Show CMNH Some Love!
Most local families know that the Children's Museum of New Hampshire is a great place to visit. But we're always looking for ways to help spread the word about the museum, and its stellar reputation as not only a great place to play with the kids, but also as a leader in play-based learning and education! Your nominations and votes in the kinds of contests below help us out with that, and it's a simple, quick, no hassle way of showing CMNH some love.
We've been nominated in TWO categories to win a Boston Parents Paper Family Favorite Award:
"Indoor Play Spaces"
and "Museums & Attractions"
The final round of voting ends on May 31: Please take a minute to vote for us in the above two categories, and help us win this 2023 award.
NH Magazine has named CMNH the "Best Fun and Informative Family Attraction" for 2023! We were an "editor's pick" this year and they created that category just for us! So thank you to New Hampshire Magazine for the love and congrats to all the other "Best of" 2023 winners!
WZID, part of the Manchester Radio Group, does a "Best of the 603" contest every year, and the nomination period is happening now through 5pm on June 2, 2023. Please consider nominating CMNH in the category of "Things to do" / "Indoor Family Attraction" and/or "Museum." Nominations are important because you can't write us in once regular voting starts.
Regular voting will then commence Monday, June 19 at 8am through 5pm on Friday, July 7, 2023.
We love being part of New Hampshire seacoast communities, and this award means a lot to us!
Nomination round: June 2-23, 2023. You can submit our name in each category that fits up to ONCE A DAY! Also, when you nominate your favorite in 25 or more categories, you'll be entered to win a $250 gift card through the contest.
Voting round: August 9-23, 2023. After nominations, the top five in each category move on to the voting round. If (WHEN!) we move on to the voting round, you can vote for us up to once a day! Another $250 gift card is up for grabs through the contest, for those who vote in 25 or more categories.
Winners announced: November 7, 2023. Once voting ends they announce the big winners at an awards gala and then announce the winners to the public after that!
Military Families Play for FREE All Summer
Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20 is the start of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s Military Appreciation Summer, during which all current and retired military personnel and their immediate family members are invited to play at no cost, thanks to a generous sponsorship from Service Credit Union. From now through Sunday, September 3rd, 2023, guests can reserve their spots online for free, and then simply show a military ID at the front desk of the museum to receive free admission for the military member, dependent children and spouse.
"We are excited to once again sponsor the Military Appreciation Program at the museum” said Jaime Yates, Community Relations Manager at Service CU. “Giving back to the communities we serve is ingrained in our mission, especially when it comes to providing low cost or free activities for our military and their families.”
The museum’s summer Military Appreciation Program is exclusively sponsored by Service Credit Union and is part of the larger nationwide Blue Star Museum program. The Blue Star Museum program is a collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the Department of Defense. Children’s Museums, art, science, and history museums, zoos, gardens, lighthouses, and more from all 50 states, District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands offer free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel, including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Armed Forces Day through Labor Day. Find the list of participating museums at arts.gov/bluestarmuseums.
“We thank the 2023 Blue Star Museums who invite military personnel and their families to experience the many wonders they have to offer, whether it’s a glimpse into the past, an encounter with awe-inspiring art, or a moment of discovery,” said Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. “The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is helping to enrich the lives of military families and build meaningful connections between our nation’s military and their local community.”
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has expanded what is offered through the Blue Star Museum program to also include free admission to retired military personnel and their family members. “We are so grateful that Service Credit Union has agreed to help us sponsor this vital addition to our Military Appreciation summer program in 2023,” said Jane Bard, Museum President.
The summer free admission program at the Children’s Museum of NH is available to active duty and retired U.S. military - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps - and up to five family members.
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire extends a fifty-percent-off discount to military personnel and their families during the rest of the year thanks to additional sponsorship support, including from M&T Bank.
