The Madison Children’s Museum in Madison, Wisconsin, connects children to their families, friends, and communities through play. The museum offers interactive, engaging, and entertaining custom exhibits to encourage learning through play in a sustainable, supportive, friendly, and equal access environment. Each separate exhibit space incorporates sounds, lights and hands-on activities to promote learning and engagement.
In the Possible-opolis exhibit, children learn about invention with puzzles and games made from repurposed and recycled materials. Kids run in a life-sized gerbil wheel, use pulleys and harnesses to “mooove” a cow, and scale a two-story climbing wall. The Log Cabin exhibit takes children back through the history of Wisconsin where they can write with a quill pen, cook on an open hearth, ‘cut timber’ with a two-man saw and churn butter. The Log Cabin exhibit is built inside an authentic 1838 log cabin, transported to the museum with the assistance of the Nature Conservancy. The Community Concourse offers interactive exhibits that incorporate gears, machinery that runs on the power of water as well as ball runs, public art, and videos. The Art Studio exhibit lets children create their own masterpieces by tracing shadows on the wall in the Shadow Room, weaving on a loom, sculpting, or drawing. The Stair Trek incorporates the stairwells of the five-story museum into an exhibit designed to encourage kids to move and be active. The exhibit, in partnership with Design to Move, offers sounds, light, and colorful drawings to represent a journey from the center of the Earth to the cosmos. The Rooftop Ramble is an outdoor play area with a pond, garden, and playground equipment. The clubhouse on the rooftop is host to reptiles and rodents, and there is a chicken coop that produces 1,400 eggs annually. Most exhibits are suitable for children of all ages. Activities for children under 5 years old include the Wildernest, a multi-cultural village full of hands-on activities for young children incorporating lights, colors, and textures, and the Urb Garden, a rooftop garden where young children under 5 can learn about worm composting, growing vegetables, and enjoy watching fish in the fish tank.
History: The Madison Children’s Museum was founded in 1980 by a group of early childhood specialists. The museum began as a band of volunteers who led programming for kids at the Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. Soon, the popular children’s programs found a home of their own. A major expansion occurred in 2005 when the museum moved into a $5 million building donated by W. Jerome Frautschi. The building, originally built in 1929 as a Montgomery Ward department store, made use of a $10 million capital campaign to develop it into today’s Children’s Museum. Renovations were completed by local builders using recycled and sustainably sourced materials. The newly renovated museum opened in 2010. In 2014, the building achieved LEED Gold Certification and is the first LEED certified museum in Wisconsin. Today, the Madison Children’s Museum hosts upwards of 200,000 visitors annually and is proud to be an example of sustainable practices for museums everywhere.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Special events for children take place in the exhibit spaces each weekend. Space Yoga is a 20-minute program where kids learn about the solar system through movement. Bubble science educates about wind, science, and bubbles through play with giant bubble wands. Cabin Cooking is an open grill cooking demonstration, which teaches about history, science, and math. Other annual programs include Healthy Habits Week, Dental Health Week, Kids for Peace Day, and Winter Wonder Week. Day Camps for kids take place throughout the summer and are based on different themes such as the Advanced Project Funway fashion design camp and the Design a City architectural design and 3D sculpting camp. Family programming includes Free Family Night, which opens the museum to everyone for free on the first Wednesday of each month. Programs for adults include Adult Swim: Glow Motion, a glow-in-the-dark DJ dance party. SPARK! is a 90-minute program for adults with memory loss, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, which encourages memory access through craft programs such as terrarium making, tie-dying, and cookie decorating.
Past and Future Exhibits: The museum is also host to some temporary exhibits. New exhibits include Seymor’s Adventure, which teaches about lake habitats and fish anatomy, and features Seymor, a popular fish character from the past exhibit, Leap into Lakes. The Montgomery Ward Hardware Department exhibit plays off the history of the museum building’s first role, with a hands-on exhibit incorporating the use of tools.
100 N Hamilton Street, Madison, WI 53703, Phone: 608-256-6445