Mother’s Day is this Sunday – Join Us for a Party!

Let’s celebrate our moms by throwing them a party. We’ll bake them something special – then eat it with tea, of course! We’ll also make one-of-a-kind Mother’s Day cards for this special day.

Free with admission. 10:30am-12pm.


Hancock Lumber Celebrates Earth Day and 10 Years of “Tree to Timber!”

Happy Earth Day, and happy 10 years to Tree to Timber! Our company, Hancock Lumber, has been the proud sponsor of the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s second floor sustainable forestry and pine manufacturing exhibit since 2005. We love sharing what we do with the thousands of kids and their families who visit the Museum & Theatre every year.

TreeToTimber3-sawmill-girlplayingIn Tree to Timber, we not only get to talk about the process of harvesting trees, we let kids in on the experience. From an interactive video game to a sawmill, children can watch the felling of trees, then help turn the logs into lumber using the sawmill crank. The exhibit is also home to a treehouse where you can build your own structures using interlocking wood blocks – the only limit to what you can build is your imagination!

We’re also excited to be a part of the Museum & Theatre’s Earth Day celebration this Wednesday, April 22nd, for the second year in a row. Last year’s Earth Day festivities were a huge hit: we had a meet and greet with our mascot, Forest Hancock, and gave away over 200 White Pine seedlings to visitors. Eastern White Pine –the kind of trees that grow in our forest and we make into boards—seedlings will be available to children and their families for free again this year (while supplies last).

Check out all of the Earth Day activities, including reading stories about forests, planting seeds, and more! While you’re here, take a turn at the sawmill or building a home in Tree to Timber, then take home your own seedling and plant a tree for the next generation to enjoy.

Hancock Lumber started doing business in Maine over 166 years ago –in 1848! We responsibly manage forests, selectively harvest Eastern White Pine trees to manufacture into boards at our sawmills, ship those boards all over the world and sell them at our 10 lumberyards throughout Maine and New Hampshire! We also sell building materials to contractors and homeowners at those locations. Being connected to the community, however, is one of the most important parts of our business. We are so proud of the space we’ve created together with the amazing team at the museum and look forward to continuing the partnership for many years to come! Please visit our website to learn about our community involvement:

Exploring "Tree to Timber." Photo by Olivia Birdsall.

Exploring “Tree to Timber.” Photo by Olivia Birdsall.



Before Hours Easter Egg Hunt

Join us for an eggcellent, eye-spy, eggvestigation. There will be hundreds of filled eggs throughout our exhibits, including a safe area for toddlers and a golden egg challenge for adventurous egg-hunters! Bring your own basket. Refreshments included!

This event tends to sell out – purchasing in advance is highly encouraged!

$8/member, $9/visitor, $15/stay and play. To purchase tickets call 1-800-838-3006, stop by the front desk or visit

Click here to purchase your tickets online!

Matt Heaton Live: Children’s Music Concert for All Ages!

Audiences may not realize Matt Heaton’s children’s music is “children’s music!” First and foremost, it is groovy, engaging and fun. Playing with skill and whimsy on guitar & banjo, Matt brings in elements of rockabilly, folk, soul and surf to entertain adults as well as kids. With shockingly listenable versions of classics like “Wheels on the Bus” alongside original compositions like “Outside Toy,” Matt’s shows are a high energy explosion of all ages enjoyment and education. Warning: Singing along may take place!

Heaton is a skilled entertainer for kids, with a repertoire of kid-friendly folk & surf-inspired originals and reworked classics. Like musicians before him, he took a keen interest in music for kids after the birth of his son, leading engaging sing-alongs that he hoped adults could enjoy, too. Armed with a bundle of new and traditional material, he organized a whole lot of extra babysitting and created his new CD, “Happy You Made It.” Matt Heaton also performs in the well-known Irish music duo of Matt & Shannon Heaton.

$5 per person plus admission. For tickets call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk.

