The Children's Museum of New Hampshire has been chosen as one of the area's "Target Circle" non-profits. This provides Target choppers with the opportunity to vote for CMNH after shopping at Target, and those votes will help direct Target's giving to benefit the museum. Voting continues through the end of March 2023. Voting can be done through the Target app or through the website and is available to all Target Circle Members (free to sign up). Target.com/circle
The Children's Museum of NH (CMNH) has received a generous grant from The Evelyn S. and K.E. Barrett Foundation to support a year-long initiative providing play-based learning training and resources to those caring for preschool aged children. This grant is in addition to the recent award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and will help CMNH to meet the huge response from partners wanting to be involved in the project.
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 to fill in the gaps and nurture their children’s growth.
Building off their expertise as a leader in play-based learning, CMNH created a year-long initiative to support childcare professionals and others providing childcare in non-traditional settings. A series of programs will reach these audiences including supplying 80+ childcare centers, family resource centers, and public libraries with high quality play-based learning manipulative kits to use with the children in their care. Also included in this initiative are open houses, online workshops, programming at CMNH, monthly guides and activity suggestions, all with the goal of improving developmental and learning opportunities for young children.
“This effort is exactly the type of program my mother, who championed children and early education, would have been proud to support,” said Peter Barrett, trustee of the Foundation. “The Barrett Foundation is glad to be able to contribute to the important work being done to deepen developmental and learning experiences for young children in New Hampshire by the Children’s Museum."
To date the Children’s Museum has held an Open House attended by over 100 childcare providers, and added three weekly drop-in programs at the Museum for families of preschool-aged children. The Museum has also distributed 83 kits of materials to those serving young children. “We’re receiving amazing feedback from organizations that have received their boxes,” said Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Content Specialist who curated the materials in the kits. “We have a lot of experience with open ended, play-based manipulatives and were thrilled to put that expertise to good use creating these kits. The Barrett Foundation grant means we are able to distribute materials kits to more providers, who in total reach over 9,000 children across the state.”
The boxes contain some familiar play materials like Duplo blocks, sturdy toy trucks, and farm animal figurines but also have some items not traditionally thought of for play–like colorful mixing bowls with matching lids that can be used for sorting, drumming, stacking, and more!
“We got our kit yesterday and we’re blown away,” said program partner Ellen Grudzien from The Amherst Preschool, in an email. “We are a 100% child led play school and we value materials with intention. The box was full of them! I can’t wait to see the kids use it!!! Thank you for this initiative!”
The Museum is meeting regularly with an advisory group about various aspects of this program. Organizations in this group include the University of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire State Library, and United Way.
Participants are feeling good about the amount of support being provided by CMNH through this program. Cheryl Ingerson from Elkins Public Library in Canterbury, NH said “WOW!! We just received the PBL kit… WOW!! I can’t wait to add these to our programming and am looking forward to the monthly activity guides. Thank you so much!”
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) and The Evelyn S. and K.E. Barrett Foundation.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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 www.childrens-museum.org to reserve or pre-pay.
Despite the global pandemic and associated challenges, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (CMNH) has ensured that its educational programs remain accessible to all. One corporate supporter, Liberty Mutual, has recently gifted CMNH a $10,000 grant to support this effort.
“We’re proud of our long-term relationship with the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and we’re proud to support the Museum and its dedicated staff as they champion equitable access to educational opportunities for children and families in our community,” said Matt Keane, Director, Liberty Mutual.
After the museum reopened in September 2020 with a reduced schedule and daily attendance limits to provide a safe space for visitors, most of whom are too young to receive a vaccination, the museum has experienced an 86% reduction in admissions revenue.
“We’re so grateful that Liberty Mutual understands the urgent need for high-quality enrichment activities and programming for young children,” said Jane Bard, CMNH President. “We continuously field requests from social service agencies for admission passes for their clients, and see a demand from visitors using EBT (food stamps benefits) cards for discounted visits with their children. This grant will make it easier for the Museum to continue serving as an integral economic, educational and cultural resource for the seacoast region
Museum discounts vary and include Military, teacher and EBT discounts, as well as social service agency passes. Information about admission discounts can be found online here.
“We want families to know that they can turn to us when looking for quality programming for their young children, and that they will be welcomed regardless of their financial status,” said Bard. “Without the support from foundations and businesses like Liberty Mutual, offering these kinds of accessibility and inclusion programs would be a much greater burden on the museum.”
To learn more about visiting the museum, and to pre-pay/reserve a date/time, guests can go online here. The Museum is currently open for two 3-hour play sessions per day, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. or 1-4 p.m., as well as one morning play session on Sundays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Reservations are required and masks are required for everyone over the age of 24 months, regardless of vaccination status.
Our Furry Friends: Pet Portraits by NH Artists
New Gallery 6 Art Exhibition at the Children’s Museum of NH
Whether you call them fur babies, best friends, or companions for emotional or physical support, pets are a part of many people’s lives. Two out of every three American homes includes at least one pet and 95% percent of those households consider their pet to be a family member. Join the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire as they celebrate these furry family members and their unique personalities as captured through the art of four New Hampshire pet portraitists.
“Our Furry Friends: Pet Portraits by NH Artists” is the latest Gallery 6 art exhibition at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, and will be on display October 9, 2021 through January 30, 2022. Feature artists include photographer Greg West of Sit.Stay.Smile, acrylic and sketch artist Rebecca Lane of one lane studios, watercolorist Nicole Murphy Fish of Fancy Animal Art Studio, and illustrator Abby Aimesbury.
The Children’s Museum wants visitors to be a part of the fun. Museum visitors and social media followers will also be invited to participate by creating and sharing their own pet portraits for display in the Museum and the Museum will host pet portrait art-making, pet crafts, and special activities throughout the exhibition’s duration.
The Museum will also be adding a Vet Play Exhibit area sponsored by Dr. Timothy Hunt of Winichahanat Veterinary Care in Dover. This mini-veterinarians office will include stuffed animals, veterinary tools, dress up clothes, and books, and will be open during the months of the gallery show. Some of the other special activities include a “pet washing” sensory station, making pipe cleaner pets in the Muse Studio, and a special Explore More activity like inventing your own pet out of clay.
In addition to professional and visitor-created artwork, this exhibition will feature information about three animal-focused NH non-profits making a difference in their communities. The Pope Memorial Humane Society provides a safe, temporary home to more than 1,000 surrendered, lost, abused, neglected, or unwanted animals each year. ElderPet is volunteer-run and facilitates the human/pet relationships of senior citizens, people with disabilities, hospice families and clients of health care and other facilities. Operation Delta Dog rescues homeless dogs and trains them to be service dogs for veterans with PTSD and related challenges.
Gallery 6 is located in the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and is made possible by support from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, Fuller Foundation and the TD Charitable Foundation.
IMAGE: Top left to bottom right: photographer Greg West of Sit.Stay.Smile, watercolorist Nicole Murphy Fish of Fancy Animal Art Studio, acrylic and sketch artist Rebecca Lane of one lane studios, and illustrator Abby Aimesbury.