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CMNH Helps with State’s Childcare Crisis

Children’s Museum of NH Helps with State’s Childcare Crisis 

As has been reported over the past year, there is an overburdened childcare system in New Hampshire. Childcare centers have faced staffing shortages and others have closed, leaving long waiting lists and a lack of available spaces. Families are turning to home-based childcare, family members and community resources like family resource centers, libraries and the Children’s Museum of NH (CMNH) to fill in the gaps and nurture their children’s growth.

“The Museum has prided itself on being a trusted resource for play-based learning for nearly 40 years,” said Jane Bard, CMNH President. “When we saw the childcare crisis growing, we began reaching out to childcare providers, surveying families and speaking to other partners like UNH about ways we could use our expertise to help.” 

What emerged was the need to reach young children wherever they were and to provide the adults caring for them with the tools they need to support healthy cognitive growth. This includes licensed childcare centers, small in-home care settings, libraries, family resource centers, families and grandparents caring for their own children.  

“Once we realized the need was so great and so widespread around the state, the challenge was how to best serve all of these audiences,” said Bard. The solution was to give all of these audiences different tools and ways to participate in a variety of activities over the course of the year. 

The first and most exciting, according to the childcare providers, is the Museum curated Play-Based Learning Kit, a 40-lb jumbo box filled with quality materials for children ages birth – five being distributed to 83 childcare providers, libraries, and family resource centers throughout the state of New Hampshire reaching over 9,000 children. “I would love to show parents more ways to encourage play-based learning,” shared Nicole Daniels from the River Center, a family resource center in Peterborough, NH. “I think with Covid, a lot of children lost the art of play, especially with peers and in groups, and we want to help bring that back.” Christi Mooney from High Street Child Care Center in Littleton, NH agrees. “Our facility is primarily play-based, and after Covid, we are seeing a lot of the 2-4 year olds who do not know ‘how’ to play. It has been a struggle to just get them to show us their creativity, use their imaginations, etc.” Each kit will come with monthly activity guides giving educators ideas on ways to use the materials in new ways to engage children and sites get to keep the kits beyond the end of the grant. “I love the idea of having more resources for the children, but especially love the idea for the teachers,” shared Alicia Tonelli from the Seacoast Community School in Portsmouth, NH. “It is always helpful to have different ideas, and perspectives. It sparks creativity!”

Beyond the kit, the Museum is collaborating with the University of New Hampshire’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies to host two free Play-Based Learning Open House events at their Dover location and four online workshops, open to all early childhood educators. “Partnering with CMNH has been extremely rewarding. We have united our expertise on active playful learning to empower our early care and education providers to share enriching and joyful learning experiences,” shared University of New Hampshire Associate Professor Kimberly Nesbitt.

“The online workshops are being created for childcare providers who find it challenging to take time from their day to participate in professional development,” said Xanthi Gray, the Museum’s Education Director. “We want to support both existing and new childcare providers entering the field, and share ways they can create play-based learning experiences that support children’s developmental milestones.”

Back at the Children’s Museum of NH in Dover, the education team has launched three new weekly drop-in programs for visitors to spark ideas on ways to use common household items to create play-based learning experiences at home. Tinker Time Tuesdays are held every Tuesday at 10:30am, Baby Storytimes are held every Thursday at 9:30am, and Little Learners Play Groups are held every Friday at 9am. All three of these programs are included with normal museum admission, and free for museum members. In addition to giving kids a chance to practice play-based learning, these programs serve as a way for parents to connect and socialize with each other in a supportive environment. 

These play-based learning experiences are funded thanks to an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) INSPIRE! grant for small museums. The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire was one of 59 museums nationwide to receive this highly competitive grant. These programs are also funded in part by the NH Preschool Development Grant, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (Award# 90TP0060).

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New Accessibility Tools

We had the pleasure of welcoming Lilly Hamlin of Hamlin Consulting for a recent visit to CMNH when she suggested a few new Accessibility Tools that the museum could have on hand to assist visitors.

Bump Dots

These simple self-adhesive bump dots have been added to the EverBright Interactive LED light wall to simplify how visitors can rotate the knobs to change the colors.

Industrial Twist Ties

These 17-inch long twist ties are durable, waterproof and covered in soft foam and have a variety of uses. For visitors who have a hard time gripping, this can be used in several different exhibits to help rotate or spin gears.

