Messy Play Celebrated in Children’s Museum of NH’s New Outdoor Play Patio
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is gearing up for a summer of messy outdoor fun with the opening of its new outdoor Play Patio exhibit. Opening to the public on Thursday, May 20, and in the works since 2018, it represents the Museum’s largest expansion since opening in Dover in 2008. The Play Patio will provide new opportunities for children to engage with materials that are challenging to offer inside the Museum, such as water, sand, paint and clay.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the opening of the Play Patio,” said Jane Bard, Museum President. “Families visiting the Museum are looking for ways to bring joyful and enriching experiences to their children’s lives while feeling connected to the community again after a long year of isolation. The Play Patio is a place for that to happen.”
Exhibit elements will include two sensory tables, a water circuit wall, oversized paint wall, chalk spinner, water painting, a color caster sculpture, a tube tones musical element and tables that will be used for picnicking in the future, but for now will be additional activity stations.
“The Play Patio couldn't have happened without generous support from our community, with funding coming from 19 different companies and foundations, as well as our members and donors. “We are very thankful to our lead donors whose contributions made this dream a reality,” shared Jane Bard, CMNH President. Those lead donors include Kennebunk Savings, Newburyport Bank, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, Abbie F. Moseley Charitable Trust, McIninch Foundation, Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, and the Roger R. & Theresa S. Thompson Endowment Fund. Additional funding was provided by companies who supported the project through the Community Development Finance Authority: Highland Hardwoods, Alexander Technology Group, Northway Bank, Newburyport Bank, First Seacoast Bank, D.F. Richard Energy, Stinson Associates, Leone, McDonnell & Roberts, P.A., and the Seacoast Endodontic Associates. The museum also thanks ARQ Architects, S.W. Cole Engineering, Inc., Norm Fracassa of Fracassa Designworks and the City of Dover for their in-kind support.
The Play Patio space, adjacent to the museum’s entrance, has gone through a big transition. “This area was originally a floor below grade and only accessible by a set of stairs,” shared Eric Erwin, CMNH Exhibits Manager. “We realized early on that in order to make the space physically accessible to all visitors, we would have to bring the area up to street level. With permission from the city of Dover, who owns the museum building, the area was filled with giant lightweight foam blocks and covered with recycled rubber tiles. A door was added from the Museum to the Play Patio for easy access to the space.”
“Originally, we were thinking this would be an outdoor picnic zone,” said Erwin. “But as our plans evolved, we realized this space had the potential to add new elements that our visitors have been asking for, like water play and messy art. A Water Circuit Wall is one way we’re adding an element for messy experimentation and fun. Kids can use a hand pump to push water through sluices to create waterfalls, and fill cups to create a cascading circuit,” said Erwin.
Another component using water is the “Evaporation Zone,” a 3-sided wall for brush painting with water. Young artists can also express themselves with washable paint on a giant double-sided paint wall and with chalk on a rotating chalk spinner.
A giant Color Caster sculpture is installed with colorful circular lenses shading the ground in different locations throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. “Beyond adding a whimsical sculpture to the Patio, the Color Caster is designed for shadow, color and light play and encourages visitors to look through the colored lenses to see the world around them ‘in a new light,” said Erwin, the sculpture’s creator.
Two sensory tables will provide endless opportunities for hands-on discovery. “The materials we put in the tables will change over time, but we’ll start by filling them with kinetic sand and tools for molding and creating designs in one, and water beads with hidden sea creatures in the other,” said Erwin.
Tube Tones is a series of connected PVC tubes that provide a musical element to the Play Patio. Visitors can pound out a musical beat in the manner of the Blue Man Group.
And even with all those other elements, there will still be room for picnic tables when families need to take a break and have a snack. “For the time being, these tables will be used as activity stations, but we look forward to the day when we can offer them as a picnicking area,” said Bard.
“Then of course there is a sink and hand dryer for easy cleanup before you return to the exhibits inside the museum,” said Erwin.
Access to the Play Patio will be included with museum admission, and will increase the museum’s capacity. “We’ve been looking forward to opening this space for many reasons, not least of which because it will allow more people to safely visit while we’re slowly reopening from the pandemic,” shared Jane Bard. The museum, which re-opened September 2020, is open with limited hours, requires online reservations prior to visiting, and requires everyone over the age of 24 months to wear a mask. “We’ve limited our play sessions to 20% of our capacity, so with this new space, we can increase the number of families we serve,” said Bard. Current Museum hours are Wednesdays and Sundays 9-11:30am and Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 9-11:30am or 1-3:30pm.
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has begun construction on its outdoor Play Patio expansion. The new Play Patio is designed to be an extension of the Museum experience that children, families and educators have grown to love. This three-season outdoor space facing Henry Law Park will feature messy materials and activities such as an oversized paint wall, ramps and chutes for water exploration, sensory tables for mud and bubble fun, color shadows, clay play and more. Plans for the Play Patio were unveiled during the Museum’s 35th anniversary in 2018 and the project was funded before the museum temporarily closed due to COVID-19 in mid-March.
