National Children's Museum

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National Children’s Museum
National Children's Museum is located in Maryland
National Children's Museum
Location south of Washington, D.C.
Established 1974 (originally the Capital Children’s Museum, Washington, DC)
Location 151 St. George Boulevard, National Harbor, Prince George’s County, Maryland
Coordinates 38°47′00″N 77°00′51″W / 38.783276°N 77.014153°W / 38.783276; -77.014153Coordinates: 38°47′00″N 77°00′51″W / 38.783276°N 77.014153°W / 38.783276; -77.014153
Type Children's museum

The National Children’s Museum (NCM) is an interactive museum for children, serving the Washington, D.C. metro area. In 2003, the United States Congress designated NCM as the only national museum dedicated entirely to children and their families.

The museum's exhibits and programming are designed for children to "learn through play," and focus on six core content areas: the arts, civic engagement, the environment, global citizenship, health and well being, and play. NCM's mission is to inspire children to care about and improve the world.


Capital Children's Museum (1974-2004)[edit]

NCM was founded as the Capital Children’s Museum in 1974. In 1979, it moved into a building at 220 H Street, NE in Washington, D.C.,[1] a former Little Sisters of the Poor home. In 2003, Congress identified a need for a nationally recognized cultural and educational institution specifically for children. The H Street location closed in August 2004.

Museum Without Walls (2004-2012)[edit]

Since 2004, the National Children’s Museum has been operating as a “museum without walls,” forging partnerships with other organizations and participating in community events, educational outreach programs and traveling exhibits.

Some of the events in which NCM has participated include the White House Easter Egg Roll, the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the Marine Corps Marathon, Kids Euro Festival, Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play, and NCM's own JumpOFF! and CycleFest.

As a "museum without walls," NCM reached over 300,000 kids and families last year alone.

NCM staff has conducted educational outreach activities in 14 states, presenting the Museum’s Family Literacy Projects on a Budget teacher training programs.

Launch Zone (2009-2012)[edit]

The Launch Zone opened at National Harbor in 2009. The 2,700 square-foot space offered exhibits and programming to young children and their families. There was no charge for admission, and it was open to the public seven days a week.

The Launch Zone closed on September 3, 2012, in preparation for NCM's December 14 opening.

NCM has two major exhibit areas: 3 & Under and Our World. Columbus, Ohio-based Roto Studio designed the 2,700 square foot 3 & Under exhibit space, and Boston-based Amaze Design was appointed to fabricate the 9,000 square foot Our World exhibit, way-finding signage and donor wall. Both firms specialize in museum exhibit design.

On November 14, 2014, NCM announced that it would relocate back to Washington, D.C., in 2015.

Programming and exhibits[edit]

NCM consists of five areas: 3 & Under, Our World, NCM Theatre, program rooms, and a mezzanine.

3 & Under[edit]

The age-specific gallery is designed for infants and toddlers to learn through creative play, interaction and programming. Due to NCM’s partnership with Sesame Workshop, Sesame Street characters and themes have a dominant presence in this area. The diverse activities in 3 & Under are centered on “play,” “movement,” “art” and "discovery through the senses,” and facilitate interactive play among children and adults.

  • “Pretend play” activities—driving, cooking and serving food from a lunch truck, performing household chores and caring for dolls and toys—enable children to experience various aspects of the world.
  • A climbing area exposes children to different structures and situations that require navigating and balancing skills.
  • Other activities, such as drawing and painting, employ different materials that stimulate the senses of sight and touch.
  • The gallery’s miniature play area serves to help children develop fine motor and problem-solving skills, through the building, arranging and exploring of objects and shapes.
  • The Infant and Crawler Zone, an enclosed space with a sensory water bed, tunnel, fish tank, mirrors, and other stimulating sights, colors and textures, is specifically for babies ages 12 months and younger.
  • Programming led by NCM staff include storytelling, art-making, singing and dancing.

Our World[edit]

This section, for children over the age of 3, aims to encourage a curiosity about cultures and the world. It introduces visitors to the responsibilities and rewards of global and community citizenship. It has three main elements: Map Zone, My Town and World Cultures, which are intended to teach children the differences and similarities among our global societies, as well as to explore the roles they might play in their communities, such as family member, friend, student, neighbor, team member and citizen.

