes to show you that children are extremely observant and are aware of our everyday life and interactions.
We were invited to attend the museum with our baby girl. When we arrived, we immediately headed to the gift shop, known as the “mini mall.” It was full of all kinds of fun items to encourage play from things for dress up, books to read, toys similar to those in the museum and more! You can easily spend a VERY LONG time in this shop. It’s a great stop before or after visiting the museum.
Next, we headed into the museum and immediately spotted the art studio. We didn’t go inside but were immediately intrigued by the kids getting one on one, hands-on art instructions from the volunteers.
We continued on through the museum and were extremely overwhelmed by the kids and parents running around, playing and having all kinds of fun. We decided to walk around the museum to see the space in its entirety before we dove into play ourselves. Baby girl LOVED the under 2-year-old park. If it weren’t for mommy (me) wanting to see her play in all the other exhibits, I think she would’ve just stayed in this park for hours. She loved watching all the bigger kids climb on top, through and around the cushioned mats.
Continuing on, we immediately fell in love with the beach exhibit, because it is very familiar to us (living in Laguna Beach and all). It was so awesome to see the Laguna Beach lifeguard tower painted on the wall with REAL sand (I think it was real?) in the pit and even a seal…(or sea lion? I still don’t know the difference. Sorry high school marine biology teacher!). Laguna Beach is home to many beaches and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, so you know the museum did their research when planning that exhibit.
Throughout the museum, you’ll find numerous street signs with encouraging names. We especially liked “Diversity Drive,” as one of the main things that the museum strives for is teaching the importance of acceptance and diversity. You’ll find this through the many holidays that the museum recognizes by updating some of their exhibits to celebrate other cultures from the food to the traditional activities.
The post office is too cute. I spotted a young man writing a letter and learning how to prepare it for mail delivery.
Our favorite exhibit is the Trader Joe’s exhibit. And by “our” favorite, I mean MY favorite! I can’t believe how much it looks EXACTLY like Trader Joe’s. Kids come through and either work the store by putting on a uniform, clocking in and working the register or grabbing a cart and stocking up on some groceries. Our baby girl LOVED it. There are only three carts because it can get REAL crazy in there. You know, like real grocery shopping sometimes. So when we finally snagged one, our baby girl headed straight for the aisles like a BOSS. She was so cute! She would grab something, throw it in the cart and continue that process over and over. She loaded up on fruits and veggies. That’s my girl 😉
The home exhibit is very cute and cozy. It has a tv and a fireplace, bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. It also has a doorbell, which I thought was the cutest thing ever for some reason.
The details in each exhibit are so well thought out. I was amazed by the amount of detail put into each one. The police station with the jail cell, the cafe with the food, menus, and sinks for dishes to the construction site with hard hats and pipes to build with. There sure is plenty to do and so much to learn for the kids and even for us adults.
Our kids are watching us, our every move even when we’re out and about and interacting with people at the grocery store, at cafes, in our homes, etc…. Also, we need to stop for a moment and play. Be kids with them, get down on the ground and climb things. The joy in their faces watching you be a big kid is the cutest. Plus, it’s actually REAL fun.
There is so much more to this museum. We didn’t even get to all of the exhibits during our time at Pretend City and I feel like we did so much. Additionally, there is is an amphitheater, a bank, a fire station, a farm, a dentist office and a doctors office. Which basically means we need to make a trip back to the museum soon!
Pretend City Museum is located at:
Irvine, CA 92618
They host birthday parties, rent out their facility for special events and team building activities, plan numerous field trips and hold classes and workshops. You can even volunteer at the museum in many areas!
Here are some of their upcoming events:
- June 12 – Baby Steps through Pretend City (Daddy & Me)
- June 14 – Flag Day Celebration
- June 16 – HomeSchool Day
- June 18 – Father’s Day Super Dad Games!
- June 20 – Summer Solstice Celebration & Summer Kick-Off Celebration