“We love open-ended exploration, but without an outdoor space, it’s difficult to offer it consistently,” shared Children’s Museum of New Hampshire President Jane Bard. “With this new Play Patio space, we’ll be able to incorporate messy play with our other more traditional hands-on exhibits, offering yet another level of discovery to our visitors. This project has been over two years in the making, and we’re excited that, despite the challenges of the pandemic, we’re creating a place to bring joy to children and families during a time that they need it the most,” said Bard. “People may have noticed the construction crews converging at the front of the museum and this is why. Construction so far has involved extending and creating drainage, cementing over open basement windows in the building, removing the existing asphalt and fence and starting to install a lightweight block material called Geofoam to fill-in the entire space. Many of the exhibit components have been built and we will be installing a playground surfacing material in September.
The museum’s Play Patio does not have an open date as of yet.
The Play Patio project is made possible thanks in part to the $100,000 tax credits the museum received from the NH Community Development Finance Authority. Businesses who purchased those tax credits include Highland Hardwoods, BankKW Staffing, LLC, Northway Bank, Newburyport Bank, First Seacoast Bank, DF Richard, Stinson Associates, Leone, McDonnell & Roberts, and Seacoast Endodontics. Other sponsors include Kennebunk Savings Bank, Newburyport Bank and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. Grants for the project have been provided by the Abbie F. Moseley Charitable Trust, the McIninch Foundation, the Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, the Roger R. & Theresa S. Thompson Endowment Fund, and the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation.
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire will continue to share updates and photos of the Play Patio progress on its social media pages.
Happy summer Museum fans! We wanted to give you an update on the Children’s Museum and where we are at in terms of reopening. The short answer is, we are not opening yet. We have studied the latest guidelines for the reopening of Museums and are working diligently to adapt our facility, exhibits, cleaning and safety procedures to meet and exceed these guidelines. Our top priority is to keep our visitors and staff safe. We are taking your comments and suggestions from our recent survey under advisement and are confident that when we do reopen, it will be as safe as possible for all involved, and still feel like the museum you know and love.
In the meantime, we encourage you all to continue to support our mission of actively engaging families in hands-on discovery with a purchase of a “Stay and Play Summer Camp Kit.” We sold out our first round of kits and they are back on sale now to be be available for pick-up in July at the museum! The Discovery Camp kits are for ages 6-10 and the Wee Kits are for ages 3.5-5. And then we are continuing to offer our “Community Builder” option, where you can purchase either kit for yourself and donate one to a child in need - or donate both - whatever suits your situation. We connect with local partner organizations to identify families who may greatly benefit from an activity kit this summer. So far we’ve been able to donate kits to 15 families thanks to your generosity!
Another way to support our work is to purchase a Car or Cash Raffle ticket for $100! We’ve extended the sale through the end of August. Only 725 tickets will be sold and one lucky winner will be announced on August 29th and can choose between a black 2020 Nissan 370Z coupe (MSRP $35,215) or a metallic grey, 2020 Nissan Leaf S model 100% electric car (MSRP $34,610) or $20,000 cash!
And of course a Membership to the Museum makes a wonderful gift for any family! Please remember, all Children’s Museum of New Hampshire members will have their membership extended by the number of months we are closed.
Stay positive and healthy and we will see you soon.
By Leila McRae, Bookings & Membership Manager
When we closed our doors in March we had hoped that we would only be closed for a few weeks. Certainly, we did not anticipate being closed for months and not being able to welcome you to the museum for an extended period.
In light of our closure we will be extending all current memberships for however many months we are closed from their expiration date. All memberships will be updated in our database with the new expiration dates and members will be issued an updated expiration date sticker to add to their current membership card.
We cannot wait to welcome you back to the museum when it is sure to be a safe and fun visit for all of our guests and staff. We miss seeing you, hearing your laughs, learning with you and sharing stories and enjoying our days with you.
In the meantime, please visit our Online Learning & Fun page to stay connected with the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire through a number of virtual activities, and follow us on Facebook to stay in touch and learn about members-only opportunities when we reopen.
As 2019 draws to a close, it’s a great time to reflect on the growth and change the Museum has experienced over the past year, and look ahead with anticipation to what 2020 will bring. Even after 36 years of creating experiences to engage children in hands-on fun and learning, each year still brings new challenges and opportunities.
In the past twelve months we:
- piloted three new fundraising events – Cider Flights & Tasty Bites, UnWined Grown-Up Night and Mini Golf at the Museum. All three events will continue in 2020 thanks to their success!
- hosted our final 5K Road Race. Thanks to all the runners, sponsors and the Seacoast Road Race Series for supporting this event throughout the past 34 Years.
- transformed an existing classroom into the Lights! Shadow! Action! Interactive Classroom that now serves as an engaging exhibit with the flip of a switch.
