A World of Education and Fun at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan

When it comes to enriching the lives of children and fostering their creativity and curiosity, few places are as magical as The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM). Situated on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in New York City, this institution has been a beloved destination for families for decades. In this article, we will explore the wonders of CMOM, from its history and mission to its engaging exhibits and programs, demonstrating why it is a must-visit destination for families seeking interactive and educational experiences.

History of The Children’s Museum of Manhattan

The institution originally known as GAME (Growth Through Art and Museum Experience) was established by Bette Korman in 1973. Later, in the 1980s, it was renamed the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM). In 1989, the museum found its current home on West 83rd Street. Recently, in 2018, CMOM unveiled plans to move to a more spacious location at 96th Street and Central Park West.

In 1973, a group of artists and educators saw the need for creative and educational outlets, especially when New York City was facing a financial crisis that led to the removal of school arts and cultural programs. They established a modest basement storefront to serve the Harlem and Upper West Side communities. Thanks to a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, they transformed a city-owned courthouse into the Manhattan Laboratory Museum. Over the years, CMOM expanded its offerings, adding a media center, an outdoor environmental center, and an early childhood center. Notably, a collaboration with Disney led to the “World of Pooh” exhibit, boosting CMOM’s visibility. They also opened “Wordplay,” their first exhibit designed for children aged four and younger. During this time, CMOM’s Executive Director, Andy Ackerman, played a prominent role in the Association of Children’s Museums. In 2000, CMOM underwent renovations, enhancing its entrance, lobby, and exhibit space.

In 2005, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) was among 406 arts and social service institutions in New York City that received a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, made possible by then-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In 2019, Andrew Ackerman, who had been the museum’s director for nearly 30 years, stepped down from his role, and Aileen Hefferren took over as Director by 2021.

As of 2021, CMOM welcomes approximately 350,000 visitors each year, showing a growth of 25,000 visitors compared to the previous decade. The museum has been actively involved in establishing the New York City Museum School, reflecting its ongoing commitment to community outreach efforts.

In January 2018, CMOM announced the acquisition of the former First Church of Christ, Scientist building at 96th Street and Central Park West. They plan to relocate to this new facility after necessary renovations, which will provide 41,300 square feet of gallery and exhibition space. The museum aims to complete this move by 2023.

The CMOM Mission

At the core of CMOM’s mission is the belief that all children have the right to learn, play, and thrive. The museum aims to provide an inclusive and accessible environment where children from diverse backgrounds can explore, discover, and create. CMOM’s mission is encapsulated in three key pillars:

1. Learning through Play

CMOM recognizes the importance of play as a fundamental aspect of a child’s development. Through interactive exhibits and programs, the museum encourages children to explore their world, experiment with new ideas, and develop crucial cognitive and social skills.

2. Promoting Creativity and Imagination

The museum places a strong emphasis on fostering creativity and imagination in children. By providing opportunities for self-expression through art, music, and storytelling, CMOM helps children develop their unique voices and perspectives.

3. Building Lifelong Learners

CMOM is dedicated to instilling a love of learning in children. The museum offers a wide range of educational experiences that spark curiosity and curiosity and cultivate a thirst for knowledge that can last a lifetime.

Group of Children Playing on Green Grass

The CMOM Experience: Interactive Exhibits

CMOM’s success in fulfilling its mission is evident in its engaging and interactive exhibits. The museum constantly updates and refreshes its exhibits to ensure that visitors have a fresh and exciting experience each time they visit. Here are some of the standout exhibits that you can explore at CMOM:

1. PlayWorks™

PlayWorks™ is a permanent exhibit that serves as the heart of CMOM. It is designed for children aged 0-4 and their caregivers. This multi-sensory exhibit offers a range of activities that support early childhood development. From climbing structures to water play and sensory exploration, PlayWorks™ encourages children to use their bodies and minds as they learn through play.

2. Adventures with Dora and Diego™

Fans of the popular Nickelodeon characters Dora the Explorer and Diego can embark on an interactive adventure in this exhibit. Children can join Dora and Diego on a journey through the rainforest, solving puzzles and engaging in hands-on activities that teach them about animals, nature, and problem-solving.

3. Art, Artists & You

For budding artists and creative minds, the Art, Artists & You exhibit is a treasure trove of inspiration. This interactive gallery allows children to explore different art forms, experiment with materials, and even collaborate with visiting artists. It’s a space where imagination knows no bounds, and every child can be an artist.

4. America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far

CMOM also embraces cultural diversity through its exhibits. “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far” is a groundbreaking exhibit that introduces children and families to the rich and varied cultures of the Muslim world. Through hands-on activities, art, music, and storytelling, visitors gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of this global community.

