There's something about Mr. Potato Head that just makes you smile. Maybe it's his portly shape, a jolly roundness reminiscent of Santa Claus. Or the sweet little shoes that nest beneath his belly. Or the simple hilarity of putting eyeballs in his left ear or a mustache atop his head and watching your toddler laugh and laugh.
"Oh yes, I remember," said Kim Oard as she helped her 19-month-old daughter, Grace, plug eyes and a nose into a plastic potato at Ex-ploration Place. "Fond memories."
One of the world's most recognized and beloved toys is at the center of the museum's newest traveling exhibit, "The Adventures of Mr. Potato Head," which opens today.
The colorful interactive exhibit is designed to help young children — about ages 2 to 8 — develop reading, math, social studies and
problem solving skills.
"Every area they go into helps them learn," said Christina Bluml, communications manager at Exploration Place. "But in a fun way."
Created by Milwaukee's Betty Brinn Children's Museum in collaboration with Playskool, the exhibit lets visitors accompany Mr. Potato Head on four adventures:
* An archeological dig, where they decipher "tatoglyphs," solve mazes and search for a statue of King Tato.
* Outer space, where they board the S.P.U.D. space station to explore the galaxy, create constellations and guide a space rover.
* Under the sea, where they go virtual snorkeling and make music in the spud sub.
* And in a jungle, where they use special lenses to see the world through the eyes of silly birds, bugs and animals.
No doubt one of the most popular elements of the exhibit will be the toy potato bar, where visitors can build their own Mr. or Ms. Potato Head by sifting through a giant trough of eyes, noses, arms, hats, shoes and more.
"Kids just love him," Bluml said. "We've had the posters up for a while, and they just point and say, 'Potatoooo!' We've had a lot of people ask when this one's opening."
In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum's Explore Store has stocked several Potato Head items, including University of Kansas and Kansas State "sports spuds" and Potato Head versions of "Star Wars" characters, Darth Tater and Spud Trooper.