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Round Lake Neighborhood Museum reopens with more hands-on spaces

Andrew Ellis5 Round Lake pushes Cale Hatten 1 Libertyville fire truck Children's Neighborhood Museum located Round Lake ArePark District Rolek

Andrew Ellison, 5, of Round Lake pushes Cale Hatten, 1, of Libertyville in a fire truck at the Children's Neighborhood Museum located in the Round Lake Area Park District Rolek Community Center at 814 Hart Road in Round Lake. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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General hours for the museum are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30; Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons from 1:30 to 3:30; Monday evenings from 5:30 to 7:30; and Wednesday evenings from 5 to 6:30, during which admission is free. For more information, call (847) 546-8558, extension 248.

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Updated: November 4, 2012 1:54AM

When the Round Lake Area Park District’s community center opened on Hart Road in 1987, a large room adjacent to the main gymnasium was designated for gymnastics, and a smaller room connected to that was set aside for fitness equipment.

About eight years ago, the main room was transformed into the Children’s Neighborhood Museum, a space for toddlers and preschoolers to interact not only with exhibits but each other. The transformation continued last month with a renovation project that expanded into the connecting room, paving the way for a grand re-opening ceremony scheduled for this Saturday.

“When it started out, we built a few buildings and then it just gradually grew from there,” said Museum Director Peggy Johnson. “We just keep adding thematically to the neighborhood — it’s like your neighborhood, with a house and a fire truck and everything.”

Some of the results of the renovation — which closed the facility from Aug. 13 through last weekend — are subtle, such as installation of a new “crawler zone” for infants and a “daycare center” for dolls in a small structure that used to be a “construction site.”

Larger additions include a play structure in one corner of the main room and a new “fishing pond” in the former fitness room, which was also fitted with a “library” and a room that can be reserved for birthday parties.

One artistic change can be seen with a glance at the floor. Using donated paint, Johnson and volunteers that included her family members, created a mini-roadway that loops around the room to pass such neighborhood stops as a grocery store, police station and performing-arts stage.

“This whole room was carpeted,” Johnson said Tuesday shortly after the room was re-opened to museum members. “It’s funny, because we had a donation of paint and we started the roadways, and the carpeting just absorbed the paint like crazy, so I’m glad we had a lot of free (gallons) of paint. Now, it’s like a rubberized surface.”

The museum’s exhibits invite children from 1 through 6 years of age to play with hands-on materials, such as imitation fruits and vegetables to load into a grocery cart, or magnetic fishing poles that lift plastic fish out of the acrylic-surface pond.

The facility is open to the general public with an admission price of $5 per child, and all children must be accompanied by an adult chaperone. Annual memberships are available for $85, which allow unlimited admission for two children and two adults from the same household.

Saturday’s re-opening ceremony is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to noon, with special features that include refreshments, free prize drawings and discounts on new memberships.

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