Located on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Children’s Museum at JBLM offers children, youth, and families a space to learn, play, socialize, and convene. Each playscape within the Museum allows children to imagine and play freely with the structures and objects found throughout. Let’s look at each playscape and discover the fun waiting to be had at the museum!
Walking into the Children’s Museum at JBLM, visitors are welcomed by an open lobby with tables and chairs, couches, and cubbies full of toys, books, and games. This area offers a space to rest, eat lunch, or simply enjoy an open space to bond with your little one. The Program Rooms off the lobby are utilized for our Exceptional Family Member Program Playgroup and Play to Learn, and can be reserved for special events and birthday parties.
Entering the galleries through the glass double doors in the lobby, you’ll walk into Forest, with its hanging stuffed fabric noodles of different lengths, colors, and textures. Children and adults alike can enter the forest for a sensory-filled experience or simply brush against it, exploring touch. This playscape invites wonder and curiosity from all who visit it and sets the tone for the imaginative play to come.
Behind the Forest, basins full of water form gently cascading currents, and spouts and faucets of assorted shapes and with different water pressures offer experimental learning.
Within Water, vortexes invite visitors to further explore the physical properties of water, where toys can be observed spiraling down an opening at the bottom, sparking excitement and learning. Stools allow children of all ages to get involved, and the bottom of the basins encourage children to create Lego formations to manipulate the flow of water and encourage imaginative play.
Launch offers opportunities for engineering paper creations and experimenting with how they blast off of an air-powered rocket launcher. Tables set with paper, tape, and markers lead you and your little one to construct rockets capable of flight and invite you to engage your children in STEAM learning, asking questions like How do the materials move up the wind tunnel? Which materials fly the highest? How does the weight of the material affect or change how it floats or falls? This process of creation and reflection directs you and your little one to try out new ideas and stimulates scientific thinking.
When you have your rocket ready to go, position it on one of the launchers and use the buttons to adjust air pressure and shoot the rocket. When you are ready to blast off, a “pft!” noise erupts and your rocket is launched! Children can aim for circular and squiggly rings hanging within rocket trajectory at various heights and sizes. The slanted formation allows for rockets to be retrieved on the side, further workshopped, or launched repeatedly.
The structure at the heart of Invention features air funnels for scarf play, walkable platforms, slides, and an inner channel for children to investigate with meters and dials ready for play. All over Invention, your little one is motivated to crawl through, sit in, and pretend with the structure.
Next to Invention, a wall of panels that lights up and blows air can be controlled by a station with levers, inviting children to directly interact with the power of air and try out different combinations. There are three levers that correspond to three sections of the panel that light up and produce wind, leading children to learn about what it means to try different strategies and cause and effect.
A tall mirror to the side of the panels enhances children’s understanding of wind and air as a force that can move objects. The wind wall inspires collaboration among children too, as one person can man the controls while others use props and wings to be soaring butterflies and birds!
In a quiet room near Invention, Calm gives caregivers and children a peaceful space to play. The room is furnished with rugs, couches, books, and wood blocks to play with. It offers a way for children and adults to focus, be calm, and engage in quieter, more introspective forms of play.
This room located at the back of the museum and next to Climb features hardwood floors and blue foam blocks for building. The possibilities are as open as your little one’s creative power and differently-shaped blocks allow for unique structures. The sky’s the limit!
In Climb, ropes, poles, and netting intersect to create an environment perfect for big-body play and exploration. Hammocks and talk tubes create opportunities for collaborative play, and below these elements, the ground is spongy and grass-like, leading to imaginative wonderings about the playscape’s setting. Above Climb an artistic installation hangs, featuring a vibrant creature lit up in rainbow colors with fiber optics.
Nearby Climb, a metal, rocket-shaped play structure sits, featuring a slide and an area under the structure for children to sit in and play.
The Art Studio has a little bit of everything, including tables to paint and print at, a little library featuring books on STEAM-centered topics, light projector tables, and a Maker’s Studio for creating cardboard inventions. The projector tables present a fascinating view of magnetic puzzle pieces, showing a top-down look on screens above the tables. At the Maker’s Studio, children are invited to use recycled materials, authentic tools, and imagination to design, engineer, and build 3-D forms.
Odds and Ends
In the corner near Invention and Launch, you can sit and engage with books, wooden ramps, and an air funnel. A placard invites you and your little one to think about concepts like gravity as you construct with the ramps. At the air funnel, a fan blows air up through a transparent plastic cylinder and parachuted soldiers can be lifted by the air. This feature is not only fun but also shows children how air can be a force able to support real-life parachutes!
A small, carpeted nook near Wind and Invention invites children to engage with toys, books, and props. This space not only deepens how children can interact with the playscapes, but is also a spot where children can interact with each other or engage in thoughtful solo play.