It’s been only three years, but since the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum first opened its doors it has served about 33,000 people, including kids, adults and teachers with entire classes.
To mark its third year, the museum is throwing itself a birthday party — and the whole town is invited. From 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, admission will be free.
The museum opened in November 2011 at 174 N. King St., founded by Craig and KJ Morris. The goal was always to provide an exploratory place where kids and families could learn together in a hands-on way, said Ingrid Daffner Krasnow, executive director.
There wasn’t a similar place in Jackson where kids were invited in to learn about science, art and literacy — and also to touch everything.
“We wanted something where families felt like they were learning together,” Krasnow said.
Children’s museums are a great way to get kids excited about learning and exploring.
What the museum founders and staff didn’t expect was how fast and completely the community would embraced the idea. It has allowed for more and ever-expanding programing.
The museum, which Krasnow said is for anyone zero to 100 years old, is a place where parents with newborns and young children spend a morning and grandparents get a chance to see the world in a new way — through the eyes of their grandchildren.
The museum features several permanent exhibits including the Mountain Market, a kid-size grocery store with play food on the shelves, a shopping cart and a kid-size cash register. The Climber, a structure with ladders and a slide, is especially popular in the winter when kids aren’t outside climbing trees. There’s also a creativity studio with ever-changing materials housed in clear containers where the kids can see them, deciding what art project they want to create.
Rotating exhibits, like the Jackson Jobs display, highlight the community. The jobs exhibit changes regularly, teaching kids about the industries in town and what people do. The current Clubhouse Construction Company has a space for kids to build things while dressing up in a hard hat and vest. In January the space will feature health care workers.
In addition to exhibits there’s also programming in the mornings for kids not yet in school. They can learn about art or science or take a Spanish immersion class.
As museum staffers look ahead to future birthdays they want to continue growing alongside the families they serve. They want more opportunities for older children and also a permanent home. As the museum grows, they want a space where they can continue to meet the changing needs of the community.
General admission to the museum costs $7.50 per person. Yearlong memberships are available. New this year is a winter membership which runs now through March for $135.
While the location and programming might change, Krasnow knows the museum won’t ever outgrow things like its partnerships with countless community organizations, or its mission.
“We’re always asking ‘How can we make Jackson a better place?’” Krasnow said.