Get Ready for Wonka Weekend! February 7th-8th

This weekend is filled with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory activities as we get ready for the show: D.I.Y. candy-necklace-making, bubble gum blowing competitions, candy art projects, and Wonka-land’s famous chocolate river milk!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory runs February 13th-22nd – come back and join us for the show!

Tickets go on sale January 23rd!

Mini-Moviemakers Workshop Returns Nov. 9th

Mini Moviemakers: Stop Motion Animation (R$)

Calling all movie-makers! In this afternoon workshop, we’ll work together to make a short claymation movie in the style of “Wallace and Gromit.” You’ll learn about how animation works, and then get to view your group movie on the web once it’s published.

Ideal for ages 6-14. This is a drop-off program.

$12/members, $14/visitors. For tickets call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk by Sunday 11/9.


Check out the movie made by our last group of young filmmakers!

Bon Voyage, Istar!

Eva and Matilda and IstarJoin us this Sunday, February 23rd to celebrate and say farewell to our beloved humpback whale, Istar. It won’t be a forever farewell, don’t worry! She’s swimming on to meet new friends, but will be making appearances this summer (outside) and will also continue to swim around the state visiting students at their schools.

We love Istar so much! We love her whiskers and her tail and even her funny teeth. And from 2-5pm on the 23rd, we’ll be sharing our favorite things about her. Join us to sing a goodbye song in whale language, to feast on her favorite snacks, and to make yourself a beautiful whale spout hat. And of course, go inside Istar to learn about her eyes, her nose, her mouth, and her tail.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. Some of her friends shared their thoughts, and answered “What’s your favorite thing about Istar?”

“Her tail, because it was big and really long!”
Taylor, age 10
Lewiston, Maine

“Her whiskers! I didn’tTaylor and Istar
know whales had hair.”
Haiden, age 7
Westbrook, Maine

“My favorite part was everything. I got to see her eye!”
Ava, age 6
Freeport, Maine

“I thought it was really fun!”
Matilda, age 6
Topsham, Maine

Update: Playscape will pop-up once again on August 31st!

Earlier this summer, we posted about our first Pop-Up Playscape event, which was a huge hit! Nearly 100 kids and adults came out to create an amazing box city with countless creative twists. Lots of people took notice! The event was featured in The Forecaster, on WCSH6, and it’s even been highlighted on the home page of the Maine Community Foundation (support for this project came from their Cumberland County Fund).

Here's where to find us on Saturday, 8/31 from 12-6.

Here’s where to find us on Saturday, 8/31 from 12-6.

There’s one more chance to get in on the fun! We’ll be on the Eastern Promenade on Saturday, August 31st. Want to know a little more before you go – like why this project is great for developing young minds? I’ve put together some background info about open-ended play, as well as some insider tips for the day of the event. No time to read ahead? No problem! Just arrive with an open mind and some willing builders, and the rest will fall into place. We’ll see you there! (Don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook and share it with your friends!)

What is “open-ended” or “child directed” play?

Stated simply, it just means going with the flow. There is no pressure or rules to follow. The point is not to produce a specific finished product. It’s all about free play and exploration — the opportunity to invent and discover.

Kids led the way at our first Pop-Up Playscape event on 7/22.

Kids led the way at our first Pop-Up Playscape event on 7/22.

What are “loose parts”?

Loose parts (like boxes, sticks and stones, bottle caps or other recycled materials) are objects that are easily moved and used for play, games and art. They can be carried, rolled, lifted, piled, or combined to create different types of structures and experiences.

Why are we playing with loose parts and letting the children drive?

To encourage healthy development and build life important life skills! Play and art-making contribute to growth and development because they encourage children to test, explore and discover in a safe space. This type of play requires children to manipulate their environment and experiment with different materials in order to learn. They figure things out for themselves! Stationary materials or a set of rules can restrict the ways children can manipulate the environment, thereby restricting opportunities for creativity, problem-solving or taking healthy risks. Environments like Pop-Up Playscapes aim to be rich in loose parts and allow for extensive manipulation of the environment and experimentation that can lead to innovation. Plus, when kids have a chance to make something amazing on their own without being “right” or “wrong,” they build self-esteem.