Stretchy Fabric

This simple long piece of stretchy fabric can be used as a table cloth, or wrapped around any two stable objects to create a tent like space for someone looking for a calm quiet dark spot to shut out overwhelming sensory input. It's also great for wrapping around bodies for gentle, calming pressure, similar to a weighted blanket.

These three tools are now available as resources when visiting the museum, and some, like the bump dots you might spot out in the exhibits when next you visit. To use them, simply ask our friendly staff!

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CMNH on the Dover Download Podcast

Dover, NH has so much going on that the city has created its own Podcast to help spread information! Jane Bard, CMNH's President, was a guest on the podcast on October 25, 2022 to share a bit about the history of the museum, and gives a glimpse into the museum's future! Give it a listen!

The Dover Download can be found anywhere you listen to podcasts including Spotify, Apple or Amazon.

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CMNH Awarded Competitive Grant

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (CMNH) is proud to announce that they are a recipient of an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) INSPIRE! grant for small museums. CMNH will launch “Bolstering A Childcare System in Crisis” this fall, a series of educational initiatives designed to help providers and families implement enriching, engaging, and developmentally appropriate play-based learning (PBL) activities for children from birth to age 5. 

“The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is perfectly positioned to take on this task” shared Education Director, Xanthi Gray “We are known as a leader in the Early Childhood field across the state and have years of experience with play based learning in our space. We’re excited to share this knowledge and these resources with new organizations in our area.”

In partnership with the University of New Hampshire’s Early Childhood Education Center, the museum will offer professional development training for early childcare providers; provide hands-on educational opportunities for families and caregivers; and distribute PBL activity kits to 20 early childcare providers, four family resource centers, and six library partners across the state. “As a result of this project, providers and caregivers will strengthen their play based learning practices and help New Hampshire’s youngest children grow and thrive during a critical time in their development,” shared CMNH President, Jane Bard.

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire was one of 59 museums nationwide to receive the INSPIRE! IMLS grant for small museums, and only 5 of those recipients were children’s museums. “It’s a highly competitive grant and we are so honored to have our staff’s innovative programming supported by the nation’s lead organization in supporting museums and libraries,” shared Bard.

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New and Improved Cochechosystem Nature Exhibit

Join us beginning Wednesday, August 3, 2022, to experience the reimagined Cochechosystem Nature exhibit at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire. Celebrating the vibrant wildlife along the state's Cochecho River, visitors will be immersed in the sights, sounds and activities of the animals and people who make their lives along New Hampshire’s rivers.

The Cocheco River is a tidal river, which flows through the Children’s Museum’s backyard and feeds into the Piscataqua River. When families enter the Cochecosystem Nature exhibit, they are introduced to a river ecosystem inhabited by osprey, beavers, and fish, all creatures who use rivers to engineer their lives. With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the actual river, the Cochecosystem Nature exhibit demonstrates how rivers throughout New England support thriving ecosystems of many interdependent creatures.

"The Museum's Cochechosystem Nature exhibit upgrades incorporate new activities to encourage deeper family engagement and appreciation for the natural world," said Jane Bard, Museum President. New components include welcoming children to dress up as beavers, build lodges and feed their young kits, watch the osprey guard their nest as they add to their own, fish on the exhibit's riverbank, hop aboard the replica gundalow and load cargo for a trip upriver and take a close look at the river outside.

New signs in the exhibit are designed to help facilitate imaginative play and critical thinking skills.

In addition to exploring the exhibit on August 3, visitors are invited to join our educators to explore beaver artifacts and make their own beaver paw track to take home at 10am and 2pm. This project is generously supported by The Roger R. and Theresa S. Thompson Endowment Fund.

Families planning to visit the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire on any day are asked to reserve online to help the museum maintain capacity limits. Adults and children over the age of 12 months are $12.50, seniors (65+) are $10.50 and kids under 12 months and Members are FREE. Museum hours are Tuesdays - Saturdays, 9am-noon or 1-4pm, and Sundays 9am-noon. The Tuesday morning play session from 9am-noon is mask required for everyone over the age of 24 months, while all other hours are mask optional. To make reservations or learn more about the museum, visit here.