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s hours are Wednesdays – Saturdays, 9am-Noon or 1-4pm; Tuesdays and Sundays, 9am-Noon. Summer hours begin Tuesday, June 20 and add a Tuesday afternoon (1-4pm) play session to the existing hours. The museum is closed on Mondays. Online reservations prior to visiting are required. To learn more, visit www.childrens-museum.org.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. To learn more, visit arts.gov or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
About Blue Star Families
BlueStar Families (BSF) is the nation’s largest chapter-based military and veteran family support organization. Its research-driven approach fosters strong communities with a focus on human centered design and innovative solutions. Since its founding in 2009, BSF has delivered millions of dollars in benefits and impacted more than 1.5 million people each year. For more information, click here and follow along with Blue Star Families on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
We're a Finalist!
All your nominations helped us become a finalist in the Boston Parents Paper Family Favorite Awards - in TWO categories:
"Indoor Play Spaces"
and "Museums & Attractions"
Now comes the FINAL round of voting. Please take a minute to vote for us in the above two categories, now through the end of May, and help us win this 2023 award.
We appreciate your love and support!
Break-Dancing Competition from 1985!
It's our 40th Anniversary year and we're digging into our archives for a peak into our past. We found this gem of a photo and a few corresponding articles from our first Break-Dancing competition in 1985!
Want to share your CMNH photos and memories? Enter our Photo Contest here >>
Portsmouth Youths Get to Break with the Best
By Michael Berg, Portsmouth Bureau Chief, Foster's Daily Democrat
Photo caption: Zachary Lambert, 4, of New Castle shows his break-dancing form at the Children's Museum of Portsmouth's first break-dancing contest Saturday (Democrat photo - Berg)
Portsmouth - High culture took a great leap backward, energetic good times a great leap forward and three dozen Seacoast youngsters took great leaps, spins and slides in every direction as the Children's Museum of Portsmouth hosted its first break-dancing contest Saturday afternoon.
A crowd estimated at 150 packed the museum to the rafters as children from 4- to 14-years-old got a chance to show off their high-speed gyrations, jerky synchronized arm and head motions, and full-length beached-whale-like dives - all to the thumping beat of funk and rock music blasting from a portable cassette deck. A three-member panel of judges - Roni Hudson, president of the Soda Pop football league and Soda Pop Sixpack children's breakdance team, Juan Whitlock of Portsmouth High School group Poppin' Express, and Greg Evans of the U.S Air Force's Apple Jam Crew - selected the most talented and flashy dancers as the best in each age group.
But the emphasis was not on competition; it was on the sheer exhilaration and enjoyment of the dancing.
"This is really a contest for kids and a celebration of interest in break dancing," said museum coordinator Alice Boatwright.
"The emphasis is on being here, doing it and sharing what you've been learning with each other."
Break Dancing Contest
By Dwight Adams, Staff Writer, Portsmouth Herald
Photo captions: Double Trouble - Left to Right - Keith "The Neutron" Kintner and Randy "Electra" Cadieux
Good Balance - Danny Edge is shown balancing precariously during his break dancing routine Saturday. Edge was the winner in 13-14 age group and will compete again at the Children's Museum on March 2, during theWinter Carnival. (Staff photo by Adams).
Portsmouth's future break dancers brought their act to the Children'sMuseum Saturday, as pre-schoolers through teenagers came out of the cellar and tried their new moves in public.
An appreciative audience crowded onto the second floor to watch local kids spin on their shoulders, heads and outstretched hands, as well as slide across the floor in a slow-motion moonwalk - Michael Jackson style.
Of course, nobody yesterday was quite that good, but the group of parents and awe-struck youngsters weren't keeping score.
Someone who was, "Magic" Juan Witlock of the International Poppin' Express dance crew, served as one of the contest's judges and was impressed at the budding talent of several dancers.
"The moonwalk is not as hard as it looks," Whitlock says, "and some of these kids are already doing it,"
One young breaker, "Jammin" Jason Laliberte of Portsmouth thinks the moonwalk is actually "kinda old" and he likes to practice harder moves like the windmill. That's done by spinning from shoulder to shoulder while jack-knifing your legs into the air.