Continue reading

Cardboard + Community + Creativity = Pop-Up Playscapes

Facebook event graphic

Remember Caine’s Arcade, the video that went viral about a 9-year-old in East

Caine Monroy with his Arcade. (Image credit: Caine's Arcade)

Caine Monroy with his Arcade. (Image credit: Caine’s Arcade)

L.A. who built an amazing arcade out of cardboard? Now imagine dozens of kids like Caine meeting up in one spot with tons of cardboard and permission to build anything they can imagine. What do you think they could create if they worked together?

We’ll find out this summer! We’re inviting all of Portland to join us for Pop-Up Playscapes on Monday, July 22nd at Kennedy Park and on Saturday, August 31st on the Eastern Promenade.

At these FREE, first-of-their-kind events, people of all ages will meet up to build the ultimate fort-meets-sculpture-meets-homemade-playground. We’ll have a huge supply of recycled materials, like cardboard boxes, old

Picture this... only HUGE!

Picture this… only HUGE!

books, tubes, fabrics and more. You – that means kids, grown-ups, everyone – bring your imagination and sense of adventure. Artists and Museum & Theatre staff will be on site to help make your vision a reality. At day’s end, we’ll take down the structure and recycle it. All kids take home a bag of recycled building materials to keep dreaming and creating long after the event is over.

If you visited us last summer, you may remember the “Box City” we created on the second floor of the Museum & Theatre – dozens of buildings made from recycled materials. There were homes, a library, a school, a garden shop – anything our young builders could imagine! I’m so excited to make that concept way bigger and bring it out into the community so all kids can contribute their ideas, inventions and creativity.

3 Pop Up Adventure PLayground at Canadian International School of Egypt

A cardboard building project at the Canadian International School in Egypt.
Image source:

A project like this is tons of fun, of course, but there’s also a lot to learn from it. When kids engage in open-ended play like this – a project where there’s no one right answer – they get to solve problems and direct themselves. They’ll hit road blocks, then come up with solutions that none of the adults could have devised. They’ll build the skills that will make them great problem-solvers and creative thinkers – and that’s not just good for kids, that’s good for all of us! What community couldn’t use more creative problem-solvers?

We’re grateful to everyone who made these events possible! Pop-Up Playscapes are funded by the Cumberland County Community Building Fund of the Maine Community Foundation. We’re also getting help from some great community partners: City of Portland Recreation and Public Services; Ecomaine; No Umbrella Media; The Root Cellar; and Ruth’s Reusable Resources.

Coming to a Pop-Up Playscape event? RSVP on Facebook and share it with your friends!


Free admission + tons of events = Joyful Children’s Day (Friday, January 4)

On Friday, January 4, we’re celebrating children everywhere with a FREE admission day and evening (10am-8pm).

To celebrate children and bring joy to the community, we’re filling the Museum & Theatre music, art, stories and more, all free and open to the public. Events begin at 10am and continue through First Friday evening. Scheduled events include dance time with Portland Music & Dance Academy, a yoga and movement workshop with Robyn Wiley, a poetry slam with Tina Smith, pizza-making with UNO South Portland and a visit with animals from the Animal Refuge League.

For more information about the day’s activities, visit our Calendar of Events. We’ll be updating throughout the week as we confirm more guests!

Why this event? Why now?

In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the staff of the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine wanted to bring joy to children, families and the community. We created Joyful Children’s Day to honor of the children of Sandy Hook and the joyful hearts of children everywhere. We reached out to members and friends to help us fill the Museum & Theatre with activities that will bring smiles to the children and families of Greater Portland. Dozens have enthusiastically responded, and the day promises to be fulfilling for visitors and volunteers alike.