November 8, 2005

A Day at the Capitol

We recently had a big all day field trip. We spent the morning at the State Capitol. There were around 75 of us including parents and kids. We divided our group into several smaller groups. We ran two tours concurrently - one for preschoolers and one for older kids.

The preschool tour - Pieces of the Puzzle was perfect for the younger set. They looked for shapes, colors, textures and particular symbols. The got to run around and even yell in their biggest outside voice in the main rotunda to hear their echo. Ciaran really seemed to enjoy himself. At one point during the tour we were sitting on the floor of the governors office when the tour guide said this room is ornate Ciaran said no it is beautiful. Sirah spent most of the tour in the Kelty backpack and all the kids seemed to enjoy themselves and have fun.

Meanwhile the older kids were working in small groups on a self-guided art treasure hunt tour. They each had a brochure and had to work their way through the building looking for 12 different items. They managed to do this quickly. The tour guide told me it should take about 45 minutes but most groups were done in about 20 minutes. They walked through the building for the rest of the time. Rhiannon enjoyed herself and she made a new friend and spent most of the day with her. I would say I would not schedule this tour again as a stand alone tour. They have other options and I would choose one of those.

We then went to lunch in the cafeteria. With some additional time to spend some families broke off to do different things in the capitol. We stayed with one other family and visited the Basillica church nearby. I was amazed at how quiet the kids were as we looked at the architecture, statues, and beautiful stained glass. I noticed how Ciaran took it all in. He is the one that likes very pretty and refined things. He of course did not like having to hold my hand however.

We also went to see the beautiful gold horse statues at the very top of the Capitol building. This is called the Qaudriga. You walk up a spiraling staircase to get to the top. The kids enjoyed looking at and both mentioned it first on the car ride home. This was our second time seeing these horses.

Then it was on to the group tour at the James J Hill house. The house was very beautiful and ornate. It was amazing to see the detail with which it was built. Even the doorways and molding was intricate and beautiful. The house was larger than I had anticipated. There were interesting things to see and learn.

However, this is definitely an older kid tour. While my kids often can handle and enjoy tours geared for older kids this one was especially difficult. The reason is because of the absolute "no-touch" policy. I can understand and support it because they are trying to preserve everything, even the workers use white gloves when they touch things.

Ciaran had an extremely difficult time with this in the beginning. Not because he was being bad so much as it was extremely tempting for him. It was not even that things were tempting to him as it was easy to forget. Even leaning against things or touching certain walls or ledges or tables in the middle of the room you could not touch. It was difficult for little kids to remember. Ciaran and I took a moment away from the tour and talked about it. When he understand that it was an absolute no touch policy it was easier. Most often we think of a no-touch policy on special times but it was hard to remember this about tables, ledges and other surfaces. He held my hand and did great the rest of the tour.

It did not help that our tour guide was a bit brisk and curt in her answering of questions. Kids are inquisitive by nature and it was sad to see their questions either get ignored, answered curtly, or shut down all together. It may have simply been the guide we had today was having a rough day but it was frustrating. Our group however is not easily daunted and continued to ask questions. We made the best of it as a group in a respectful way.

This was particularly frustrating to Rhiannon as she is a question asker. Yet I knew this was a possibility bringing young kids on the tour. I don't think I would recommend it for anyone under 8 and maybe even 10 would be a better age. Sirah slept through the entire thing in her sling.

My feet and legs are hurting tonight after wearing her in either the backpack or sling all day! off to get dinner ready.


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