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Children's museums can be just the ticket for family vacations, a rainy day, or just plain fun

Seattle Children's Museum

THE Children's Museum in Seattle is in the process of tripling its size to 32,000 square feet.

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The expansion will help accommodate a growing number of visitors, including many from out of town, such as three-year-old Shon Case of Wellington, Ohio. When approached by a reporter, he hands over the taco he has made out of plastic ingredients in a kid-size restaurant. Then he runs over to a mock fire truck and picks up the radio handset. "I'm calling my mommy," he says.

"This is a great place if you're baby-sitting," says Joni Tamalonis, Shon's aunt.

Seattle's museum offers a variety of activities designed to teach simple concepts. Several new exhibits will open this October as the $4-million expansion is completed.

Current exhibits include:

* The neighborhood, where kids can play roles such as delivering mail, tending a grocery store, or serving up fast food in La Cocina Del Taco.

* Imagination Station, where children create their own works of art, guided by a guest artist. Each month features a different artist.

* Activity Annex, also with monthly changes. June is pegged as "gardening month," and kids learn to make and use worm bins to recycle organic waste.

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* Cog City, in which children guide small wiffle balls through various pipes, mazes, and conveyor belts.

* A theater where children can act in a play or help with stage work such as lighting. One or more kids interact with recorded story lines.

Coming this fall are:

* Mountain and Forest, a simulated mountain where kids can climb or learn about trees, geology, and camping.

* An enlargement of the already sizeable "Keys to Your Health" exhibit, which focuses on health care and the functions of the human body.

* Global Village, which will help kids understand contemporary lifestyles in Japan, Ghana, and the Philippines.

* Historical Zone, exploring ancient cultures of Greece, China, and the Mayans.

Center House, Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle, WA 98109; (206) 298-2521

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