BY SUSAN TOBIAS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The idea for a children’s museum in the North Country began one night as a group of friends sat around a dining-room table.
Each wanted a way for their children to be able to interact with other kids, have fun, stimulate their minds and learn skills that would eventually benefit them in elementary school and later in life.
From that get-together, the Imaginarium Children’s Museum of the North Country was born.
Just about few years later, the museum is a reality and looking to grow.
Museum President Jennifer Meschinelli said that after a couple of years of organizing, soul searching and rallying, they concluded there was a real need for such a place.
“As a result, we began thinking more seriously and believing that this could really happen,” she said at a kickoff for the museum’s most recent event, Blast Boredom campaign.
“We moved into this building about a year ago, and we are really happy with how it’s been supported. Now we need to take the next step to grow.”
They are already outgrowing the site, a large building at 4709 Route 9 South, Plattsburgh, especially with plans that eventually call for an outdoor space and larger indoor play areas.
“Part of our plans include a giant Lite Bright, a huge pirate ship and a massive lighted music floor,” Meschinelli said. “They take money, but they are not just for fun. The Lite Brite encourages sensory skills, the pirate ship helps with motor skills and the dance floor with movement and physical development.”
The present building is arranged into two basic areas. Birthday parties and meetings are held on one side, while the museum’s hands-on displays are on the other.
The staff and board will be considering whether to stay where they are, move to another location or build a new facility.
Their ideal someday would be a 40,000-square-foot building, fashioned after the Wild Center in Tupper Lake or ECHO in Burlington.
Staffed mainly by volunteers, the museum always has a place for anyone who wants to get involved, Meschinelli said. Educators, science, physics and technology people and retired teachers are especially welcome.
“If they are missing their days at school, they can be around the children for a few hours and then go home,” she said with a smile.
In the activities room, children have a hard time knowing what to do first. A climbing wall, a farmers market, dentist office with dental chair and dress-up corner are just waiting to be brought to life by a child’s imagination.
Simon Conroy of Beekmantown was cheering his daughter, Lucy, 3, as she scaled the climbing wall.
“She’s in preschool two days a week, and that leaves three days without any structure,” he said. “This is a nice place to come. She can interact with other kids, it’s nice for parents to socialize, and we love it.”
Conroy pointed out that a place like the Imaginarium Children’s Museum adds to the attractiveness of an area when businesses, colleges or schools are recruiting employees or if someone is trying to decide whether to stay in the North Country.
It adds to the great quality of life offered in the area and is good in the long run for the economy, he said.
Jessica Spiegel of Plattsburgh watched her son, Hudson, 2, as he crated eggs, filled baskets and pulled a party dress out of the dress-up corner.
“He loves it here and asks to come all the time,” she said. “They are doing well for what they started out with, and what is offered keeps changing so there’s always something new to do.”