Pretend City offers a hands-on learning experience for children that even adults will enjoy. Bring children and let them play in a city their size, all while learning important skills that will stick with them for their entire lives. Pretend City opened in 2009 in Irvine, California. The goal of the children’s museum is to help assist kids with learning foundational math, science and reading skills, while having fun and fostering creativity, curiosity, problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, organization, socialization, and self-confidence.

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It is a non-profit seeking to “build better brains.” They also hold twice monthly autism related events like workshops, relaxation classes, and family days.

Permanent Exhibits

The children’s museum offers 17 different interactive exhibits! Make sure to budget enough time for children to see everything as a visit can often take a whole day. Pretend City is open from 11:00am to 5:00pm on Sunday, from 10:00am to 1:00pm on Monday, and from 10:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday through Saturday.

The exhibits are modeled after a pint-sized city, meant to teach children about real life in a way that speaks to them on their level. Below are just a few of the favorites!

Amphitheater - Lets children express themselves and helps them to develop self-confidence while building both emotional and social skills.

Art Studio - Children can create art while exercising their imagination, building their creativity, and helping hone their fine motor skills.

Bank - Helps children learn about numbers and the concepts of addition and subtraction as well as the math skills of categorizing and sorting.

Beach - This exhibit helps teach children about how important it is to protect and conserve beaches. It also helps them learn about cause and effect, as well as how to build their own leadership skills (and put them to use for this important cause).

Construction - Lets children learn about number concepts like less vs more, and longer vs shorter. It also teaches them about geography as well as social skills.

Cafe - Cooking at the cafe helps children learn not only about creating healthy meals but also about appreciate diversity through learning about multicultural dishes.

Emergency Services - Children will learn about active listening, as well as how to read maps, plan routes efficiently and build team working and problem-solving skills.

Farm - Learning about the farm helps children be able to visualize the process of food and how it travels from the farm to the table, as well as helping with negotiation and critical thinking.

Gas Station - Children will learn how to use active problem solving by using the trial and error method. It also helps them to develop critical thinking and fine motor skills.

Imagination Playground - The playground features blocks that challenge children to build all sorts of creations. Child directed play has been said to be one of the best ways to encourage active learning, and children visiting have built all sorts of different things - factories, shops, skyscrapers, etc. The sky is the limited and, with unstructured play, children lead the way.

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Educational Opportunities

Due to the mission of the children’s museum, it makes for a great and interactive field trip learning experience for students from preschool through second grade. The options align with the standards of Common Core and are available from Monday through Friday (morning field trips are available Monday through Thursday only, and afternoon field trips are only available on Thursday and Friday). There are both guided and self-guided choices, and both field trips last around two and a half hours with two hours of that being free exploration and half an hour being reserved for lunch time in one of the Community Rooms. Guided options include an additional half an hour for a lesson at the beginning as well. Field trips do require reservations in advance as well as a non-refundable deposit to hold the slot. Contact Pretend City for more information as well as to reserve space. There is a fee per student, but adult chaperones are free.

Dining and Shopping

Once children are done dining in the Pretend City cafe, they can come grab a bite to eat at the real cafe, which features vending machine options that offer healthy choices like salads, sandwiches, and fruit snacks. The facility is nut free. For those wanting to take a piece of the children’s museum home with them, the Mini Mall has a selection of take home learning based items for purchase.

Pretend City Children’s Museum, 29 Hubble, Irvine, CA, 92618, Phone: 949-428-3900