5 Star Stories: Children’s Museum of Memphis

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 11:09 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - On a hot summer’s day, it’s difficult to miss the H2O Splash Park on the corner of Central Avenue and Hollywood where the Children’s Museum of Memphis sits.

According to Caroline Parkes, CMOM’s Manager of Public Relations and Communications, there’s a lot more than just water fountains.

”We have snow cones out there. There’s tons of misters and sprayers and geysers. New this year is the Bubble Gardens out at H2O Splash Park. It’s where kids can create giant sized bubbles to play with,” Parkes explained.      

She also points out the outside fun there includes a Dinosaur Dig, where “young archeologists use tools and excavating equipment to dig for fossils and buried treasure in the massive sand pit” under the watchful gaze of a resident T-Tex and Triceratops.

There’s also a massive play space with a covered play area that includes ziplining, a double see-saw, merry-go-round, and more, like a bank shop basketball court, where as Parkes quipped, “That’s typically where you will find most of the dads.”         

If indoor fun is more your speed, there’s the “Ocean and Me” exhibit that shares that same staycation vibe, complete with the sounds of the ocean and palm trees.

“It’s a way for kids to understand how the ocean impacts their daily life and there’s also some of your favorite beach activities like volleyball and frisbee golf and kinetic sand,” Parkes explained.     

If you have hankering for some old school magical fun, you can go for a ride on the recently restored the 1909 Grand Carousel, which brings joy to young and old alike.

“The carousel at the Children’s Museum is the Memphis Dinstuhl Carousel that was originally at Libertyland, kind of right in our backyard. We’re really lucky to have that piece of Memphis history here and it’s such a beautiful component to the museum,” said Parkes.      

CMoM has grown leaps and bounds since it first opened in 1990, utilizing the former National Guard Armory that was completed in 1942 and housed the 115th Field Artillery until the 1970s. You can still see some of the old Armory engravings on the buildings masonry exterior and interior.     

Parkes added that this Children’s Museum is intentionally Memphis-centric, saying, ”We don’t want to this to be like any other children’s museum. We want it to look like Memphis. So, there’s a 50 foot Mississippi River model where kids can net magnetic fish, experiment with the flow of water, and learn fun facts of the history of the Paddle Streamer to tying nautical knots. And, some of the city’s largest businesses play a role, as well. Like the FedEx cockpit where kids and sit in front of the instrument panel, check out the nearby air traffic control tower. There’s even a package conveyor system.”

And kids not only get to see it — the airplane, which they might be familiar with — but they can make boxes go up into the airplane and watch them come down.

“They can learn about aerodynamics and flying,” Parkes described.

AutoZone’s Garage is where can pump gas, change a tire or look under the hood, as well as learn the rules of the road or take a spin around a race track.

There’s also the First Horizon Bank where kids can learn about money, write a check, open a safe and check out currency from around the world.

At the International Paper exhibit, it’s all about the planet’s future.

“It focuses on teaching kids about the environment and the importance of recycling,” Parkes explained.     

And what’s an indoor cityscape without a Skyscraper? In this case, a 22-foot vertical maze of wood and wire that’s a climbing adventure for youngsters. There’s even a Role Play Theater where children pick background music and more for their own theater production.

“The images inside are a panoramic of the Orpheum. So our hope is when kids get to come in here and play, whenever they do get to go to a live show at the Orpheum, that it won’t feel foreign to them, that it’ll feel normal,” Parkes expressed.     

For even more artistic endeavors, the possibilities in the Art and Innovation Lab are seemingly endless, from 3-D building and collage stations, and painting to sculpting.

“You can paint over in the window. The programming that used to be in Doodle Bugs Studio, we’ve now (put it) over in here. So, with these water color paintings, this activity will change every week depending on what our design team comes up with. So we wanted to provide a space that was more than just an arts and crafts space to really let kids find what aspect of art spoke to them the most, what they would be most interested in.”    

In the middle of all this fun, the Children’s Museum of Memphis continues to grow, expand and renovate.

“And I think in the next few years, you might not even recognize the Children’s Museum, at least that’s our hope.”

But, Parkes said, the mission will remain the same:

“We do want your kids to have fun here that is our goal. We also want them to learn and we want them to fall in love with learning to build brain architecture.”    

There is so much more to do and at CMoM than highlighted in this story, including rock climbing and Engine House 18 complete with two real fire trucks, as well as a grocery store and Little Fixin’s Kitchen, which means you still have plenty to discover for yourself.         

The Children’s Museum of Memphis is also a nonprofit that wants to make playful learning accessible to all and provides free one year memberships to all 1,500 Porter-Leath preschool families, thanks to donations and membership dues.

If you’re interested in hosting an event or party at CMoM or would like more information about museum memberships, activities & events, click here.

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