Museums of all stripes face a similar challenge, namely, how to keep exhibits fresh and fun for visitors. When staff at the Children’s Museum of Memphis (CMOM) looked around last year, they realized it was time to expand — both inside and out. So in June, they unveiled the H2Oh! Splash Park (open Memorial Day to Labor Day), which was a huge hit. Now, you’ll now find a more spacious toddler play area, a breastfeeding lounge, and a new outdoor playground.
Toddler room expansion
Designed for crawlers to preschoolers (ages 4 and under), the toddler room has expanded beyond its cramped quarters, becoming a more welcoming space for tots to explore.
“We quadrupled the size,” notes Carrie Roberts, director of PR and marketing. “Parents were concerned about older kids coming in and running over the little ones.” Well, worry no more. Now there’s ample room for romping, with three distinct areas that contain a tree house and school bus, a climbing structure, bouncy saucers and riding toys, a puzzle and train table, a basketball hoop, and more. In fact, it’s so big it can feel a bit empty at times, but there is a full-time staff person as well as a refurbished boy’s bathroom with a child-sized toilet and urinal, perfect for those who are potty training.
New play kitchen and breastfeeding lounge
The popular play kitchen once housed in the toddler room now resides next door and is open to kids of all ages. Unlike the original, this one looks like a real kitchen in miniature, complete with granite counter tops. “Lots of parents have said they’d like to have this in their home!” says Felicia Peat, director of education and programming. (Call me old-fashioned, but I liked the old one, it required using your imagination.)
Moms who nurse will appreciate the breastfeeding lounge, located behind the kitchen. It was still being finished (as was the kitchen) at press time, but it’s spacious and will have sofas and a changing table. There’s also a window that looks into the adjoining exhibit, perfect for keeping an eye on siblings as baby gets fed.
When the rest of your tribe gets hungry, drop in to Jason’s Deli for sandwiches or a snack. Then hit the climbing wall or check out CMOM-TV. You’ll still find old favorite too, including the fire truck, FedEx plane, and the skyscraper tower, plenty to keep kids busy.
Outside, 9-year-old Elijah Muhammad’s eyes light up at the sight of the new playground, which parallels the entrance to the museum. Workers were still putting the finishing touches on the grass-like turf made of recycled tires. Bright green, it provides a soft, bouncy surface for kids to play on, whether climbing the monkey bars, riding the zip line, or balancing on the four-person seesaw.
“You want something new each time you come,” says Elijah’s dad, William Muhammad. Now, there’s plenty to discover. Come see for yourself.
Children’s Museum of Memphis
Open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission • $12/person, $3/playground Family membership • $95-$140 Grandparent membership (for 4) • $115