There's no magic machine that sends kids on a time warp trip at Montpelier's Blast in the Past playground, but the hands-on history fun, with dress ups, tools and toys from the 18th century, comes pretty close to time traveling.
"We want history to be brought outside and for kids, to be fun and engaging," said museum educator Holly Burnham. And from her descriptions of the playground, there's no shortage of fun or engagement here.
At the history playgrounds, kids can travel back to 18th-century Maryland by dressing up in costumes and becoming 18th-century citizens from several walks of life. They can mix, grind and shred natural ingredients to make pretend medicine in an apothecary; pretend to milk a wooden cut-out cow and harvest vegetables with kid-sized tools as a farmer; or trim a hat as a milliner.
Burnham said a great outdoor/wilderness area on the playground is a big hit with boys, and offers a tent, some rabbit skins, fake muskets, a pretend pond for fishing with bamboo poles and a pretend fire to cook their kill.
The playground is set up with different stations or areas, and kids get some exercise by running from place to place at their own pace.
"One of the neat things is, kids make a connection between the sections," Burnham said. As the kids roam the playground, she said, farmers bring their vegetables to the market area; milliners bring their hats to the home area; and buckets of pretend farm-fresh milk are brought home to pretend farm families.
Healthy snacks and water are also available, helping Montpelier Mansion fulfill its membership of Let's Move Museums and Gardens, a national organization that is part of the effort initiated by Michelle Obama to fight childhood obesity and get kids eating healthy diets.
The playground history trips continue Wednesdays to Saturdays through Aug. 10, with an added bonus of a story time Saturday, Aug. 3 and 10.
Trips to the playground cost $1 ($2 for those that live outside Prince George's and Montgomery counties) and do not require advance reservations; just a lot of imagination.
"Kids make the connections, they are learning by just having fun," Burnham said.