The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is once again organizing and hosting the annual NH Maker Fest on Saturday, September 18th from 10am-3pm, inside and around the museum. Generous lead sponsors including Sprague, the Unique College Investing Plan managed by Fidelity, and Kennebunk Savings Bank have made it possible to have this year’s festival entrance be by donation. “We’re grateful to all our sponsors for helping to make this year’s festival the most accessible one yet,” shared CMNH President Jane Bard.
The NH Maker Fest is a day long festival that invites all ages to explore the creativity and ingenuity of area makers, hobbyists, artisans, performers and more. “Much like the Children’s Museum’s of NH mission, which is to actively engage families in hands-on discovery, the NH Maker Fest is a great opportunity to experience a ton of local innovation and resourcefulness all in one place,” said Neva Cole, CMNH Communications Director.
Participants in the Fest vary from year to year, and Maker applications are still being accepted. Lindsey Castellon, owner of Angry Gato Designs, is excited to participate for the first time this year, and will not only be selling her fantastical laser-cut works of art, illustrations, jewelry and more, but will also be showing guests how to make their own fabric scrap garland. Local podcaster Laura Harper will be on hand with her friends from the Creative Guts podcast, and will be inviting folks to stop by and record answers to a few of their creative questions. Recordings from the Fest may even be used in a future episode of Creative Guts!
NH Maker Fest alumni will include the Maker Lab at the Dover Library, who are always popular with guests because of their creative activities, as well as the talented students of the McDonough-Grimes Irish Dance group who will be performing on the Rotary Arts Pavilion stage in front of the museum. Also back again this year is the FIRST LEGO League team from the Dover Middle School who will not only show off their robots, but help guests code and operate a robot to complete missions of their own.
Interested Makers also have the option of participating virtually through pre-recorded videos, online workshops, blogs and more. “We went totally virtual with the Fest last year, and we wanted to offer that option to people again this year since it was a lot of fun, and an easy way for people to show off their talents,” shared Cole.
Also new this year, the Fest has partnered with the Cochecho Arts Festival, organized by the Dover Chamber of Commerce. Magic Fred, a children’s magician will perform from 10-10:30am, and then The Kenney Brothers Band, a folk rock band, will perform from 3-4pm as the culmination of both the NH Maker Fest and the Cochecho Arts Festival summer concert series. Both performances will take place on the Rotary Arts Pavilion at Henry Law Park and the stage sponsor is Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A. “We are excited to partner with the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire to provide entertainment for the NH Maker Fest,” says Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce President Margaret Joyce. “This is a natural extension of our summer-long Cochecho Arts Festival and allows us to celebrate the arts with Maker Fest attendees.”
The museum would like to thank all its NH Maker Fest sponsors including Sprague, Unique College Investing Plan Managed by Fidelity, Kennebunk Savings Bank, Albany International, Alexander Technology Group, Beswick Engineering Company, Inc., QA Cafe, The Rowley Agency, Loftware, Martel Plumbing & Heating, and NHPBS. To learn more about the Fest, to support this event, or to apply as a Maker, please visit this page.
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (CMNH) has been awarded a $3,000 grant from Whole Kids Foundation to support the “CMNH Learning Garden - Edible Education” at its outdoor space. Whole Kids Foundation’s Garden Grant Program helps schools and organizations in the US, Canada and the UK connect students to real food through edible learning gardens aimed at improving children’s nutrition and wellness.
CMNH will use the grant to make needed improvements to the garden, after a year-long hiatus due to COVID, and for programming aimed at educating children about healthy food choices and the environment.
Whole Kids Foundation has awarded funding for over 6,000 edible education gardens. “We believe in the power of a garden as a learning space,” said Nona Evans, president and executive director of Whole Kids Foundation. “Every garden grant creates an opportunity for kids to learn more about where their food comes from, gain a deeper understanding of the connection between what we eat and how we feel, and put all of that learning into action as they make daily choices for meals and snacks.”