5. EatSleepPlay™: Building Health Every Day

Promoting healthy habits and lifestyles is another important aspect of CMOM’s mission. The EatSleepPlay™ exhibit educates children about nutrition, exercise, and sleep through interactive displays and activities. It empowers children and families to make informed choices that promote their well-being.

girl in yellow shirt

CMOM Programs and Workshops

In addition to its captivating exhibits, CMOM offers a wide range of programs and workshops designed to enhance the learning experience for children and their families. Here are some examples of the educational opportunities available at the museum:

1. Workshops and Classes

CMOM offers workshops and classes on various topics, including art, science, and technology. These hands-on sessions provide children with the opportunity to delve deeper into subjects they are passionate about while developing important skills.

2. Storytelling and Literacy Programs

Storytelling plays a vital role in early childhood development, and CMOM understands its significance. The museum hosts storytelling sessions and literacy programs that encourage children to engage with books and stories, fostering a love of reading from an early age.

3. Music and Movement

Music and movement are integral to a child’s development, and CMOM offers programs that incorporate these elements into learning experiences. From dance workshops to musical performances, children can explore their creativity through rhythm and movement.

4. Sensory-Friendly Programs

CMOM is committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all children. Sensory-friendly programs are designed for children with sensory sensitivities, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the museum’s offerings comfortably.

5. Special Events and Exhibitions

Throughout the year, CMOM hosts special events and exhibitions that celebrate holidays, cultural festivals, and important themes. These events provide families with opportunities to learn about different traditions and cultures while having fun together.

children watching a show

CMOM’s Impact on Early Childhood Education

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s commitment to early childhood education has a profound impact on the lives of children and families. Research has shown that interactive learning experiences in museums like CMOM can lead to significant cognitive, social, and emotional benefits for children. Here are some ways CMOM contributes to early childhood education:

1. Encouraging Critical Thinking

CMOM’s exhibits and programs are designed to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills in children. Through hands-on activities and open-ended questions, children learn to think creatively and analytically.

2. Fostering Social Skills

Visiting CMOM is often a social experience for children, as they interact with other kids and families. This interaction facilitates the development of vital social skills in children, including communication, cooperation, and empathy.

3. Enhancing Vocabulary and Language Development

Engaging with exhibits and participating in workshops at CMOM exposes children to new words, concepts, and ideas. This exposure enhances their vocabulary and language development, preparing them for success in school and beyond.

4. Promoting a Love of Learning

CMOM’s emphasis on learning through play and exploration instills a love of learning in children. This positive attitude toward education can have a lasting impact on their academic achievement and future success.

5. Supporting Parent-Child Bonding

CMOM recognizes the importance of the parent-child relationship in a child’s development. The museum provides a space where parents and caregivers can bond with their children while actively engaging in educational activities together.

Accessibility and Inclusivity

CMOM is committed to ensuring that its exhibits and programs are accessible to all children and families, regardless of their abilities or backgrounds. The museum has taken several steps to promote inclusivity:

1. Language Accessibility

The museum provides information in multiple languages to cater to the diverse linguistic backgrounds of its visitors. This ensures that non-English-speaking families can fully enjoy their CMOM experience.

2. Financial Accessibility

CMOM is dedicated to making its programs and exhibits financially accessible to all families. The museum offers reduced admission fees for low-income families and participates in programs that provide free or discounted tickets to underserved communities.

Tips for a Memorable Visit to CMOM

To make the most of your visit to The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Plan Ahead

Check CMOM’s website for information on current exhibits, programs, and hours of operation. Plan your visit accordingly to maximize your time at the museum.

2. Purchase Tickets in Advance

To avoid long lines and potential disappointment, consider purchasing your tickets online in advance. CMOM sometimes offers discounts for online ticket purchases.

3. Participate in Workshops

Don’t miss out on the educational workshops and classes available during your visit. They provide a deeper learning experience for children and are often included with admission.

4. Engage with Exhibits

Encourage your child to interact with the exhibits actively. Ask questions, encourage exploration, and participate in hands-on activities together.

5. Take Breaks

CMOM can be an exciting and overwhelming experience for young children. Be sure to take breaks and allow your child to rest and recharge as needed.

6. Visit the CMOM Store

Before leaving, stop by the CMOM store to explore a curated selection of educational toys, books, and gifts that can extend the learning experience at home.

Conclusion

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is more than just a museum; it’s a dynamic and enriching space where children and families can learn, play, and create unforgettable memories together. Through its interactive exhibits, educational programs, and commitment to inclusivity, CMOM has established itself as a beacon of early childhood education and a beloved destination for families in New York City and beyond. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor to the city, a trip to CMOM is an investment in your child’s growth and development—a journey of discovery that will leave a lasting impression for years to come.