Jason, who has been breakin' for just two years is a natural and already a working member of a local professional dance troupe, The Apple Jam Crew.
Throughout the contest his peers kept calling out "Jammin Jason," and Jason says he's never seen some of them. All that fame at the age of 10; how does he handle it?
"I like being known by the other kids," he says, "besides I get paid for dancing."
Jason enjoys break dancing ecause of the "style" inherent, and he's already started teaching some moves to his friends. He also like to listen to a tape of the "Fat Boys" when he's practicing.
Every dancer brought his own favorite cassette tape along to play in the portable stereo during their short routines.
Thirty-two young breakers participated in four age groups.
The winners of each age group will participate in a dance contest at the Children's Museum on March 2, during the Winter Carnival.
Those winners were Zachary Lambert in the under 5 category, Kepir Connel in the 5-7, Jason Lalibert in 8-10, Adam Medros in 11-12 and Danny Edge in 13-1. Danny Edge, David Rix and Gregg Gavutis were named best dancers overall, with Keith Kintner winning for best routine.
Break dancing first started in the early 1970s in the streets of Harlem and the Bronx in New York City.
City youth who would have traditionally fought each other in rumbles, instead turned to "battles" of fancy footwork on city sidewalks, rooftops or anywhere the surface was flat. They were called just "B-Boys" back then.
Break dancing has now become big business however, with featured dancers in many of Manhattan's trendiest discos and in several recent Hollywood movies.
Greg Evans, choreographer for the Apple Jam Crew and one of yesterday's contest judges, thinks the break dancing trend may eventually "fade away" even though there are nearly a dozen break dancing crews on the Seacoast today.
But he said the individualism of this free-spirit's sport won't die out; from the colorful caps and bandanas dancers wear around their ankles to the crazy names they call themselves, like "Ice Cube" "Kid Zulu," "Atomic," "Neutron."
"Break dancing is self expression when you come right down to it," Evans says. "No two people are alike and that's when the street names come in. They help you identify each dancer."
Vote for us 2023!
Nominating and voting for the Children's Museum of NH may seem like a small thing, but it helps us reach new audiences and grow our already stellar reputation as a safe and fun place for families to play! If you have a few minutes to help us with this, we would greatly appreciate your support!
Vote for us in New Hampshire Magazine's "Best of NH" contest!
Vote for us now through March 17. There is a "Museum" category, or you could write us in as your "Favorite Family Fun Spot"
VOTE HERE >>
Nominate us for a 2023 Boston Parents Paper Family Favorite Award!
You can nominate the "Children's Museum of NH" now through the end of April. If you don't see the museum listed in the category you want, you can easily write us in.
Nomination categories that would be a good fit for us include:
FUN AND ATTRACTIONS
Indoor Play Spaces
Museums and Attractions
Parent-Friendly Playdate Spots
Arts & Crafts Summer Camps
Preschool Age Summer Camps
STEM Summer Camps
Nominate us here >>
About this Family Favorite award: The voting for Boston’s Family Favorites is conducted in a two-round process. The first round occurs in the month of March and early April with open write-in nominations taking place. Write-in nominations continue to be open until the end of April.
As the nomination period in the first round comes to a close in mid April, shortly afterwards, the second round opens with the top nominees in each category being selectable in this final round of voting during the latter part of April and May. Write-in nominations are no longer available, and voters are open to select their favorite from among those that are listed.
The final winners are posted in August.
40 Years of Play!
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire Celebrates A Big Year
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (CMNH) turns 40 in 2023, while its chosen city of Dover, NH celebrates its 400th anniversary year. The museum, one of the most visited family attractions in the state of New Hampshire, will celebrate its 40-year legacy with fun events, a nostalgic look back on how much things have evolved over the years, and by starting work on a new expansion project. CMNH is grateful for the support from Kennebunk Savings Bank, who is the exclusive sponsor of all 40th Anniversary Year celebrations.
