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CMNH to launch "Wonder & Wellness"

An emotional well-being initiative for families will launch in the Fall

In recognition of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (CMNH) has announced a new emotional well-being initiative for families they are designing called “Wonder & Wellness”, funded by a generous $30,000 grant from the Kennebunk Savings Bank Foundation. 

“We need to prioritize children’s emotional and mental wellbeing in the same way we prioritize their physical health,” said Brad Paige, CEO of Kennebunk Savings. “The Museum’s ‘Wonder and Wellness’ initiative will provide children and their caregivers with the tools they need to foster positive social-emotional wellbeing through playful enrichment experiences. This is a powerful initiative that will do a lot of good in the community.”    

As part of a planned expansion project happening this fall, CMNH surveyed daily visitors and members to help identify the changing needs of families with young children and how this expansion could best support those needs. Among top desires was an exhibit focused on supporting children’s emotional well-being. This, in addition to the persistent news covering the sharp rise in mental health concerns in children post-pandemic, and a greater incidence of emotional challenges in younger children, solidified the intent to incorporate a mental health component into not only the new exhibits, slated to open in early 2025, but to go further and also overlay positive emotional health educational information, strategies, and take-home materials for families throughout the Museum.  

While not a substitute for professional services, CMNH serves as a partner in a network of mental health support systems for families. “The Museum is seen as a safe place, free of stigma, and strives to normalize family discussions about mental health and emotional well-being,” shared CMNH Education Director, Xanthi Gray. “Offering information and activities at a place of play will provide a pathway to opening up these conversations that is friendly and accessible.”

According to CMNH President, Jane Bard, funding received will support a multi-faceted approach to incorporating ‘Wonder & Wellness’ strategies at the Museum. “We’re excited to offer these tools and jumping off points to help families discuss emotional well-being,” said Bard. “We are grateful to the support from the Kennebunk Savings Bank Foundation, who recognizes the importance of supporting children’s emotional health and the impactful role children’s museums can have in doing so.” 

Wonder & Wellness plans include installing new signage to be unveiled this Fall highlighting ways parents can support their child’s emotional well-being during everyday activities, plus the release of a take-home educational piece for families. Additional Wonder & Wellness programs are being planned for 2025 including a speaker series and the opening of a low sensory calming space within the new exhibits for children or adults who need a place to recharge during their visit, providing additional educational resources and activities for families.


IMAGE: Left to Right: Rachel Peter (KSB Community Engagement Manager), Dory Polanco (KSB Dover Branch Manager), Erica Place (KSB Retail Experience Manager & CMNH Board Member), Jane Bard (CMNH President), Meredith Brustlin (CMNH Content Specialist). Photo courtesy of Children's Museum of New Hampshire.

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CMNH to Host 12th Annual NH Maker Fest

Makers of all kinds take over museum exhibits for a day of discovery

This year's annual NH Maker Fest, organized and hosted by the Children's Museum of New Hampshire in downtown Dover, on Saturday, June 1, 10am-3pm, will feature a Rube Goldberg machine expert, bug motels and seed balls, a marimba petting zoo, roaming robots and dinosaurs, a jump rope team, and will culminate with a foam dance party.

"It's a fun and affordable day of discovery for all ages," said Neva Cole, CMNH Communications Director. Admission into the Fest, which takes place inside the museum and outside in the adjacent Henry Law Park, is by a suggested $5 per person donation. Pre-paid donations can be made online, but are not required to enjoy the Fest.

Some Makers will be set-up inside the Children's Museum of New Hampshire's many unique exhibit spaces, like Laura and Sarah from the Creative Guts podcast, or Zach Umperovitch, the Rube Goldberg machine expert. Some Makers will be outside in the museum's Play Patio, like volunteers from Seacoast Permaculture offering bites of wild edible plants or helping to build bug motels. Some makers will be out in the park like volunteers from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard helping to drive SeaPerch robots around a huge pool. Some Makers will be performing on the stage like Patti and the Pop Tarts musical ensemble. And some Makers will be roaming inside and out, like Star Wars cosplayers from the 501st New England Garrison and a life-size dinosaur puppet from Sages Entertainment. Fat Pockets food truck will be parked along Washington Street and serving authentic falafel pockets.

