Imagination is the word of the hour in the Indianapolis Children’s Museum’s exhibit, “Princesses and Pirates: Storybook Adventures.” From the moment of entry, visitors are greeted with a large storybook, open to pages that read, “Once upon a time, you ruled the kingdom!” and “Once upon a time, you joined a pirate crew!”

And with that, you step into the wonderful fantasy world of make-believe that all will enjoy.

The museum takes these invitations to play to heart in this large indoor, educational playground that provides opportunities for physical activity, imaginative play and creative thinking.

One area of the exhibit acts as a giant Fisher-Price busy box with a sliding wall (behind which is a dragon that roars), a sliding bookcase (that reveals a miniature castle surrounded by tiny knights in shining armor), a hand-activated magic mirror (that lights up another surprise picture book diorama) and a secret castle passage to crawl through.

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A popular feature of the exhibit is a large interactive screen featuring treasure guarded by a dragon. Posted directions nearby prompt viewers to enact certain movements, which result in protecting yourself from the dragon, attacking him or scooping up the treasure to escape.

In spite of the fantastical nature of the exhibit, the Children’s Museum never forgets that it’s a museum. Thrown in to the mix is some real history in the form of artifacts from the museum collection: a suit of armor, a collection of war helmets, an 1800s brass spyglass and some cannonballs from 1860 turn the exhibit educational as well as fun.

Photo opportunities abound for parents who want to capture precious memories, from the wooden cut-outs of a princess gown or pirate attire to pose behind to the set of thrones that seat a family of four for a royal portrait.

Attention to detail is the hallmark of this exhibit. Children are delighted to notice footprints in the sand from a peg-legged pirate that lead them to a treasure chest of jewels and gold that lights up when touched.

Pirate stories in literature and media are featured: Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the animated series, “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” Movie props are also on display, including Johnny Depp’s compass from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Hugh Jackman’s Blackbeard costume from the movie, “Pan,” and the gown worn by Anna Kendrick as Cinderella in “Into the Woods” is on display.

Imagination is strongly encouraged through the abundance of dress-up clothing found in bins throughout the exhibit. Children can be a pirate, a princess, a knight or even the crocodile from the story of “Peter Pan.”

Imagination is what “Pirates and Princesses” is all about. In a society where our children spend many hours in front of a screen — the television screen, a laptop, an iPad or a phone –- imagination, REAL imagination, sometimes doesn’t get much of a workout.

But this exhibit is a breath of the renewal of imagination. Children can dress up, sit on a royal throne, pilot a pirate ship, discover, wonder and create a dozen fantastical scenarios of dragon slaying, rescue, treasure hunting and battles at sea. In “Pirates and Princesses: Storybook Adventures,” children are heroes of their own adventures.

If you go

Time is running out to visit “Pirates and Princesses” at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. The exhibit runs through Nov. 27.

What: “Pirates and Princesses: Storybook Adventures”

Where: Indianapolis Children’s Museum, 3000 N. Meridian St.

When: Now through Nov. 27

Visit: for open hours and admission