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Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas are joining forces to make play even more powerful for Minnesota families.
This summer, in addition to a plethora of fun-filled permanent exhibits, we have a great lineup of special experiences and events that shine a spotlight on creative and critical thinking — important skills that help kids go far in school and life.
Minnesota Children’s Museum will open Rube GoldbergTM: The Hilarious World of Innovation Exhibit! on Saturday, May 25. This hands-on exhibit celebrates the Pulitzer Prize winning humorist and inventor, and introduces visitors to the creative processes behind his iconic contraptions.
- Mission: Sparking children’s learning through play
- 11 Hand-On Exhibits: 10 permanent exhibits, plus a gallery for special exhibits
- Kid-Powered Play: Open-ended activities that build brains and bodies
- Amenities: Café and coffee bar, store, party spaces, comfort rooms
- Renovation: Opened as an all-new museum in June 2017 following a major renovation and expansion
The museum is dynamic. Many of the experiences and materials within the permanent exhibits change to keep the museum fresh and engaging.
Four-story vertical adventure with climbing towers, spiral slide and netted catwalk suspended more than 40-feet high
Forces at Play
Ball launchers and a wacky car wash
An “underwater” adventure based on a real shipwreck
Quirky outdoor space for exploring the natural world (open seasonally)
A fantastical play space where children shape and share their own stories
Lively and bright collaborative space with loose parts and surprising materials
Joyful landscape of discovery for babies and toddlers
Kids play various roles in a vibrant Minnesota city with a fire station, hardware store, post office, food stand and more
Visitors tinker, make and create with real tools and authentic materials
Tip Top Terrace
Outdoor space on the roof to see, hear and talk about the city (open seasonally)
Fun for Kids Up to 12 & Older
Activities in the museum are designed for kids up to age 12 (or even older). Kids of all ages enjoy many of the exhibits, but here’s a general guide on exhibits by age.
Activities geared toward older kids (5-12):
- The Scramble – Two climbing towers, spiral slide and netted catwalk
- Super Awesome Adventures – Laser maze, climbing wall, space race and balance boards
- The Studio – Maker space with real tools and authentic materials
- Creativity Jam – Collaborative art and building, plus stop-motion animation
Activities enjoyed by younger kids (0-5):
- Sprouts – Joyful landscape of discovery for babies and toddlers
- Our World – Pretend play town including post office, food stand, fire truck and more
- Forces at Play – Air-powered ball launchers and a wacky car wash
- Imaginopolis – Fantastical environment filled with loose parts
- Tot Spots – Tot spots are located in Our World, The Scramble and Forces at Play
The two outdoor galleries are perfect for all ages to explore the natural world and city landscape.
The new exhibits focus on open-ended activities that put children and their imaginations in the driver’s seat.
- Kids develop lifelong skills such as creative thinking, confidence, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and more
- Imagining possibilities, tinkering, storytelling, sharing, working together, trying new things, making adjustments
- Activities that put the focus more on the doing, less on the outcome
- Activities without directions — seeing the power of kids figuring out things on their own
- Avoiding telling children what to do and how to do it
- Avoiding asking kids to memorize facts and figures
The museum is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit community organization that relies on the donations of individuals, corporations and foundations to continue to provide one-of-a-kind experiences and education for children.
Inspiring More Play
The museum is dedicated to inspiring more play. Play is powerful and universal. It’s an innate impulse in kids that helps them thrive and grow into healthy, happy adults. Yet, pressures on play — like screen time, adult-led academic activities, safety worries and busy family schedules — continue to decrease the amount of time kids spend playing.
Through play, kids learn how to learn, build relationships with others, and develop life skills that set them up for future success. Equally important, when kids play, they have fun, which leads to joy and happiness. Play is not frivolous, it’s essential.
That’s why we’re focused on inspiring more play by providing a welcoming, safe place for kids and families to explore, discover and learn. We also offer resources for parents [Link to Parent Resource Center] to support their child’s playful learning.
Providing Access for All
The museum is committed to providing access to the museum for all families regardless of their income.
- Play for All program: free museum memberships for qualifying families
- Target Free Third Sundays: Free admission to the museum every third Sunday of each month for all visitors
- Family Nights: Special nights offered to local organizations that specialize in supporting low income families
- 1981 – Museum opens in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis
- 1985 – Museum moves to Bandana Square in St. Paul
- 1995 – Museum moves to a newly constructed building in downtown St. Paul
- 2017 – Newly expanded and renovated museum opens
2017 Renovation & Expansion
The museum went through a $30 million renovation to create a bigger, bolder, better museum. The renovation improved visitor flow, added more amenities and put more focus on open-ended activities that offer more variety and give kids space and freedom to explore and grow.
- Construction began in December 2015
- Museum closed in December 2016 to complete construction
- Museum re-opens June 2017
- Architect: MSR (Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle)
- General contractor: JE Dunn Construction
- Exhibit design support: Gyroscope, Inc.
- Exhibit production support: KidZibits, VStar Entertainment Group
- Funders and supporters: State of Minnesota, City of Saint Paul, Target, 3M, Best Buy and more than 350 corporations, foundations and individuals.