The education team at CMNH also offers up several drop-in activities and challenges like Tile Tie Dye, a Parachute Challenge, a Bubble Bin, and make-and-take upcycle stamps.

The Children's Museum of New Hampshire, open since 1983, is an award-winning museum featuring two floors of hands-on exhibits for kids ages birth to age 12. The museum's mission is to actively engage families in hands-on discovery. "The NH Maker Fest is just one way we offer up hands-on fun to our visitors," shared Xanthi Gray, CMNH Education Director. "It's fun to mix it up for a day-long event, and invite all ages to take part in the discovery. We hope to see just as many adults as kids enjoying the Fest-ending Foam Dance Party." The Foam experience will be provided by another Fest Maker, Sages Entertainment.

The Museum would like to thank it's 2024 NH Maker Fest Sponsors including Breezeline, NHPBS, Granite State Development Corporation, The State of New Hampshire on behalf of the UNIQUE College Investing Plan, Sprague, Albany Engineered Composites, Chinburg Properties, Eversource, QA Cafe, Novocure, Beswick Engineering, Calling All Cargo, and Martel Plumbing & Heating.

Sagesfoam party

IMAGE: The day-long NH Maker Fest on Saturday, June 1, 10am-3pm will culminate in a Foam Dance Party provided by Sages Entertainment outside the Children's Museum of New Hampshire in downtown Dover. Photo courtesy of Sages Entertainment.

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CMNH Offering a "Little Farmers" Exhibit Sneak Peak

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Kick-off to this year's NH Gives 24-hour fundraising challenge

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (CMNH) will host special evening hours on Tuesday, June 11th as a kick-off to this year’s NH Gives fundraising event. Each year non-profits across the state of New Hampshire participate in NH Gives, a powerful, statewide 24-hour fundraising event that is designed to build community and connect donors to local nonprofits, like the museum. This year, an anonymous donor will match all NH Gives donations to CMNH, up to $5500.

This is an important fundraising year for CMNH as preparations are underway for an upcoming expansion project which will open two new exhibits on the second floor. The new exhibits include a Farm-themed space dedicated to the youngest visitors, ages 0-5, similar to CMNH’s popular Primary Place, and another designed to be a creative open space for changing active play exhibits. The June 11th “NH Gives Kick-off Event: Little Farmers Sneak Peak!” at CMNH will be a family-friendly night at the Museum (hours 5-7pm), featuring a scavenger hunt, a farm-themed storytime, a farm-themed craft, special sneak peeks at new exhibit elements, and a chance to meet and offer name suggestions for a “pig” who will make her home in the new farm exhibit. 

“There is a lot that goes into the creation of new exhibits,” shares Director of Exhibits and Facilities, Eric Erwin. “Though the spaces aren’t slated to open until early 2025, we’ve been working on research, design, as well as starting to build custom exhibit elements for almost a year already.” 

“We surveyed our members and visitors for ideas for these two new spaces,” says Jane Bard, Museum President. “More space for our youngest visitors and a space that could accommodate more gross motor/physical movement elements ranked high. We hope our members and visitors that shared their thoughts will join us for NH Gives and get some of the first sneak peeks of pieces that will be showing up in the new exhibits they helped to create!”

Suggested donation for admission to this special event is $25 per family. Donations can be made through the NH Gives website beginning June 11th at 5pm, or at the door: Since this is a fundraiser, all visiting groups (including members) must show proof of donation for entry into the Museum. Visit the museum online at to learn more.

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CMNH is a 2024 Blue Star Museum

CMNH to offer free admission to military personnel and their families this summer

The Children's Museum of New Hampshire in Dover announced it will again join museums nationwide in the Blue Star Museums initiative, a program that provides free admission to currently serving U.S. military personnel and their families this summer. The 2024 program will begin on Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 18, 2024. Learn more and find the list of participating museums at

Blue Star Museums is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Star Families, in collaboration with the Department of Defense and participating museums across America. The Children's Museum of New Hampshire's free military summer is sponsored exclusively by Service Credit Union.

