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First Down! New Exhibit Teaches Kids How to be NFL Refs

By Emily Frost | December 6, 2013 3:31pm
 The exhibit opens in January and features hands-on activities like dancing and making ref uniforms. 
Children's Museum NFL Exhibit
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A new exhibit coming to the Children's Museum of Manhattan will have your kids signaling incomplete passes and first downs left and right. 

In celebration of MetLife Stadium hosting the 2014 Super Bowl, the museum is partnering with the NFL to teach visitors the ins and outs of being a football referee — often the most hated members of the game, as well as the most important.

"You Make the Call: Learn to Be an NFL Official," running Jan. 8 through February, will appeal to adults as much as kids, said Thomas Quaranta, the museum’s director of exhibitions and museum operations. 

"[Families are] not going to have to drag dad with them," he said, adding that the exhibit will also attract moms, who in his view are increasingly becoming football fans. 

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a "make the call" box, where families and kids can watch a play in slow motion and then decide themselves what the appropriate call should be.

For visitors who know nothing about football or need to brush up, the walls of the exhibit will be filled with graphics explaining the rules. 

"The focus on executive function is really what brought us to the partnership," said Quaranta, describing the way the virtual review station forces kids to reason and make decisions. 

But the exhibit also has a component encouraging physical activity called "the Zebra dance." 

"It’s a dance that’s made up of solely those referee moves," Quaranta said. "It’s a fun way of learning what these signals mean."

For more crafty participants, the exhibit will feature a station for visitors to make their own uniforms out of paper and craft materials, as well as flag-making. 

For the NFL-obsessed kids who dream of going pro as players rather than refs, the exhibit may be the perfect antidote, Quaranta added.

"If you want a job in the NFL, sometimes being a player isn’t always an option," he said, "but officiating as a career is a viable option."

There's no age limit for participants, with activities that cater to the museum's core 5-and-under crowd all the way up to adults. 

The exhibit is free with the price of admission. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday, as well as Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturdays, the museum stays open until 7 p.m. On Feb. 7, admission is free from 5 to 8 p.m.