A three-year-old’s adventure at Body Worlds

A couple of weeks ago I decided to take my three-and-a-half-year-old son, JR, to see the Body Worlds & the Brain exhibit at the Science Museum of Virginia. Sure, sure, the exhibit is recommended for children over eight, but I like to live dangerously.


A couple of weeks ago I decided to take my three-and-a-half-year-old son, JR, to see the Body Worlds & the Brain exhibit at the Science Museum of Virginia. Sure, sure, the exhibit is recommended for children over eight, but I like to live dangerously. I figured worst case: permanent emotional scarring; best case: SCIENCE.

I didn’t do a whole lot of prep work with JR before we saw all of the blood and bones; he tends to get a little spooked when things seem like A Big Deal, so I kept it super casual. We looked at one of the pictures from the exhibit’s website, and I explained that that was what he looks like under his skin. When I asked if he’d want to see more things like that he said, “Yeah! That’s so cool!” He’s yet to think of skeletons as “scary” or connected with things like “death,” and I didn’t mention that blood is “gross.” Right now he just thinks bodies are cool, so, obviously, the inside of bodies are even cooler.

So off we trundled to the museum on one of the one trillion degree days we’ve been having lately–luckily Body Worlds is in the Science Museum’s dark, air-conditioned basement, which is a total plus during the exhibit’s summertime run. We’d brought along JR’s iPhone so he could take some pictures but were sternly told that no photography is allowed.1 But no matter! JR’s sadness was quickly assuaged by the adventure of going through the turnstile and heading onto a path surrounded by dead people and their various parts!

Visually, Body Worlds is pretty striking and, depending on your squeamishness threshold, may or may not make you want to fall down.2 I have a tendency to get a little wobbly when I’m in a hospital/medical setting, but I did well–I think mostly because I spent the majority of my time loudly whispering3 answers to JR’s questions instead of peering into the guts of some dead guy.

As with anything, the quality of your experience with Body Worlds with tots in tow will depend a lot your kids–and all kids are different. Some kids are bound to be freaked out by skinless bodies (as are some parents). Some kids will think its the coolest thing since Power Rangers.4 JR was somewhere in between: he wasn’t freaked out, but after running up to each and every plasticized human he’d take a quick look and hurry on to the next one. We spent a grand total of 20 minutes working our way through the exhibit.

While we both enjoyed Body Worlds, you’re sure to get more out of what it has to offer if 1) you are taller than 36 inches and 2) you can read. In addition to the standup cases containing the bodies, the exhibit includes loads of plasticized organs on tables with placards explaining things like this is a lung after years of smoking (cue me falling down) or this is a strong, healthy heart. Little people will have a hard time getting a good look at these sorts of things and an even harder time reading the placards. But if you hoist them up and do a little explaining, they’re sure to learn something.

Of course when we got back from the exhibit, the first thing people wanted to know from JR was what he liked best. He offered the typical three-year-old’s response of “I don’t know” accompanied by a lot of blinking,5 but judging by the reactions I saw, two items stood out for him. The first was a run-of-the-mill skeleton at the very front of the exhibit. He looked at that thing (especially its feet bones) longer than anything else. Second, he LOVED this goat that was basically made of blood–which sounds absolutely terrifying. Put simply, they took away every part of a goat that wasn’t a blood vessel, leaving you the shape of a goat…but made completely of blood. Gross but neat.

Which basically sums up my feelings on the exhibit: gross but neat. And totally worth the trip.

You’ve got until September 23rd to see the Body Worlds & the Brain at the Science Museum. Like I said before, it’s recommended for ages eight and up, so use your own discretion. Ticket prices vary depending on whether you want to check out the rest of the museum or catch something at the IMAX, so stop by the website for further detailss.

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  1. There are some interesting privacy issues involved with this exhibit as the displays are (were?) actual people–sometimes with living relatives. 
  2. That’s how dudes faint. 
  3. He demanded we whisper since we were “inside of a museum.” 
  4. This is highly unlikely. 
  5. He usually requires about a day to really process something like this. Once it all sunk in we spent the following fortnight talking about nothing but blood and bones and brains. Usually at dinner. Thanks, Science Museum! 
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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

2 comments on A three-year-old’s adventure at Body Worlds

  1. Sean Yeager on said:

    Highly recommended. Our 2 year old wasn’t sure of everything but he seemed genuinely interested in most of it.

  2. Gloria on said:

    I took my 31 year old son and he made very few comments. :)

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