- converted our lighting to LEDs, continuing our commitment to being earth-friendly and cost effective.
- raised nearly $200,000 for a new outdoor space, the Play Patio, slated to open in the summer of 2020!
- increased our operating hours by opening at 9am to better serve our visitors.
- served a record number of visitors and program participants – over 110,000, an 8% increase over the previous year.
- launched a new three-year strategic plan that focuses on providing outstanding guest experiences, engaging in best business practices, expanding marketing efforts and growing our audience in purposeful ways.
All of us at CMNH are lucky to be surrounded by families and caregivers who want the best for their children, helpful volunteers and generous donors who want to make a positive impact in children’s lives, passionate educators who strive to spark a love of learning in their students, and vibrant communities that welcome us with open arms.
Thank you for being part of our story and success!
Jane Bard, CMNH President
Next time you are in our Muse Studio, take a look above you and enjoy the colorful array of flying “birds”. South Berwick resident and artist Peter Flynn Donovan donated a flock of his birds to be enjoyed by all our visitors. In the spring of 2018, Peter was in a group art exhibition at the Portsmouth Public Library, called “Of a Feather.” His contribution to the show was a sculptural installation entitled: “Tah Dah!”
This art installation consisted of a five-foot cartoonish green duck who held in his hand an orange magician’s hat, out of which170 of these birds flew. Unfortunately, the majority of these birds were destroyed since being displayed in Portsmouth. But thankfully the surviving birds have found a new home here at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire.
Peter is a folk artist whose work is a narrative of the personal and universal conversation of what it is to be alive. He is strongly influenced by mythology – personal, world & religious. He makes art because it is one skill he feels has contributed to the vast experience and existence of Humanity. He is inspired by other artists and creators. He is honored to participate in this challenging avocation, and to be part of an often-invisible royal lineage whom make the world a deeply richer place.
Over ten years ago, the Children’s Museum was preparing to relocate and create a museum in Dover. D.F. Richard didn’t hesitate to help, and they have been committed partners ever since. I had the pleasure of reminiscing with Rick Card, CEO and General Manager of D. F. Richard, about our 10-year relationship.
As head of the Dover Chamber of Commerce in 2008, Rick recognized the museum’s move as an opportunity for the city. “It was a bold move at the time, and in the end it worked out well for the children, the city of Dover, and its citizens.” Being in Dover has also worked out well for the Children’s Museum!
D.F. Richard has been a loyal and unstinting supporter of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s educational programs, fundraising events, and exhibit spaces.
“At D.F. Richard we try to give back to organizations that our 14,000 customers are passionate about," shared Rick. "Our investment in the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire was a small gift in relation to what it has meant to the community.”
Devoted to family – father of three sons who also work at D.F. Richard, and grandfather of five – Rick continues the tradition of giving back to the community that began 86 years ago when the Richard family founded the company. “Dover is a family-oriented city. It’s a great place to live and do business. Thanks to the Children’s Museum, other businesses have moved into the area. You can make a day of it between visiting the Museum, the playground, and downtown businesses.”
The long-standing generosity of D.F. Richard has made it possible for the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire to develop programs and exhibits that have ignited the imaginations of nearly 1 million visitors since moving to Dover in 2008.
According to Rick, “The Museum engages kids with hands-on activities that keep them away from screens and keyboards. My sons love bringing their kids here. I like that the Museum takes care of the people who can’t afford to come. Looking back, we have all benefitted from having the Museum here!”
Partnerships like this are essential to our success in fulfilling our mission to actively engage families in hands-on discovery. To learn more about D. F. Richard, visit www.dfrichard.com.
To learn more about museum sponsorship, click here.
by Jane Bard, CMNH President
What’s new at the Museum? is the most commonly asked question when myself and my Museum colleagues are out and about in the community.
Before looking ahead, 2017 saw growth and change to best serve the 93,000 plus individuals we served last year. New experiences for our visitors included a new Thinkering Lab exhibit in January, to a major refresh of the iconic Build It-Fly It exhibit in the Fall, three new Gallery 6 exhibitions throughout the year, and the opening of the new Dover Adventure Playground outside our doors in June.
To deepen our impact, we created new curriculum-based programs for schools, our first-ever Grown-Up Play Dates and the We All Belong program for immigrant families. One of our most ambitious projects took place behind the scenes, an investment in a point-of-sales and database system that is helping us become more effective and efficient.
So what is in store for 2018? We will be celebrating our 35th anniversary and 10th year since becoming the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and expanding in Dover by continuing to offer the same great programming and exhibits you’ve come to expect from us, while continuing to refresh these experiences and listening to the needs of our audience. Our One World exhibits will be getting a new life, introducing visitors to new cultures representing local immigrant populations through arts, culture and food. New signs within our exhibits will highlight the ways children are learning as they explore. Favorite programs and events will continue, while plans are underway for a special anniversary events in the summer and fall, so stay tuned!