Located in Dover, New Hampshire, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire offers two floors of interactive educational exhibits for young children, focusing on STEM, arts, and social science and history principles. The history of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire dates back to 1983, when the museum’s original facility was opened in downtown Portsmouth, housed within a former school building.
The museum’s exhibits and attendance soon outgrew the Portsmouth facility, and in 2008, the museum purchased a former 1920s armory building in downtown Dover, along the western banks of the city’s Cocheco River. A team of local artists and museum staff members renovated the Dover building, which had been previously used by the City of Dover’s Recreation Department as a public gymnasium, into a LEED-certified museum facility encompassing two floors of exhibit space and a lower level for mechanical storage. The new Dover museum facility officially opened to the public in 2008.
Today, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire offers a variety of STEM and arts-themed exhibits for young children, organized around a central ramp leading into the facility’s former gym space. A clerestory atrium offers natural light in the center of the museum hall, and a bay area on the east side of the hall allows for a visual connection to the Cocheco River from within the museum. The museum is supported by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and functions to engage New Hampshire youth in exploration and discovery activities, fostering creative thinking and innovation for the next generation.
A number of museum exhibits are focused around science, technology, engineering, and math principles, including the STEAM Innovation Lab and Thinkering Lab, which encourage young visitors to expand their innovation skills and think critically about mathematics and design concepts. The museum’s Build It, Fly It exhibit allows children to construct their own flying devices from colorful foam pieces and test them on a custom conveyor system featuring a Bernoulli blower. Redesigned in 2015, the museum’s Coin Maze showcases physics principles through a series of obstacles for dropped coins. Electroencephalograph technology is illustrated through the Play It Cool exhibit, which offers games of Mindball based on principles of brainwave relaxation. Mathematics and physics principles are also incorporated into the First Impressions and Pattern Palace exhibits, which encourage children to explore cause-and-effect reactions.
Natural and cultural history are explored in a variety of exhibits, including the Cochecosystem exhibit, which allows children to creatively explore water cycle principles through a miniature model of the nearby Cocheco River. The ecosystems of the Gulf of Maine are on display in the Yellow Submarine exhibit, which features a working periscope, listening station, propellor, and sonar radar system. The Dino Detective exhibit contains an augmented-reality sand table for digging and landscaping, and the Naturalist’s Study exhibit showcases rotating animal and fossil specimens. Cultural anthropology is the focus of several exhibits, including the glow-in-the-dark Cave Explorers exhibit and the One World exhibit area, which allows children to explore the cultures of South American, African, and Asian countries. A Post Office exhibit also offers a miniature recreation of a full-service post office, allowing children to experience adult job and civic life in a realistic environment.
Arts and imagination are the focus of the Muse Studio, which offers rotating monthly exhibits designed for younger and older children to explore their creativity skills. The Music Matrix and Sound Watch interactive sculpture allows children to compose their own unique musical compositions and create visual representations of sound waves. Outside the museum, the Dover Adventure Playground features a life-sized gundalow boat, a three-story tower, a climbable granite fish sculpture, and a splash pad. Rotating temporary exhibits are showcased in the museum’s Gallery 6, and the Primary Place playplace offers a safe play space for children under 3.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities are offered at the museum for elementary school groups, offering a variety of guided and self-guided options, including STEAM Lab workshops and overnight experiences for scouting groups. School outreach programs are also offered, including a once-a-week Traveling Maker Club. Children’s workshops and courses are offered periodically on a number of topics, including science, art, and making. Special programming is offered for children with autism and community residents with Alzheimer’s, and early learning programs offer safe drop-in play for children under two and their parents.
A variety of public special events are offered throughout the year, including an annual 5K Road Race and Kid-venture Course, a ToddlerFest event for children under 5, a Mini Maker Faire, a Not-So-Spooky Halloween event, and a Jingle Bell Express holiday storytelling event. Periodic Books Alive events bring popular children’s book characters to the museum for meet-and-greets and family activities, and Throwback Thursday events open the museum to adults ages 21 and older for adult refreshments and free play without children. Events are also held in honor of Earth Day, Dental Health Month, Family Literacy Month, and other educational and awareness days of observance throughout the year.
6 Washington St, Dover, NH 03820, Phone: 603-742-2002