“We look forward to inspiring and educating children in our Learning Garden thanks to the support of Whole Kids Foundation,” said Jane Bard, CMNH President. “Actively participating in growing food is a powerful learning experience that we are happy to bring to our community of children.”
The new Whole Foods Market Portsmouth location is now open; located at 1600 Woodbury Ave. To learn more about the new store, click here.
Nonprofit organizations interested in requesting donations or support from Whole Foods Market can visit the Whole Foods Market Community Giving page here to learn more.
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.
We are celebrating Family Dental Health Month at the museum, and in this video shows you how to make a magnetic tooth fairy wand. Here's what you will need to make a magic wand at home:
- Paper - cut out a star or tooth shape
- Markers or crayons
- Stickers (optional)
- White paper for mini teeth
- Paperclips, brass fastener, or pipe cleaner
- Wand- pencil, craft stick, or chopstick
- Optional: ribbon to decorate
- First decorate the top of the wand- you could make a paper star, tooth, or a shape of your choice. Use markers or stickers to decorate it
- Next tape the paper piece of the wand to a stick- this could be a pencil, craft stick, choo stick, dowel, or even a twig from outside!
- Add some colorful ribbon or streamers to your wand if you would like
- Now carefully tape a magnet to the back of your wand. You can test the magnet first to make sure it's strong enough to pick up a paper clip (or whatever metal object you are using)
- Cut out some mini teeth using white paper, and add a paperclip, pipe cleaner, or brass fastener to each tooth
- Try out your magic wand! Place the teeth on a flat surface, and use the magnet on your wand to try to pick them up.
At the end of the video we talk about a few of the dental health books we have at the museum that cover losing teeth! Here is another great selection put together by Scholastic.
Three Sunflower Activity Ideas from Little Pine Learners
Get a Sunflower! If kids can pick their own at a farm or market, that adds to the fun!
- Have children use tweezers to take apart the sunflower, and get the seeds out.
- Draw or print a sunflower template and have children use a paint brush to sweep the seeds to the center of the flower drawing.
- When the exploration is done, use the seeds to create sunflower art by glueing them to the template or drawing!
Save the extra seeds to make a bird feeder or simply scatter for birds in your yard!
Even with limited space and materials, kids can learn from play!
Play Based Learning experts suggest that Montessori style play areas can be a good approach to use for play based learning at home. Open ended activities that allow for creativity work well, and it helps to have a defined play space where kids know they can use any materials available. Adding one new or different activity choice per week can help keep children engaged. This can be a new theme using their toys, nature items, or other objects from around the home. Borrowing library books also helps to add variety without purchasing anything new, and can be a great way to explore new topics.
A Few Guidelines
- Have a limited number of activities, and cater to their interests.
- Set up materials at their level and let them choose.
- Choose engaging activities over entertainment.
- Mix in a variety of activities and add something different each week.
- Use a cozy space where few things are "off limits" so kids can focus on play.
- Trays help separate activities and contain messes
At the Children's Museum of New Hampshire we've been inviting children to engage in hands-on Play Based Learning since we opened in 1983. However, we realize it's not as easy in a classroom or at home. Each week we will be sharing Play Based Learning tips to help caregivers and teachers encourage play!
You can see all the PBL tips here on our website, or follow us on Pinterest, or subscribe to YouTube.
Make a Bruce the Bear bag puppet!
Bruce the Bear was our special guest for Books Alive & Story Explorers this month. We read “Mother Bruce” and enjoyed the story of Bruce mothering a group of baby goslings!
There are lots of other Bruce the Bear books by local Maine author Ryan T. Higgins -you can check them out at your local library and learn about Bruce’s other adventures!
To make your own Bruce the Bear puppet to bring on adventures, follow these instructions:
- Small paper bag
- Two small paper circles (for his ears!)
- One paper triangle or circle (for his nose!)
- Glue or tape
- Markers or crayons
- Place your paper bag on your work surface so that the square bottom is facing you and turned upwards (This will be the head/mouth of your puppet!)
- Use your glue or tape to attach the ear and nose pieces
- Decorate your puppet with markers or crayons!