New Historical Play Space for Children Opens in Bayside

The Bayside Historical Society has created an inviting space within its headquarters, the Castle, where children can learn about everyday life as it was in Queens circa 1906.

Geared toward kids ages three and older, the new dedicated room gives children an opportunity to learn about their community at the turn of the 20th century through photographs, toys, tools, kitchen utensils puzzles and literature.  Visitors can also dress up in the styles of the time and view a Victorian dollhouse.

“The whole idea behind designating an area just for children stems from experiences I had with children who visited this building on class trips,” said Denise Johnson, BHS Vice President of Education.  “They would come in and marvel at the beauty of the place, the size of it, but there wasn’t much here for them to do.  They loved the building, but that wasn’t enough.  We wanted to create an area where children could be engaged.  And we now have that – a place where they can explore history through play, because after all, that is how they learn.”

Focusing on the turn of the century as a point in history was an easy decision, according to Johnson, because many of BHS’s educational programs for children concentrate on that era.  Also, she noted, 1906 seemed the perfect year to paint the stark comparison of rural Queens with its modern-day counterpart.

“If we would have chosen a year, say, a decade later, things changed drastically in terms of fashion, music, inventions,” said Johnson.  “This was the perfect year to teach children about the simple life, the rural life in Queens.  By engaging in self-exploratory activities in this room, they’ll have some concept of what life was like for children at that time… working in the kitchen, they’ll know what mama did, for instance.  History begins at home, and in order to understand the present, we have to know about the past and where we came from.”

The children’s room will be open on selected weekends during the spring; call 718-352-1548 in advance, or visit www.baysidehistorical.org for hours.  Special programming and activities will be announced.   Admission is $5 for the grand opening ($10 per family) on February 6, which includes the Victorian Valentine workshop, period games, activities, crafts, cross-stitching, costumes, and more.  Call in advance to register.

How to get there:

The Bayside Historical Society is located within Fort Totten Park, in Bayside, NY, and is accessible by both public transportation (Q13 or Q16 bus to Fort Totten) and car:  Cross Island Parkway North to exit #32 (Bell Blvd.).  Housed in a New York City landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bayside Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation of Bayside and offers a variety of cultural and educational programs, exhibits and events for the community.