Designed for the enjoyment and education of children from birth to age eight, the Children's Museum of Cleveland, Ohio is the only museum of its kind in the Cleveland vicinity. The museum was established in 1981 and was the brainchild of a coalition of educators, parents, and civic leaders.
The museum was an instant hit with parents of young children as well as local pre-school and elementary school educators. Because of its popularity, it chose to expand and move to a larger facility in 1986, choosing a site that once home to an old Howard Johnson's Restaurant. The Children's Museum of Cleveland expanded yet again in 1993 by adding 2,000 square feet of exhibition space and more permanent exhibitions.
However, the late 90s and the new millennium brought difficult times for the museum, faced with competition from other entities designed to entertain young children. In the late 1990s, the museum was rescued by local Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, and has spent the last decade or so designing a new image for the museum, hoping to reach both regional and national audiences.
The new mission of the Children's Museum of Cleveland is to foster creativity via exhibits, be a key child development resource for parents and caregivers, create tools to enhance school readiness and literacy, be a partner and collaborator for early childhood educators, and provide a "town center''-type environment where parents and children can interact together.
The museum achieves those goals through their exhibits and educational programs. Some of the permanent exhibits at Children's Museum of Cleveland include Blast Off!, a hands-on family exhibit developed with the help of NASA that explores space through play activities; Splish Splash, a water exhibit that teaches children about earth's water systems, weather, and water transportation; Bridges to our Community, a celebration of the diversity of Cleveland, set in a makeshift neighborhood that teaches children about everyday tasks and jobs; and Big Red Barn, an area for the museum's tiniest visitors, modeled after a working farm. The museum also hosts a plethora of temporary exhibits each year, mostly remaining at Children's Museum of Cleveland for at least a few months.
As a designated partner in play and learning for the young children of the Cleveland area, the museum hosts a number of special events and programs throughout the year. Patrons can also rent the facility for birthday parties. For these parties, the museum offers a room that holds up to 40 people, refrigeration facilities for food and beverages, and free admission to the museum for all party guests.
Tours of the Children's Museum of Cleveland are self-guided except for school and other groups, which are treated to 90 minutes with a museum interpreter and guided visits of three of the museum's exhibits.
The museum, located in the busy University Circle cultural area, is open daily throughout the year. Free parking is available. Children's Museum of Cleveland is accessible to people with disabilities.