Located in Lincoln, NE, the Lincoln Children’s Museum is a 23,000-square-foot space encouraging children’s learning exploration and creativity, featuring three floors of hands-on exhibits focused on STEM and arts principles. The Lincoln Children’s Museum was the vision of a citizen group of area parents and educators who formed a nonprofit organization in 1987 dedicated to providing out-of-classroom educational opportunities for Nebraska students.
In August of 1988, the organization presented a mobile museum exhibit, entitled “Sights and Sounds,” at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds, which was presented for 10 days and attracted more than 10,000 participants. Utilizing grant funds secured from local educational foundations, the organization opened a permanent museum location in December of the following year, showcasing a dozen handcrafted exhibits within 7,500 square feet inside downtown Lincoln’s Atrium building. More than 15,000 visitors attended the museum in its inaugural year, prompting expansions and renovations of exhibits and a move to a larger facility in 1991. In 1998, $6 million in funds were raised for a complete overhaul of the museum’s former department store facility, which transformed the property into a LEED-certified green building utilizing waste minimizing, energy, and water conservation techniques.
Today, the Lincoln Children’s Museum is operated as a private nonprofit organization, overseen by a board of directors, and is a member of the Association of Children’s Museums. Three floors of gallery space feature exhibits for infants, toddlers, and elementary school children, utilizing interactive features and focusing on STEM, arts, creativity, and innovation principles. The museum’s Twinkle’s Toy Store offers toys, games, and educational gifts, and designated picnic areas allow families to bring prepared lunches to the facility.
A Performing Arts Center anchors the museum’s lower level, featuring a miniature stage with customizable lighting, backdrops, and costumes and a television monitor for viewing children’s performances. A Puppet Theater area also allows children to perform improvisational puppet shows, and a Flo-Graphix glow room provides creative opportunities in a glow-in-the-dark environment. A Water Exhibit area allows for free play and dam building, and prairie dog tunnels offer exploration within the museum’s Apple Tree playspace, which expands throughout the center of the museum and provide climbing opportunities reaching up to the museum’s top floor.
On the museum’s main level, a Tiny Town area provides educational opportunities within a variety of miniature reconstructed civic buildings, teaching children about adult careers and healthy lifestyle choices. Farm-to-table agriculture and healthy eating concepts are emphasized at the Farm and Kimmel Family Apple Orchard and Hy-Vee Grocery Store buildings, and a Pizzeria exhibit uses pizza pie slices to reinforce math concepts such as fractions.Tracy’s Collision Center utilizes touchscreen technology to allow children to renovate and repair automobiles, and the Johnny Carson Theater and 10/11 TV Studio areas offer on-screen news anchor reenactment experiences. Other exhibit areas include a recreated Union Bank facility with vacuum tubes and teller counters, a Post Office, a Husker Sports Area, and a replica of Bryan Health Center. Children can also climb behind the wheel of a refurbished Harley-Davidson Police Motorcycle and a Lincoln Fire and Rescue Truck for play and photo opportunities.
STEM principles and transportation technologies are highlighted on the museum’s upper level, including space travel technologies showcased within the Lunar Lander and Lunar Rover exhibits. A Sky High Airport exhibit features a real Cessna aircraft, along with a child-sized traffic control station and luggage shuttle. A Cuckoo Construction clock tower extends through all three of the museum’s floors, emphasizing engineering creativity and innovation. A BNSF Train exhibit also allows children to climb behind the wheel of a historic locomotive replica. For young visitors under the age of three, a Grow Zone features activities such as a noodle forest and a ball sorter to introduce cause-and-effect and fine motor skill principles.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Daily programming is offered throughout the museum at select times, including science demonstrations, art activities, and storytime opportunities. Field trip opportunities are offered for public and private schools, homeschool groups, and day care centers, incorporating Nebraska curriculum requirements into hands-on learning experiences. Day camp programming is offered in the museum’s educational center, including weeklong summer camp opportunities for elementary school students. Regular public special event programming includes First Friday Family Nights, which offer themed monthly activities geared toward working families who cannot attend the museum during daytime operation hours. The museum is also available for private special event rentals, including complete birthday party packages for children.
1420 P St, Lincoln, NE 68508, Phone: 402-477-4000