'Glow' outside and play at Kohl Children's Museum holiday display
After a year like 2020, parents of young children are grasping for something -- anything -- to bring a sense of normalcy into lives turned upside down by the pandemic. So when the going got tough, the tough got glowing: Kohl Children's Museum has the perfect antidote to end the year on a bright note.
Kohlights: A Mesmertastic Holiday Lightacular opens at the museum's Glenview home Friday, Dec. 11, with displays on select dates through Sunday, Jan. 3. The first holiday light installation designed specifically for children allows young guests to explore properties of light and color by controlling and interacting with thousands of holiday lights in the museum's 2-acre outdoor exhibit, Habitat Park.
Tickets are $25 per person for the walk; Kohl Children's Museum members may purchase at a discounted rate of $20 per person. Infants younger than 12 months are admitted free. Advance reservations are required at www.kohlights.com. Limited preview spots are available Friday, Dec. 4, to Sunday, Dec. 6, with a $3 discount.
Kohlights encourages children to take control of the experience by changing colors, patterns, and motions of lights through several activity stations along the way. While the walk was created specifically with children 8 and younger in mind, other family members can also let their inner child come out to play as they experiment with various lighting patterns and hues.
Social distancing guidelines informed the development of the installation. All stations have "no-touch" activation, with children manipulating displays with their bodies through thermal sensors or using individual glow sticks provided at check-in. Limited timed entry to the one-way path allows family units to proceed with comfortable distance between other groups.
The Kohlights display was created specifically for Kohl Children's Museum by Lightswitch Chicago, under the direction of John Featherstone, who recently produced the Illumination: Tree Lights display at Morton Arboretum. His daughter, Hailey Featherstone, was the lead concept designer to help infuse a visually spellbinding event with the playful learning experience the museum is renowned for.
"Our members tell us they want and need some normalcy for their families," said Mike Delfini, president & CEO of Kohl Children's Museum. "Particularly during the holidays, interest in safe, outdoor events is high, and a family walk through festive holiday lights is a beloved way to mark the season. We are confident that families will respond positively to this highly interactive and colorful presentation that infuses our renowned brand of learning through play into the experience."
Activity stations along the trail include:
• Pixel Play Meadow: Thermal sensors read body heat of passing guests and project them onto a sea of lights in the Children's Meadow in the park. Children will see their movements reflected in the changing light patterns.
• Rainbow Arbor: Children can use glow sticks to turn a color wheel that will change lights on trees in the park's courtyard along the color spectrum.
• Color Play: A grove of trees on the park's south side are bedecked with lights whose colors are controlled by button stations along the path. Children can press buttons with glow sticks to change the hues on these trees, which include low branches for easy viewing.
• Rainbow Caterpillar: Another color wheel allows children to propel patterns of lights that wind up and down lighting fixtures on the park's Rolling Hill, mimicking a caterpillar's movement.
• Color Square Walk: A moving rainbow path of colors leads to the Lightacular's exit, letting children choose a color and follow it to the end of the path.
• Lighted Art Installation: Children can choose to deposit their glow sticks into one of hundreds of recyclable plastic bottles, forming a collaborative glowing artwork.
Staff members will be posted along the trail to assist with social distancing, and to regularly wipe down handles, buttons, and other elements with potential high-touch chances, despite the use of the glow stick "learning wands."
"The scale and contained nature of Habitat Park makes for a manageable, contained, and most of all, safe experience," added Delfini. "Our goal is to give families who are weary of remote learning and COVID fatigue an opportunity to explore and play as a family unit."
• The Kohl Children's Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, offers 17 hands-on exhibits for children 8 and younger that are all aligned to the Illinois State Learning Standards and designed to nurture a love of learning. For details, call (847) 832-6600.