Entertaining children can be done the hard way (lots of freeway miles) or the easy way (firing up the laptop). Or you can take advantage of L.A.’s many cultural and scientific wonderlands that offer the ultimate distractions: workshops that will have youngsters slapping down paint, whipping up meals, or delving into the softer side of science. Most activities are free with paid admission (some institutions don’t even charge that). Get the most for your buck and afterward take in the exhibits, where your progeny can show off their newfound acumen.
As if Noah’s Ark weren’t enough fun, the Skirball Cultural Center has opened its Family Art Studio to the public the last weekend of the month (until recently access has been limited to school holidays). Kids can repurpose fabric and feathers into finger puppets of paired animals or fashion scrolls out of burlap. Noah would be proud. » 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood, 310-440-4500.
At the Museum of Contemporary Art, the child in your life might view an installation and yell, “I can do that!” Now the junior critic gets to prove it. On March 7, after touring Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years, small fry can create a painting, sculpture, or whatever inspires them under the scrutiny of a guest artist. Call it curator’s revenge. » 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown, 213-626-6222.
Ongoing activities at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens are a sort of finishing school for the cookie-crunching set. When your kids have had their fill of Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, a course in flower arranging awaits. If the library sounds more appealing, they can learn the dying art of book binding or channel Emily Dickinson by writing a poem. » 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, 626-405-2100.
Name a child who doesn’t like playing with goo. So it’s practically guaranteed yours will plunge into lessons on how to concoct the slimy stuff at the California Science Center. This month CSC participates in “NanoDays,” a nationwide festival of programs on the science of things really small. Past projects have included making liquid crystal sensors, which only the instructors and their diminutive apprentices seem to know how to use. » 700 Exposition Park Dr., South L.A., 323-724-3623.
The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium helps adventurers ages two to four become mini Cousteaus. Weekly classes might involve going to the nearby shore, where students identify seashells and other marine life. They can then apply their findings to crafts assignments, such as designing name tags with nautical themes. All this seafaring means that future visits to the aquarium should be smooth sailing. » 3720 Stephen M. White Dr., San Pedro, 310-548-7562.
Good and Plenty
The workshops at Kidspace are like chocolate chips in a brownie: indulgence inside an indulgence. The place already hums with daily activities like painting and gardening, but at some point your tykes might prefer specialized instruction in such esoteric pursuits as transforming stones into “bug” rocks. This month they can build an erupting volcano, much like Dr. Evil’s. No hot magma involved. » 480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena, 626-449-9144.
The folks at Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural must not enjoy sleeping. In addition to leading cooking lessons that explore cuisines from around Latin America, they offer art courses in clay, glass, and silk screen. Low-income families are given first consideration. » 13197A Gladstone Ave., Sylmar, 818-939-3433.