“We are proud to once again partner with the Children’s Museum to sponsor free admission for active military families this summer,” 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."

"We are grateful to the Children's Museum of New Hampshire for participating in this summer's Blue Star Museums program, and we hope military families will take this opportunity to create meaningful, lifelong memories," said Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. "Whether you are traveling this summer, getting know a new duty location, or exploring what your community has to offer, Blue Star Museums is a wonderful opportunity to create connection and find inspiration."

"Military families love Blue Star Museums, and we couldn't run this program without the National Endowment for the Arts and the museums across the nation who show they care by participating," said Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet. "Access to museums enriches military families, creates wonderful family memories, and helps us feel connected to our communities so that we can thrive and do the hard job we have to do for the country. I am delighted for us to launch the 14th year of this very special program."

In addition to The Children's Museum of New Hampshire, the Blue Star Museums program includes children's museums, art, science, and history museums, zoos, gardens, lighthouses, and more, and hail from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The current list of participating museums will continue to grow over the summer as organizations are welcome to register to be a Blue Star Museum throughout the summer.

The free admission program is available for those currently serving in the United States Military—Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force, members of the Reserves, National Guard, U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps, and up to five family members. Qualified members must show a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), DD Form 1173-1 ID card or the Next Generation Uniformed Services (Real) ID card for entrance into a participating Blue Star Museum.

While veterans are not included in the free admission Blue Star Museums program, CMNH does offer veterans and their immediate family members half-off admission, with ID, year-round.

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Photo courtesy of

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Make Recycled Art This Earth Day

Did you know April 22nd is Earth Day? In 1970,  people organized a national demonstration to raise awareness for environmental issues. Rallies were held across the country, before the end of that year the government had formed the Environmental Protection Agency to help make sure our planet was taken care of as best that we could for years to come. By 1990, Earth Day was being celebrated by over 140 countries around the world.

You might have heard the phrase, REduce, REuse, REcycle, as a way to help explain ways we can help the Earth and keep the environment clean. This is something we can even do when creating artwork! In our Muse Art Studio we are creating Recycled Art, but it’s also something you can do at home!

To start all you need are:

  • Some recyclable or reusable items, like bottle caps, cardboard, paper cups, pipe cleaners, or cupcake liners

  • You can add markers, scissors, glue, or staplers to help decorate your art

You can make something to use later, like an airplane to play with or a bird feeder. Or you can make something abstract with these items. The great thing about recycled art is that it can be anything you want. Making art in an open ended way like this is called process art. It’s a great way for kids to explore self-expression and help with fine motor skills. 

Making recycled art during April is a great way to teach kids about recycling and reusing everyday items that might otherwise end up in the trash, and opens conversation with your child to talk more about Earth Day and why it is important!

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2024 Solar Eclipse


The 2024 Solar Eclipse is coming up on Monday, April 8 and here in Dover it will start around 3:28pm. The last time New Hampshire was in an eclipse's "Path of Totality" was 1959, and the next one won't be until 2079!

While the Children's Museum of New Hampshire will be closed on April 8th, there are still plenty of opportunities all around the state to safely view the eclipse and learn more about the science of the phenomenon. The state has created a comprehensive site with lots of great resources here:

Our friends at UNH have this great video on how to safely view an eclipse.

And this is a good article from our friends at Dartmouth-Hitchcock on why it's important to view an eclipse with the right eye protection.

And speaking of eye protection, the museum has a supply of glasses that were donated to us through the Dover Library and we are able to give them to any visitors (2 per family) through Noon on Sunday, April 7th, while supplies last. Just ask the front desk for help!

Happy and Safe Eclipse Viewing!

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Celebrating Black History Month With Art

Did you know that there is a reason we celebrate Black History Month in February? It was decided in 1976 by President Gerald Ford to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas’ birthdays. Both have long been aligned with and celebrated in Black communities for their efforts as abolitionists. Black History Month is a great time to use play based learning activities to discuss prominent people in history.

