The title character of the newest exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta might not want a bath, but the attraction is taking the opposite tack in regard to cleanliness during the pandemic.
The exhibit — “The Pigeon Comes to Atlanta! A Mo Willems exhibit” — runs through May 9. And while the star of many of Willems’ books — including “The Pigeon Needs a Bath” — isn’t wearing a mask, it is required for all other visitors over the age of 2.
That’s just one of the new operating procedures put in place to help families navigate the museum during the pandemic. While some of the rules — including the museum operating at 25% of its 500-person capacity — have changed, the fun it provides has not.
Those familiar with Willems’ work will enjoy interacting with his characters, including best friend duo Elephant and Piggie, faithful companion Knuffle Bunny and the aforementioned Pigeon. But you don’t have to know the characters to have a good time.
My family is proof of that. We didn’t know much about Willems or The Pigeon before our visit, but quickly became fans. (As you may have guessed, we now own “The Pigeon Needs a Bath.”)
The activities are fun for everyone. Who doesn’t enjoy trying to hit a target with a foam hot dog (more on that later)? Or tracing illustrations made by Willems? Or playing with huge building blocks?
The exhibition, which is co-organized by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, is inspired by the art and characters of Willems, the beloved children’s book author and illustrator.
There are many fun activities for children, including:
♦ Having a hilarious conversation in the voices of Elephant Gerald and Piggie at a double-sided phone booth.
♦ Making Elephant and Piggie dance with old-time animation.
♦ Putting on a wearable bus and taking a drive around the exhibit in homage to the Willems book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!”
♦ Spinning the laundromat washing machine and uncovering Knuffle Bunny and other surprises.
♦ Dressing up Naked Mole Rat and sending him down the runway for a one-of-a-kind fashion show.
♦ Stacking lightweight blocks to create your own terrible monster or funny friend.
♦ Launching foam hot dogs at The Pigeon and playing the plinko game to give the Duckling a cookie.
♦ Trying out art techniques that Mo Willems uses for his own books.
Families can enjoy the exhibit by following the new procedures implemented by the museum in response to COVID-19. Those protocols include:
♦ Limited capacity in each session to encourage social distancing
♦ Deep cleaning between each session.
♦ The continued cleaning of high touchpoints throughout the museum during each session.
♦ Museum staff wearing masks on the floor at all times.
♦ Face masks being required for everyone 2 years and older.
♦ An open air space on the patio that is designated for guests to take PPE breaks.
♦ Both Art Studio and Build It! Lab projects taking place in open spaces.
♦ Additional hand sanitizing stations have been installed throughout the museum.
♦ No food is allowed inside the museum.
♦ No cash is accepted at the Museum Store or during membership purchases.
“The Museum’s COVID-19 protocols have been a big hit,” museum officials said in a statement. “We are receiving positive feedback in regards to each procedure put in place – especially on social media.
“Thanks to our limited capacity requirement, guests are able to enjoy all the Museum has to offer and they are so appreciative of our mask and deep-cleaning precautions.”
The limited capacity is definitely appreciated, allowing for kids to have an enjoyable time without being crowded near each other. And the cleaning is noticeable, with museum employees constantly sanitizing the play areas.
It all adds up to a good time for the kids. Even if at the end of the day, like the Pigeon, they end up having to take a bath.