Part of Exhibition: The Children's Garden



of an Exhibit

by Justine Roberts

Published on February 15, 2011 , Modified on May 12, 2012

  • Description:

    The outdoor exhibit space in Providence strikes me as a real challenge. It is long and narrow, wrapping around the corner of the building in an L. It is sandwiched between the building and the parking lot without much buffer – no break of trees for instance. It can be quite cold in Providence making the space really a seasonal exhibit. And the main interior ramp actually overhangs part of the space, creating a low recessed area. It isn’t immediately obvious that it would make for a great exhibit space.

    But Underland is charming. Here, visitors step into character as a burrowing creature exploring an underground house. There are costumes to put on if you want, a kitchen and a music room, and some “friends” to discover as you explore. For my kids – who read Wind in the Willows, Stuart Little, Peter Rabbit and of course Winnie the Pooh – this setting tapped directly into their storybook imaginations and they were drawn seamlessly in.

    The physical environment is an underground tunnel with tree roots hanging overhead, portholes containing other animal families and nests in the side wall, and a crawl-through area smartly tucked under the overhanging building. Our favorite thing about the exhibit may have been the acorn caps lying in amazing abundance for use as food and drink and whatever else your play led to. The kitchen area was all wood – stump stools, rough hewn bowls and a wood counter area. It was as if the Magic Cabin Waldorf toy catalogue had come to life! The musical instruments, also wood, were appealing too. The use of wood outside seems obvious, but on reflection I don’t think its that common.

    The larger exhibit has other zones with physical activity as a focus and some seasonal water. And the Luckey climber is tall and iconic. But Underland holds it own as a space rich in play value, inviting and robust, and highly successful.

Latest Comments (1)


by Janice O'donnell - February 16, 2011

Thanks for the nice words, Justine. What we at Providence Children’s Museum especially love about Underland is the deep pretend play it evokes. And because it’s outside, adults often find a sunny spot at a table or on the stone wall and let their children alone to really engage in their own self-directed imaginative play. I am glad your kids enjoyed it – and that you did too!

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