Today, families in NH have a plethora of fantastic Museums to choose from when looking for activities for their children. But 40 years ago, in the early 80’s, these kinds of spaces and experiences were few and far between. The kids tagged along to grown-up activities and made their way in spaces not designed for them, but around them. Two mothers from Portsmouth had a brilliant idea to change that, and out of their industriousness, creativity, vision and ingenuity sprang what is now known as the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire.
The museum first opened in Portsmouth on Saturday, July 30, 1983 as the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth located in the old South Meeting House on Marcy Street. Co-founded by two mothers and educators, Ona Barnet and Denise Doleac. “There were very few Children’s Museums back in 1981 and those few were in large cities,” shared Denise. “So creating the Children’s Museum in a city of 24,000 people was an interesting adventure indeed.”
After two years of planning, permits, fundraising and educating people about what a Children’s Museum was all about, the museum welcomed 400 children and their grown-ups to its grand opening. Anna Goldsmith, who was 9 at the time and quoted in a Foster’s Daily Democrat article written by Peyton Fleming, said “I think this is really neat because there is already enough stuff for adults. Grown-ups already have bars and discos. But finally they’re creating something for the kids and I think that’s good.” When asked about what she remembers from that day, Anna now says “I was just so excited that there was finally something nearby that was just for kids. I wasn’t great with long car rides – I would get car sick whenever we’d try to go to the Boston museum. So having something right in New Hampshire was perfect. I don’t remember this, but according to my Mom and the reporter, I grabbed the microphone to give my little speech, I was that excited!”
That first year, the museum welcomed 27,000 visitors. The original exhibits included the Yellow Submarine, built by Architect Christopher Clews, three Commodore 64 computers, a hospital room with equipment provided by the Portsmouth Regional Hospital, a factory assembly line where children could create leather bookmarks, a video room, and a small radio station dubbed WFUN.
A Museum for New Hampshire
Over the next 25 years, exhibits changed, membership grew, and a constant stream of innovative programming attracted larger and larger crowds to the tiny South Meeting House. “Around 1995, Museum Trustees and our founding Director Denny Doleac began considering the idea of expansion,” shared Jane Bard, current CMNH President. “Although we loved the charm, history and location of our home in Portsmouth’s South Meeting House, we simply didn’t have enough space for exhibits, classrooms, visitor amenities or parking. Our staff worked off-site in a separate rented space and there were often long waiting lines to enter the Museum when we reached the building’s capacity.”
After a decade-long search in Portsmouth and subsequent meetings with city officials in Dover who recognized the benefit of locating the Museum in a soon-to-be-empty Butterfield Gym in downtown Dover, it was decided that the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth would move to Dover and become the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire.
A newly rebranded CMNH opened on July 26, 2008. The former Butterfield Gym was converted into two floors of accessible, interactive, hands-on exhibits that not only reflected the exhibits that had become childhood favorites, but also expanded to embrace the new museum’s natural and historical environment as well.
“It was a hectic but exciting time for all of us,” shared Jane Bard. “I was looking through museum photos recently and came across one of us touring the Butterfield Gym during construction, and it was 7 weeks before we would open as CMNH, and it looked like there was still so much to do!”
The new Children’s Museum of New Hampshire embraced its origins in the new building, with some twists. In Portsmouth, the “Yellow Submarine” took over 3 levels of the building, and encompassed a variety of exhibits. In Dover, it was redesigned to mimic a research submarine with a working sonar, a listening station, working periscope, and control panel where kids can “navigate” the sub through the waters of the Gulf of Maine. A new favorite, the Cochecosystem exhibit overlooking the Cocheco River explores the interchange between the natural and industrial environment of the Cocheco River and specifically examines how “engineers,” both human and animal, use the river. And thanks to an expanded exhibit workshop area in the new Dover museum, exhibits that couldn’t make it out onto the floor for the opening, were kept safely stored for future use. “When we opened the outdoor Play Patio exhibit, we pulled out our wonderful Tube Tones that we had crafted and displayed in the Portsmouth Museum, and were able to make that a permanent part of a new space,” said Jane. “So if you visited us when you were a child, and return now as an adult with your own children, chances are you will see many nostalgic elements!”
