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.
Dear CMNH Member,
Your CMNH Membership has been extended to account for covering the time that the museum was fully closed due to COVID19. We have updated all membership records in our database to reflect this extension. When you visit the museum please have your membership card (even if it says it’s expired) OR a photo ID and our staff can verify your information.
*Since all of our membership information is kept digitally there is no need to reprint membership cards as your record has been corrected in our system*
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If you were given a Gift Membership: If you happened to be gifted a Membership to CMNH, but haven't used it yet (ie, you have the gift membership certificate, but haven't visited for whatever reason) your membership hasn't been activated yet, and won't be until the first time you come in and present the certificate. So once you do visit, the expiration date will become one year from the date that you visit for the first time.
Thank you for being a member and supporting the museum!
If your Membership expired at the end of:
March 2020 - Your new expiration date was end of September 2020
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If your Membership expires at the end of:
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Any memberships purchased in or after September 2020 will have the normal 12 month length of their membership.
We are excited to announce our reopening to the public in September after a nearly six-month closure due to COVID-19. “During this unprecedented time of stress and hardship, we hope that reopening the Museum brings joy and a hint of normalcy to the lives of children, families and the community,”said Jane Bard, Museum President. “We recognize that there is still much uncertainty, and that some families might not be ready for in-person experiences like visiting a Museum. For those families, we are committed to continue offering virtual programming and learning resources through our social media channels,” said Bard. “For families ready to return, we look forward to welcoming you back!”
The Museum’s plan for reopening is a phased approach, and initially CMNH will open to their members only on Thursday – Saturday, September 3rd - 5th, and two timed-ticket entry sessions each day from 9 am - 11:30am and 1pm - 3:30 pm. Maximum occupancy for each session will be capped at 50 visitors, which is 10% of CMNH’s building capacity. All visitors must pre-register for their visit online. Online registration can be done one week in advance. Beginning in October, the Museum plans to offer two-hour private Museum rentals to groups of up to 50 people on Sundays.
“As we prepare to open our doors, we feel it is important to share the steps we are taking to keep our guests and employees safe,”said Bard. “We’ve always taken pride in providing a safe, clean, and accessible environment. During our closure, we’ve been preparing to reopen implementing best practices set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Association of Children’s Museums, and the New Hampshire Reopening Guidelines.”
These safety guidelines include:
- Physically distancing - There are occupancy limits posted for each exhibit, (usually one family at a time), floor decals and dinosaur footprints guiding visitors on the one-way flow of traffic around the Museum.
- Face coverings - All visitors over the age of 24 months and all staff must wear a face covering over their mouth and nose at all times in the Museum. We will offer a once-monthly after-hours session for visitors who cannot wear a mask due to medical reasons. For September that date and time is Sunday, September 27th from 10am-noon. If you wish to visit during that date/time, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Frequent hand washing and sanitizing - The Museum has 17 hand-sanitizing stations and 12 sinks for hand-washing spaced throughout the building.
- Ventilation - we have increased the air rate of exchange in our building to maximum levels and will keep windows open when possible to maximize air flow
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces - Museum staff will perform a deep clean in between each timed sessions, disinfecting all surfaces and replacing all exhibit props with a new sanitized set. Some exhibits have been modified and items that are difficult to sanitize or that touch a visitor’s face or head have been removed. Disinfectant wipes will be placed strategically around the Museum for visitor use, and staff will continually clean high-touch surfaces during the day.
- Staying home if you are sick - The Museum asks that all visitors and staff stay home if they are sick or experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19. We are happy to reschedule visits if necessary. All Museum staff will answer health screening questions and take their temperature prior to each work day.
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.
Children’s Museum Encourages Families to #PlayTogether
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, like every museum across the country, has closed its doors for the good of the community during this pandemic. “Luckily ‘PLAY’ can happen anywhere,” said CMNH Director Jane Bard. “Our mission is to actively engage families in hands-on discovery, and there is no reason we can’t continue to do that, even with our exhibits being temporarily closed.”
