Madison Children's Museum Blog

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Samuel’s year of growth: an Access Member story

By Gabriella Gerhardt, Membership Manager
Photos by Patrick Gerhardt
AFE Sara family blog header

When Sara and Kevin welcomed baby Samuel, their first-born, family and fellow parents had lots of advice: Many recommended visiting Madison Children’s Museum. Sara and Kevin were intrigued and asked for a Family Membership as a gift. At the time, it sounded like something fun to do. But the museum would come to play a vital role in Samuel’s early development.

They started visiting in December 2014. “Samuel loved it from the minute he set foot in it — actually before he even set foot in it, because peering through the front glass from the street he could see everything on the inside,” Sara recalled from their first visit. They quickly realized that the museum “is totally appropriate for little kids – even pretty little kids.”

Samuel was just shy of two at the time. As he discovered new parts of the museum, he found endless opportunities for play. He climbed on a dinosaur, played with water in the Wildernest water dome, made a pizza at Pie in the Sky Diner and chased the chickens on the Rooftop Ramble. He approached other young children and learned to negotiate sharing the play space. He experimented and figured out how to use the building materials on his own.

When Samuel started experiencing speech difficulties, Sarah and Kevin came to understand that play is a fundamental part of early childhood development. Samuel was recommended to participate in the Birth to 3 Program, which qualifies families to purchase a Family Access Membership ($10 for a family). Sara recalls, “When we did Birth to 3, they pushed us by saying, ‘Hey, you should keep your membership. You get access [to the museum] at a great rate. It’s also a good developmental tool for your kids, a complement to the program.’”

Taking a holistic approach, the counselors gave Sara and Kevin a multitude of tools to guide Samuel’s development and progress. Now that Samuel has turned three and approaches his graduation from the Birth to 3 program, “he’s talking like crazy; it’s like we had never went through that phase. I mean if you met him now you’d never think that this child went through a speech delay. But he did.”

Every child can benefit from the type of free play that MCM provides. Family Access memberships are a part of reaching as many children and families as possible. Sara, speaking about why the Access for Everyone program matters, says, “It’s really important to provide access to education for everyone; the more we empower, enrich, and educate our children, the better our society becomes.”

Summing up how their family feels about the museum, especially in light of the birth of their second child, Sara says, “We love going there. Our kids love going there. Even our baby loves going there. It’s a space for all ages.”

What Sara and Kevin value about their membership:

  • Never feeling rushed. They can go and spend the entire time painting on the Art Studio window. “If it’s an hour or it’s two hours, and if we only do one thing the whole time we’re there, it’s okay, because we can come back another time and do the other parts. To me, that’s been a real value to our family — not feeling rushed to see everything; we know we can come back.”
  • The museum is accessible for grandparents and those with limited mobility. Samuel’s grandpa is not able to do a lot of walking, but he enjoys visiting because “in every area there’s a spot where he can sit close to where Samuel is playing and engage with him.”
  • A chance for the family to bond. For example, in the Art Studio, “Mom and Dad can paint on the glass, and Samuel can paint with us. It’s set up in a way where we can all do that together. And it’s fun: He thinks it’s funny to erase our art, like spray the water on our art, and squeegee it down. That’s been a fun thing for our family to do together.”

Samuel’s recommendations for first-time visitors:

Drive the Truck in Possible-opolis


Bake a one-of-a-kind pizza for Mom to eat at Pie in the Sky


Paint on the paint wall in the Art Studio with Dad, making sure to squeegee Dad’s paint for a laugh


Try out a piano duet with your little brother


Pet Waffle (the chicken) up on the rooftop



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This entry was posted on April 21, 2016 by in Access and tagged , , , .

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