“We love to embrace the fact that many of our visitors have a long history with us,” said Jane. Sometimes that’s adults returning to the museum with their own children or grandchildren to show them their favorite exhibits from years ago. Sometimes it’s a volunteer or intern recognizing a CMNH educator that taught them in a class when they were preschoolers. “That’s my favorite!” laughed CMNH Education Director Xanthi Gray who has led countless classes for the 32 years she has worked at the museum. “And sometimes its people commenting on a photo we share on our social media that shows their now grown children playing in the museum,” said Communications Director, Neva Cole.
“That long history in a community means many, many stories are out there floating around in people’s memories, just waiting to be told,” said Neva. CMNH plans to try to capture those memories with a photo submission contest through its website, coming soon. “We’ll also be digging deep into our archives to share some fun photos, stories, and videos of our own! So you may just spot yourself as a kid fishing from the Portsmouth museum Lobster Boat, or communicating with Earth in the Space Shuttle exhibit, or visiting Dracula in the museum’s old clock tower on Halloween,” said Neva.
“We know we have a lot to celebrate,” said Jane. “It’s been a tough few years for everyone, and we’re happy to look back on our history, while at the same time, keep planning for our future.”
Celebrating & Looking Ahead
After 40 years of innovative programming, artistically designed exhibits, and engaging with literally millions of visitors, the Museum is looking ahead to what will come next. Some things will remain the same, like the museum’s commitment to early learning to build healthy brain architecture, S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), access for all children and families, and its founding principle that kids thrive when given the space to explore and discover.
CMNH has also grown beyond its physical presence in many ways. While inviting families inside the magical space of the museum is an important part of CMNH’s mission, it isn’t the only way the community benefits. “Play-based learning is the idea that kids learn best through play,” shared Xanthi Gray, CMNH Director of Education. “And it also happens to be what we are all about. When kids play in our exhibits, they are learning all kinds of things that are important to their development. But play-based learning can happen anywhere, and that’s why we’re so excited to have been awarded a prestigious and competitive IMLS INSPIRE! Grant for small museums to help us spread our knowledge about play-based learning around to NH libraries, childcare centers, and family resource centers!”
CMNH wanted to use their institutional knowledge and skills to help the overburdened childcare system in New Hampshire in the best way they could. Thanks to the IMLS grant and an additional grant from the Evelyn S. and K.E. Barrett Foundation, CMNH has embarked on a series of play-based learning initiatives. “So far, we’ve sent over 80 kits of high quality play-based learning manipulative kits, along with monthly activity guides to participating centers and libraries across NH that will eventually reach 9,000 children,” shared Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Content Specialist who curated the play-based learning kits. “We’ve hosted an open house at CMNH for over 100 childcare providers, launched three new weekly drop-in programs at the museum for families with preschool-aged children, and are offering free admission to licensed NH childcare providers.” These efforts have been well received by project partners. Cheryl Ingerson from the Elkins Public Library in Canterbury, NH said “Wow! We just received the PBL (play-based learning) kit…WOW! I can’t wait to add these to our programming and am looking forward to the monthly activity guides!”
New adventures are being planned right now, as well. “In an effort to use every single bit of space we can, we’re planning an expansion into an area above our current Dino Detective exhibit,” shared Jane. “We’re in the planning phase with architects and structural engineers, and are brainstorming with staff, visitors, and community members to decide what kind of experience will be added to that space. Will it be an area for rotating exhibits? Will it be a space for active play and physical movement? Will it be an exhibit that will help support children’s emotional wellbeing?” The museum will announce more details about their plans for this space soon.
A sneak peek at CMNH’s plans for special events throughout 2023, exclusively sponsored by Kennebunk Savings. More to come!
Dover Resident’s Day
Saturday, June 24, 9am-Noon or 1-4pm
CMNH will be offering $1 per person admission (which was what the museum charged when it first opened in 1983) for all Dover residents on this special Saturday!
