After Alice tumbles into Wonderland in Lewis Carroll's famed 1865 novel, she engages in a wacky game of croquet with the Queen of Hearts in which flamingos are the mallets and hedgehogs the balls. Children visiting the new, interactive "Alice's Wonderland: A Most Curious Adventure" exhibit at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City pretend they, too, are with Alice at Crazy Croquet stations, where they use flamingo launchers to send golf balls zooming toward holes.
They'll crawl through a black tunnel "rabbit hole" like the one Alice fell down while pursuing the White Rabbit. They'll join in The Hatter's Mad Tea Party using plastic teapots and cups. And they'll explore a Hall of Doors in which each entryway gets tinier and tinier.
Alex Strahl's favorite part? "The tunnel," the 5-year-old from Commack says without hesitation. How many times has he gone through it? "Fifty," he shouts, then tempers his enthusiasm. "Actually nine." And he's off again.
"I'm going to have to drag them out of here," says Janna Todaro, head assistant caregiver at the Children's Greenhouse child care center of Garden City, which is visiting the exhibit on a class outing. "We've been to every exhibit here through the years. This is by far the best one, the most fun they've had in any of them to date."
The exhibit was created by Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose and will be on loan to Long Island through the end of August. The exhibit is free with regular museum admission, but complementary workshops and special events will be offered throughout the summer for a fee.
In addition to entertaining with its cartoon whimsy, the exhibit aims to introduce math, language and geography concepts to the kids through information at each area presented on playing cards in English and Spanish.
A spinning zoetrope uses scenes from the book to show kids the early methods of animation. The Digging to China station lets children roll a globe to a specific location, and a dual screen shows where they would land if they fell straight through the Earth like Alice.
The globe is director of exhibits Erik Schurink's favorite part of the Wonderland. "It's like the childhood memory of wanting to find the shortcut to the other side of the world," he says. He was impressed by how few points correspond to other lands rather than a body of water, he says.
As Schurink talks, kids swirl around him. "I love the Cheshire Cat," says Lydia Maeurer, 4, of West Hempstead as she plays with a station where the character's face appears and then disappears, leaving only his glowing grin behind like a crescent moon.
"I'm shrinking!" howl other kids as they run down the Hall of Doors.
Museum staffers say they're thrilled this exhibit has come in the summer, when so many families are on vacation and can enjoy its intergenerational appeal. Younger kids role-play, older kids are introduced to mathematical concepts such as angles and parabolas, and parents and grandparents relive the beloved story from their own childhoods.
WHEN | WHERE Now through the end of August at the Long Island Children's Museum, 11 Davis Ave., Garden City
INFO Free with museum admission of $12 for adults and children older than 1, $11 seniors, free to babies; 516-224-5800, licm.org
EXHIBIT SPECIAL EVENTS
See the Long Island Children's Museum website (licm.org) for Alice-themed afternoon workshops such as "Disappearing Act," which focuses on the Cheshire Cat's ability to vanish at will. At that event, kids learn about invisible ink and write secret messages with it. Workshops cost $3 to $4 per child. The museum also will host a "Mad Hatter's Party" from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 7 as a family fundraiser for the museum. Guests will be offered food and drinks, meet costumed characters from the story, and compete to make the best Mad Hatter hat; $20 a person. Advance registration is required for the party at 516-224-5802.