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Military Families Play for Free All Summer

Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 21 was the start of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s Military Appreciation Summer, during which all current and retired military personnel and their immediate family members are invited to play at no cost, thanks to a generous sponsorship from Service Credit Union.. From now through Sunday, September 4th, 2022, guests can reserve their spots online for free, and then simply show a military ID at the front desk of the museum to receive free admission for the military member, dependent children and spouse.

“We are proud to once again partner with the Children’s Museum to sponsor their Blue Star program,” said Jaime Yates, Service Credit Union Community Relations Manager. ‘At Service Credit Union, we have a longstanding history of supporting our military members, veterans and their families, and this program is one of the ways we can give back to those who have given so much to us.”

The museum’s summer Military Appreciation Program is exclusively sponsored by Service Credit Union and is part of the larger nationwide Blue Star Museum program. The Blue Star Museum program is a collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the Department of Defense. More than 2,000 museums across America offer free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel, including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Armed Forces Day through Labor Day. “Thanks to the generous support from Service Credit Union, the Museum is thrilled to extend free admission to include retired military personnel and their family members” said Jane Bard, Museum President.

The summer free admission program is available to active duty and retired U.S. military - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps - and up to five family members.

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire extends a fifty-percent-off discount to military personnel and their families during the rest of the year thanks to additional sponsorship support, including from People’s United Bank.

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DIY Bee Condo

By Megan Beach, CMNH Educator

Did you know that you can build a homemade house for bees to live in? Although bees will make their own hives in places like hollow trees, or by burrowing in the ground they also will move into a bee condo, that you can make at home with just a few materials.

What you need to make a bee condo:

  • Cardboard pieces, or heavy card stock
  • Empty paper towel roll cut in half
  • Paper straws (important that they are not plastic)
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Hot glue gun (Make sure to get a grown-up to help)
  • Hole punch and pipe cleaner or string

Bees find a house made out of a bundle of paper straws with one side blocked off to be a welcoming place for a home. They also prefer darker colors for their houses (it reminds them of trees) so using a brown cardboard box or dark paper works the best.


  1. Trim straws to the length of your cut paper towel roll and bundle them together with tape.
  2. Once straws are bundled and taped fill the tube with them and secure with glue if needed.
  3. Cut pieces of cardboard to fit securely around tubes in the shape of a house or tent to your liking and use the hot glue gun to fasten them together.
  4. Make sure to add a piece of cardboard to the back to cover one side of your bee condo.
  5. Use hole punch to string the pipe cleaner through the top of the house for easy hanging.


Add moss, leaves or pinecones to the roof or any empty areas of your bee condo to help them feel more at home!

If bees do make a home in the condo be sure to not disturb them. Leave the bees alone so they can pollinate plants for us and make honey!

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Mo Willems’ Latest Character to Visit Children’s Museum of NH


Fans of Mo Willems rejoice! One of the stars of his latest silly series of early reader stories is visiting the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire this Friday, November 12 and Saturday, November 13. Zoom Squirrel is just one of MANY zany furry characters in Willems’ Unlimited Squirrels series and Zoomy is visiting CMNH to help guests celebrate Books Alive and Family Literacy Month.

Books Alive is one of the Museum’s most popular programs that gives young guests a chance to pose for pictures and interact with a lovable costumed picture book character, hear a special storytime, and take part in literacy themed activities. Books Alive characters visit the museum throughout the year, and Zoomy’s visit falls in November, when CMNH celebrates Family Literacy Month. All month CMNH offers author-themed activities and challenges, literary scavenger hunts, and visits and performances from special guests like Zoomy, as well as storyteller Simon Brooks (Saturday, November 20th).

CMNH Members can reserve spots for a free special Member’s Only “Meet and Greet” on Saturday, November 13 from 8-9am. Online reservations required and proof of membership at door.

So if your kids love Mo Willem books, come visit CMNH to introduce them to acorn puns and squirrel fun with Zoom Squirrel. Zoom Squirrel will be in the museum for the book readings at 10am during the morning play sessions (9am-Noon) on Friday, November 12 and Saturday, November 13, and at 2pm during the afternoon play sessions (1-4pm) on the same days. Visits with Zoomy are included with museum admission, and online reservations/pre-payment is required. The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire closes between play sessions and has a capacity limit. Masks are required for everyone over the age of 24 months regardless of vaccination status. The museum thanks its sponsors including Eastern Bank and Kennebunk Savings. Visit to reserve or pre-pay.

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