In order to continue to fulfill their mission, Museum staff and educators are working hard to create online videos, blogs, social media challenges and more. “We continue to offer our Wee Ones Wednesday program Wednesday mornings at 8am through a recorded video on all of our social media channels including YouTube,” shared Bard. “So, fans of that program can tune in and say hello to their friend ‘Octopus’, do an activity or craft, pause for snack time, dance around to some silly songs, and even enjoy a story. If you’ve never joined us for a Wee Ones program, now is a great time to test it out! It’s perfect for ages 2 - 4.”
Another popular program is “First Friends and Baby Storytime.” “Ms. Meredith, one of our educators, has been recording First Friends videos to share with families at 8am on Friday mornings,” said Bard. “First Friends is a great program for babies and toddlers to watch together with their caregivers, because it has silly rhymes and active songs perfect for that age group.” Ms. Meredith also shares Tinker Time Tuesday videos as well, which are designed for parents who are looking for creative ways to help their toddlers practice skills like sorting, building, cause and effect and more.
The museum’s outreach efforts don’t exclude the older kids. “Much of the content we share can be modified for a wide range of ages,” said Bard. “We give tips and tricks on how to do that either within the videos or on our blog.” Other video topics have included art activities, storytimes, STEAM challenges, and simple science experiments. “Everything we share can also be utilized by educators, and we certainly hope they take advantage of them."
In addition to the online content, the Museum is offering a range of Museum Shop “Spring Fun Packs” and “Museum to Go Activity Boxes” for sale online. When ordering, people can choose from two pick-up dates, Thursday, April 9 from 4-6pm or Saturday, April 11, 10am-noon. The purchases will be available in front of the Museum for contactless pick-up. “These are great bundles of toys and activities, perfect for the upcoming holiday, or really any day,” said Bard. “After all, playing together can happen anywhere, anytime. And the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is here to be a community resource as we all try to parent through this pandemic.”
Dear CMNH Friends,
I’m sure by now you all know how these announcements go. “These are unprecedented times.” Indeed they are, as I’m writing to you from my kitchen table, and not from inside the Museum listening to the sounds of happy children. Two weeks ago we thought we would be welcoming you back with a refreshed facility and exhibits on April 1st. Pandemics, as it turns out, are hard to predict, and we now know we can’t reopen just yet. But we will be back when it is safe to do so!
In the meantime, we’re doing what we do best, which is encouraging families to actively engage in hands-on discovery, now from the safety of their own homes. We are creating videos of our popular programs and sharing resources to support your at-home learning. Our goal is to continue to #PlayTogether while also bringing a sense of normalcy to children who miss their Museum friends.
Temporarily closing the Museum has not only been sad, but also devastating to us financially. As a non-profit, we rely on income from ticket sales, memberships, classes, and special events to keep the Museum running. Like many of you, we are tightening our belts, using our creative thinking skills to find ways to sustain us through this time, and looking forward to the day we can see you face-to-face.
Since we are closing longer than anticipated, we will be extending our family memberships so you can join in the fun when we reopen.
If you are able, here’s how you can support the Museum during the closure:
- Renew an expired membership or purchase a gift membership for a friend or loved one so you can visit together when we reopen. Gift Memberships aren’t active until redeemed here at the Museum, so they can be purchased at any time and are valid a year from the month of redemption. All memberships will be mailed out one we have an opening date.
- Share our free online content with friends, and consider giving a $5 donation for programs you and your family enjoy.
- Participate in our Car or Cash Raffle fundraiser, and have the chance to win an electric car, sports car or $20,000 prize.
As we watch spring unfold, we’re all taking a collective deep breath and moving forward one day at a time. We will be sure to keep in touch when there is news to share. We are honored to be a valued part of this community for the past 36 years, and look forward to seeing you all soon.
Jane Bard, President