Fall 2019 Issue     September • October • November

By Kathryn Lopez & Executive Director Susan LynnIf you’ve lived in Santa Fe since 1985 or later, you’re probably well aware of the Santa Fe Children’s Museum. You can easily spot it on Old Pecos Trail, you’ve most likely visited at least a time or two, and you know all about what it offers — or at least you think you do!

The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is not just a place for young children to go in and color for a few hours. Sure, there are plenty of art supplies in the Make ‘N’ Take crafting area, but this museum provides an enriching experience for fun-filled days (and sometimes nights) for all ages. Among the Children’s Museum’s many diverse offerings, you might find some that are new even to long-time visitors, as well as some old favorites. Here are some highlights.

This is no ‘little’ playland

       With more than a football field–sized space to explore (yes, the museum spans nearly 1.5 acres) there’s plenty of room for adventure, inside and outside. Indoors, there are exhibits and activities designed to spark kids’ creative play in the arts, science and humanities. Children can play dress-up or “cook” in the play kitchen, blow giant bubbles or play with trains, paint their faces or dabble in the water stations. There’s a special enclosed space just for smaller children, too. Outdoors, the museum’s “backyard” is a wonder in itself, with gardens full of vegetables, fruit trees, even spinach and peppermint that can be picked and eaten on the spot. New Mexico’s flavors are evident in the bed full of green chile peppers, tabasco and other fiesta-friendly foods that definitely have a “kick” to them. There is even a traditional horno for grilling the occasional hot dog and baking our state’s official cookie, the biscochito. You want a treehouse? Yep, we have that as well!

A place where everyone can play

     To provide an environment where all children and families can interact and connect, the museum aims to be accessible, physically and financially. Here are some of the ways we’re working to assure that everyone can enjoy what the museum offers:

Thursdays Are Yours: The museum extends its hours every Thursday and offers free admission for children 17 and under from 4 to 6:30 p.m., to encourage families to come visit after work and school.

Financial assistance and discounts: Discounts are available every day for EBT recipients, teachers, military and first responders. Partnerships with several community service organizations help us provide complementary admission and free annual memberships. If you think you might qualify, just ask at the front desk.

Hablamos Español: The museum has staff on-site who are fluent in Spanish.

Sensory sensitivities: For visitors with autism and sensory sensitivities, the museum offers support and accommodations including an alternative entrance and a sensory-friendly toolkit with a visual schedule, hats, noise-reducing headphones or earplugs, sunglasses, rubber gloves and timers. Once a month, Sensory Friendly Sundays offer mornings with low lighting and special activities in a quieter, more relaxed environment.

• Hearing and visual challenges: Facilitators provide options for assisted play, as well as scented toys and Braille books.

Special events — ours and yours

    Did you know the museum accommodates after-hours birthday parties and even a Night at the Museum? Birthday parties do not have to be within the museum’s standard operating hours; with ample notice, the staff will cover your event any time, any day of the week. And yes, you can actually have a slumber party at the museum, where your group can bring sleeping bags and turn the museum into its very own private “campsite”! (Speaking of camp, the museum offers not just a summer camp for children, but spring break and winter break camps as well, with limited scholarships available.     The museum also offers theme nights each month, with special guests and unique exhibits (check the events calendar at santafechildrensmuseum.org, and the Tumbleweeds calendar). The monthly Parent’s Night Out is a treat for both parents and kids. Drop off your child from 5:30 to 9 p.m. for $25 and enjoy your own evening out.

Not just for wee ones

     Many parents start bringing their children to the museum as babies or toddlers, but they soon find the museum experience grows as their children do. All museum exhibits and special activities are designed to accommodate all ages. Science Saturdays, for example, weekly from 1 to 3 p.m., provide basic and advanced experiments designed to stimulate kid and adult minds alike.  All our regular programs — Seeds & Sprouts, where children dig and plant in the Community Garden; Fine Art Friday, with resident and visting artists; and the Santa Fe Model Railroad Club’s “All Abooooooard” Model Train Program on Saturdays — as well as special events provide hands-on learning and fun adaptable to all ages. Science Saturdays, Fine Art Friday and STEM-based camps provide learning opportunities adaptable to all ages. 

      And as for those wee ones, the museum opens an hour early once a week for Wee Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., for toddler-focused explorations including a craft activity and storytime especially for them. There’s also a private snack room, open at all times, that offers a quiet “BYOF” (bring your own food) space for napping, reading, eating and private nursing, if preferred.

New worlds to discover

      Every museum visitor can be transported into space on Saturdays and Sundays with bilingual English/Spanish programs in the the Stargazer Portable Planetarium, free with admission. The Stargazer also travels to schools to provide innovative STEM education right in the classroom. These programs are free to all Title I schools, so if your child hasn’t experienced them, ask their teacher to call the museum and sign up.

     Even the gift shop attempts to offer something for everyone, with everything from little toy animals for less than a dollar to science projects in a box, that let you take a bit of the museum’s magic home with you.

     You might be surprised to discover that the little museum just up Old Pecos Trail from the Plaza offers so much — but that’s just what The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is about: surprise and discovery! Whether you’re a new visitor or a long-timer, the Children’s Museum is a home away from home. From the moment you enter and hear the familiar kids’ tunes, with the multi-colored scarves flowing from the wind tunnel, programs and activities to suit children of all ages and abilities, you know this place is ready for you. It might have a few more Legos than you have at home, but with the laughter and freedom of play that the environment produces, it feels like your living room — except that someone else does the tidy-up!       The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is located at 1050 Old Pecos Trail. It’s open Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m; Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for children 1 and older and $7.50 for adults. Annual memberships range from $85 to $175. For more information, visit santafechildrensmuseum. org, call (505) 989-8359 or email children@santafechildrensmuseum.org