In the Muse Art Studio at The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, crafts inspired by black artists are available to make, but they are always easy and fun to replicate at home!

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist who lived from 1960-1988. He is known as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century! He was known for his very expressive and colorful paintings that were representative of his start in the art world painting graffiti in New York.

Crowns were a very prominent feature in a lot of Basquiat’s art. The crowns acknowledged his great ambitions in the art world and the brilliance of other artists and people in his life.

You can make your own version of a Basquiat crown at home with a few craft supplies:

  1. Cardboard (cut into crown shape)

  2. Ribbon

  3. Hole punch

  4. Scissors

  5. Paint sticks (or something to color with. Markers, paint, crayons, etc)

  6. Glitter (optional)

Using the cardboard cutout of the crown, color it however you like! This is your chance to make something bold and colorful like Jean-Michel, so go wild!

Use the hole punch to make holes on each side of the crown and tie the ribbon through each side so it fits around your head. 

When you're done you’ll have your own crown to wear and display like the artist you are!

If you want to read more about Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Life of / La Vida de Basquiat

Who Was Basquiat? Made For Kids!

Alma Thomas was a teacher for thirty-five years and the first black American woman to receive a fine arts degree.  During her teaching career she created art but is most well known for the colorful expressionist paintings she did after retiring. Her creativity was inspired by science and nature! She would ask her students to look closely at nature to find the patterns to help them make art that made them happy. 

The type of art she is most famous for is called a color field. Color Field is a type of artwork in which painters use large shapes of colors to express themselves.

You can make Alma Thomas inspired color fields at home with some easy to find craft supplies.

  1. Dot markers (If you don’t have dot markers paint and cotton swabs will work)

  2. Paper

Using the dots make large shapes like a circle or square and then pick a different color to make the same shape again. Repeat the process until you've filled your paper!

If you want to read more about Alma Thomas:  Ablaze with Color: The Story of Painter Alma Thomas

Alma Thomas: Your New Favorite Artist

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CMNH Receives Support from the Evelyn S. and K.E. Barrett Foundation

CMNH open ended building challenge

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (CMNH) is excited to share that they have been awarded a two-year grant totaling $80,000 from the Evelyn S. and K.E. Barrett Foundation to support a facility expansion project. This expansion will add two new exhibit spaces to the Museum’s second floor, allowing CMNH to meet the changing needs of children, families, and the community.  The Museum will launch this project in 2024, with the goal of opening the additional 1,000 square feet of engaging activities in late 2025. 

“We have been impressed with the work that the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has done for children and families in New Hampshire and are pleased to continue supporting their mission,” said Peter Barrett, Executive Director and Trustee at the Barrett Foundation.

The Barrett Foundation previously provided CMNH with support for their “Bolstering a Childcare System in Crisis” project through which large activity kits filled with play-based manipulatives were provided to 83 childcare centers, family resource centers, and libraries in New Hampshire. The project also supplied educators with resources such as activity guides, instructional workshops and informational videos, and ultimately impacted over 9,900 children in the state. 

“We’re thrilled to have this funding from the Barrett Foundation for our second floor expansion,” said Museum President Jane Bard. “The two new exhibits we have in the works include a New Hampshire farm exhibit designed for our youngest visitors, ages 0-5, similar to our popular Primary Place, and another designed to be a creative open space for changing exhibits and active play.”

The Museum is embracing new opportunities to grow and present new experiences to adapt to community needs. Current lack of childcare and preschool openings are bringing to light a demand for socialization and learning opportunities for children ages 0-5, as well as for their caregivers, hence the addition of a second area catering to this age. The new flexible space will allow CMNH to be responsive, not just through changing exhibits that will provide new and fresh experiences, but also as a space to expand our current drop-in programs and playgroups, community events, and school field trips.  Recent statewide data and feedback from Museum visitors also indicates an urgent need for resources to support child and family emotional wellbeing. Educational activities related to social/emotional learning will be integrated into the new exhibits and CMNH will evaluate existing exhibits in the Museum to determine additional changes that can support children and family emotional health in an approachable and age-appropriate way.

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