A group of tussling 4-year-old boys careened down a slide. Two toddlers pulled a miniature stagecoach. And a group of giggling older children tossed hay around.
Opening weekend at the 6,200-square-foot Little Learners Children's Museum brought hundreds of children and their parents in for a look around. Friday night, during Monrovia's Family Festival, the center was filled to capacity.
"My whole staff really had to run around just to keep up with the crowd," said Miriam Justice, a longtime Pasadena resident, public school teacher and educational psychologist who started the museum venture.
Little Learners grew out of a family day-care center Justice ran out of her home for three years. "I learned a lot from those kids. What they need, what they like, what makes them happy," she said.
The result at her family-owned business combines elements of a toy and gift shop and a preschool playroom.
It does not have the kinds of large, hands-on climbing and exploring exhibits or science demonstrations found at many other local children's museums, such as Kidspace in Pasadena. Instead, the Little Learners format divides its space into eight playrooms filled with toys and posters; the center will offer classes in each room.
For example, the fire station is not set up like a model station, with the fire pole and old fire engine to climb on that you might expect at a museum. Rather, it features toy firetrucks and firemen. Classes will teach fire safety and earthquake preparedness. Similarly, the post office has some toy mail trucks and small toy mailboxes, but no hands-on sorting stations or mock-up of a real mailbox or mailbags. A future class will teach children how to write and mail a letter.
The Space Room features a glow-in-the-dark sky full of stars and planets placed in a random pattern rather than a genuine imitation of a real night sky.
In the back, Grandma's Kitchen offers snacks and tables for parents and children to sit and rest a while.
What: Little Learners Children's Museum
Where: 601 S. Myrtle Ave., Monrovia
When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
How much: $4 adults, $3 senior citizens and children ages 2 through 12. Kids under 2 are free. Classes will start at $3 a session.
For more information: (818) 359-1047