  • Map Zone: An area of interactive maps intended to give children a global perspective, as well as an appreciation for the world’s physical structure and organization, and an understanding of the contributing factors to cultural diversity, such as distance, climate and natural resources, among others. Children may pinpoint locations, anticipate climate effects, and learn about the increasing vulnerabilities of the natural environment.
  • My Town: The goal of My Town is to demonstrate how people are connected to and within the towns in which they live. Various communities that are depicted—home and family, friends and neighborhood, and town and country—allow children to practice being actively engaged community members. In the home portion, pictures and mementos serve as reminders of the diverse communities to which different people belong; in the town’s pizza parlor, children may engage in civic debates and discussions; in the campaign center, children may run for political offices and volunteer on a campaign; in the fire truck, children may learn problem-solving techniques.
  • World Cultures: This area aims to celebrate cross-cultural awareness and interaction, and encourages the exploration and discovery of the pieces that compose our “cultural mosaic” and the role of geographic factors in shaping differences between individuals. A simulated marketplace represents diverse cultures, as it changes periodically, beginning with Tanzania. The exhibit features sample homes and shelters from regions; a kitchen area highlighting foods and preparation methods; an interactive clothing store with traditional garments from different cultures; arts and crafts activities; transportation, including a tuk-tuk that “transports” visitors to different locales; and a language area that showcases different types of writing and listening.

NCM Theatre, program rooms & mezzanine[edit]

The NCM Theatre, which holds approximately 130 people, engages visitors in participatory productions that are intended to impart life-lessons. The theatre also serves as a resource for community programming and presentations.

Program rooms are used for daily programming, and will also be utilized by visiting school groups, birthday parties and other events.

The museum’s mezzanine is a non-public area for NCM administrative staff.

Sesame Street partnership[edit]

NCM has a partnership with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street. As part of the partnership, Sesame Street and its characters, through interactive exhibits, educational video segments and books, are most integrated into elements of the museum’s 3 & Under gallery and incorporated in select events and programming. Additionally, Sesame Workshop collaborates with the museum on content development and program creation.

Visiting hours and operations[edit]

NCM is open six days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tues - Sat, Sunday from 12 pm - 4 pm. Standard admission is $10 per child or adult, seniors pay $8, and there is no cost of admission for infants 12 months or younger. Information on museum memberships and special group rates are available on the NCM website.

External links[edit]


Sutton, Benjamin, "National Children’s Museum Eyes November Opening, Will Boast on Big Wheel Racetrack", ArtInfo, June 6, 2012

Parker, Lonnae O'Neal, "National Children’s Museum (finally!) reopening at National Harbor", The Washington Post, June 12, 2012

Hager, Nathan, "National Children’s Museum one step closer to opening in Pr. George’s County",, June 12, 2012

Eatough, Allison, "Eight Great Museum Exhibits That Engage Children of All Ages", Maryland Family Magazine, July 22, 2012

Cooper, Rachel, "National Children’s Museum Fall Programming",, Aug. 29, 2012

Sowah, Jillian S. "Prince George’s County community calendar, Aug. 16-23, 2012", The Washington Post, Aug. 17, 2012

Cooper, Rachel, "Washington DC Events – Top Things to Do this Weekend",, Aug. 3, 2012

"Editor’s Pick: Go for the Gold", In the Loop: Washington Parent E-News, Aug. 2, 2012

"Meet a former Olympian at National Children’s Museum", Chesapeake Family Magazine, July 30, 2012

"Editor’s Pick: Go for the Gold", In the Loop: Washington Parent E-News, July 25, 2012

Sowah, Jillian S. "Things to do July 19-Aug. 2: Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz, Ledisi and Eric Benet perform at DAR", The Washington Post, July 20, 2012

Sowah, Jillian S. "Prince George’s County wellness calendar, July 12-19", The Washington Post, July 12, 2012

"Editor’s Pick: SunWise", In the Loop: Washington Parent E-News, July 11, 2012

"National Children’s Museum to Open This Year at National Harbor",, June 14, 2012

  1. ^ "Landmark Lofts: Heavenly Luxury!". Retrieved 14 April 2014.