Family Fun Day at CMNH
Saturday, July 22, 9am-Noon or 1-4pm
CMNH will offer $1 per person admission to all!
CMNH’s 40th Birthday Party
Saturday, September 23, 9am-Noon or 1-4pm
Come celebrate our birthday with play time, art projects, science experiments, and of course, cake!
40 Years of Play
Special exhibition inside CMNH’s Gallery 6
October 3, 2022 – January 28, 2024
The Children's Museum of New Hampshire has been chosen as one of the area's "Target Circle" non-profits. This provides Target choppers with the opportunity to vote for CMNH after shopping at Target, and those votes will help direct Target's giving to benefit the museum. Voting continues through the end of March 2023. Voting can be done through the Target app or through the website and is available to all Target Circle Members (free to sign up). target.com/circle
CMNH Receives Additional Funding
The Children's Museum of NH (CMNH) has received a generous grant from The Evelyn S. and K.E. Barrett Foundation to support a year-long initiative providing play-based learning training and resources to those caring for preschool aged children. This grant is in addition to the recent award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and will help CMNH to meet the huge response from partners wanting to be involved in the project.
As has been reported over the past year, there is an overburdened childcare system in New Hampshire. Childcare centers have faced staffing shortages and others have closed, leaving long waiting lists and a lack of available spaces. Families are turning to home-based childcare, family members and community resources like family resource centers, libraries, and the Children’s Museum to fill in the gaps and nurture their children’s growth.
Building off their expertise as a leader in play-based learning, CMNH created a year-long initiative to support childcare professionals and others providing childcare in non-traditional settings. A series of programs will reach these audiences including supplying 80+ childcare centers, family resource centers, and public libraries with high quality play-based learning manipulative kits to use with the children in their care. Also included in this initiative are open houses, online workshops, programming at CMNH, monthly guides and activity suggestions, all with the goal of improving developmental and learning opportunities for young children.
“This effort is exactly the type of program my mother, who championed children and early education, would have been proud to support,” said Peter Barrett, trustee of the Foundation. “The Barrett Foundation is glad to be able to contribute to the important work being done to deepen developmental and learning experiences for young children in New Hampshire by the Children’s Museum."
To date the Children’s Museum has held an Open House attended by over 100 childcare providers, and added three weekly drop-in programs at the Museum for families of preschool-aged children. The Museum has also distributed 83 kits of materials to those serving young children. “We’re receiving amazing feedback from organizations that have received their boxes,” said Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Content Specialist who curated the materials in the kits. “We have a lot of experience with open ended, play-based manipulatives and were thrilled to put that expertise to good use creating these kits. The Barrett Foundation grant means we are able to distribute materials kits to more providers, who in total reach over 9,000 children across the state.”
The boxes contain some familiar play materials like Duplo blocks, sturdy toy trucks, and farm animal figurines but also have some items not traditionally thought of for play–like colorful mixing bowls with matching lids that can be used for sorting, drumming, stacking, and more!
“We got our kit yesterday and we’re blown away,” said program partner Ellen Grudzien from The Amherst Preschool, in an email. “We are a 100% child led play school and we value materials with intention. The box was full of them! I can’t wait to see the kids use it!!! Thank you for this initiative!”
The Museum is meeting regularly with an advisory group about various aspects of this program. Organizations in this group include the University of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire State Library, and United Way.
Participants are feeling good about the amount of support being provided by CMNH through this program. Cheryl Ingerson from Elkins Public Library in Canterbury, NH said “WOW!! We just received the PBL kit… WOW!! I can’t wait to add these to our programming and am looking forward to the monthly activity guides. Thank you so much!”
These play-based learning experiences are funded thanks to an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) INSPIRE! grant for small museums. The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire was one of 59 museums nationwide to receive this highly competitive grant. These programs are also funded in part by the NH Preschool Development Grant, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (Award# 90TP0060) and The Evelyn S. and K.E. Barrett Foundation.