Gianna Smith ran around the makeshift grocery store and dodged other kids while she stuffed her basket full of plastic fruits and vegetables.
Her mother, Kimberly Smith, looked on as the 3-year-old hurried from one exhibit to another along with dozens of other kids Saturday morning as they celebrated an early start to 2017.
“We don’t want out to be late,” Smith said. “This is our New Year’s party.”
Children who wouldn’t be able to stay up until midnight celebrated with their own “noon” year Saturday at the Wonderscope children’s museum.
The Shawnee children’s center works to educate kids 8 years old and under about arts, science and literature.
The center is housed in an old school building, with rooms divided into exhibits such as a “TinkerSpace” with Lego toys, and a raceway where kids could build their own tracks.
Roxane Hill, the executive director of Wonderscope, said the activities offer a hands-on learning experience. Saturday’s celebration drew more than 100 children and was one of the most packed events at the museum this year.
“The purpose of a children’s museum is to learn through play,” Hill said. “We view ourselves as very much the informal partner for early education. All the elements of kids being kindergarten-ready, they can have here.”
Alyson Collins, from Olathe, said she brought her three kids to the museum to celebrate the end of 2016 without having to try and stay up until midnight.
“I feel like they’re always learning,” Collins said, “experiencing new things.”