New Exhibit Now Open: the Be Well Center!

Part of the mural in our new Be Well Center!
A visitor to our opening celebration examines slides using the video microscope!
A visitor to our opening celebration examines slides using the video microscope!


With the support of the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine just opened our newest exhibit: the Be Well Center! This new exhibit features an Ambearlance, real medical equipment such as stethoscopes and a video microscope (with slides of real cells!), and plenty of teddy bears to rescue and make better. Here you can pretend to be a doctor, nurse, or EMT (the people who drive the ambulance and get you to the hospital!). You can use real scales and stethoscopes to give a teddy bear a check-up, and then record the info you find on the bear’s very own medical chart!

Our own Chris Sullivan, who was in charge of making the Be Well Center, said that the Be Well Center is designed to encourage kids to explore, work together, and learn to be nice to people who are hurt, sick, or have to go to the doctor. Dr. Lorraine McElwain, Associate Chief of Pediatrics at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital said that the idea is  “…to engage children and their families in their own health and wellness, and maybe make a future visit to a hospital or doctor’s office less intimidating.” She’s also hoping that maybe some of the kids who play here will grow up to be real doctors and nurses!



A group of visitors works together to take care of their patient.

Here kids can act out everything from a medical emergency to a regular doctor’s visit, learning about their own bodies and the jobs of medical professionals along the way. There’s all sorts of medical stuff you can play with, like an exam table, scale, a height chart, and a movie showing what’s really happening when you move parts of your body!




A young 'EMT' hangs up the phone after communicating with the Ambearlance.
A young ‘EMT’ hangs up the phone after communicating with the Ambearlance.


As a permanent part of Our Town (right next to the farm), the Be Well Center is included with regular entrance fees. Come join in the fun!



Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center is a non-profit organization benefiting from generous community support. From routine check-ups and immunizations, to the treatment of life-threatening illnesses and injuries, Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital provides comprehensive, family-centered healthcare for all of northern New England. With 109 beds, including 31 Level III NICU Beds and 20 Level II Continuing Care Nursery beds, it is Maine’s premier referral hospital, offering services not available elsewhere in the state.



The new exhibit.
The new exhibit.



Raising Readers Visits Down to the Sea

Our friends from Raising Readers came to the opening of our new exhibit, “Down to the Sea: An Outdoor Adventure.” They enjoyed themselves so much, they wanted to write about it! Here’s their story…

Thanks to Maine author and illustrator, Chris Van Dusen, Maine families have learned to ski, joined camping sprees, and headed down to the sea with Mr. Magee and his little dog, Dee. They’ve also helped Jack build a house with a flying room and a car that can submerge, float, and fly. Oh, and they’ve journeyed on the circus ship with Mr. Paine and have laughed out loud at the circus animals getting, um, adjusted to their new home on an isle in Maine. Remember the ostrich in the outhouse and the monkey swinging in Miss Fannie Feeney’s bloomers?!

With his colorful, lovable, imaginative stories and illustrations, Chris Van Dusen has captivated the imaginations of children and adults alike. His work is so esteemed that in 2015, the Maine Library Association awarded Chris the Katahdin Award, a lifetime achievement award and the highest honor given by the organization.

Chris and his stories, If I Built a Car and The Circus Ship, have been featured in two Raising Readers anthologies (2006 and 2010) and other titles are also a part of our library of well-loved children’s books. So, it comes as no surprise to learn that the Raising Readers staff are some of his biggest fans. Our team was thrilled (like kids-on-Christmas-morning-thrilled) to be invited to the grand opening of Down to the Sea: An Outdoor Adventure exhibit at the Children’s Museum2`12 and Theater of Maine on June 18th.

Down to the Sea_CharlotteWhen we walked through the door, to the museum’s outside space, Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee came alive with a whale fountain in one corner, a sandy “beach” in the playground’s center, pedal cars, a shipwreck to explore, a greenhouse and garden, and Mr. Magee and Dee’s presence throughout. To add to the sheer delight of experiencing a book outside of its pages, kiddos were having a ball interacting with the exhibit and the author himself. They ran around with dog ears on their heads, toy boats in their hands, and were pedaling pint-sized vintage cars as quickly as they could. Even the youngest tikes were pointing at the life-sized painting of Mr. Magee and Dee and screaming their names in delight, a true testament to the power of reading to children and the relationships their young minds build with their favorite characters in their most beloved books.

From an early childhood development stand point, exhibits like many of those found at the Children’s Museum are wonderful for a number of reasons: they promote gross motor play, sensory play with sand and water, and of course, early childhood literacy.

Take it from us, a team of avid children’s book readers, advocates, and lovers of all things Maine, visiting Chris Van Dusen’s Down to the Sea exhibit is worth experiencing, for children and adults alike.

We also encourage you to come check out Raising Readers standing exhibit on the second floor of the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine, our cozy and rustic Book Nook. It’s a great place to relax with a good book on a warm lap or cozy chair amongst the hustle and bustle of the museum.


To learn more about ways you can have fun engaging your child in early literacy opportunities, visit:

To see a list of Chris Van Dusen’s books and to get ideas of fun activities that you can do with your kiddos based on his stories, Raising Readers recommends visiting:

Would you like to attend and participate in more activities with an early literacy focus in Maine? Check out the Portland Kids Calendar to see what activities are scheduled near you!

“The Playscape” Opens This Friday at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine

For Immediate Release:

Friday March 14th, 2014
The Playscape Opens to the Public
Exhibit open during normal business hours | Tuesday – Sunday 10am-5pm
Museum General Admission: $9 per person (under 18 months free)
142 Free Street | Portland, Maine 04101
For more info: 207.828.1234

About The Playscape:
The Playscape is an exhibit designed to promote child-directed, open-ended play and physical activity through engagement with climbing structures and large-scale blocks. Our 900 square-foot exhibit space is being transformed into an abstract indoor landscape compete with lush astroturf and flying kites. The space will be completely immersive and give visitors the feeling of being transported to another world. The exhibit’s two centerpieces are custom CedarWorks climbing structures for children ages 2-12 and Imagination Playground blocks made of biodegradable foam. Both aspects of the exhibit invite children to use their imaginations and their bodies to learn through play. Visitors will be invited to let their imaginations take flight as they climb to the top of a tower, send bucketfuls of balls to friends below, roll in a mini ball pit, traverse bridges, soar down slides, create unique blue structures, and explore The Playscape in their own, creative way.

Sponsor Comments and Contributions:
CedarWorks is pleased to partner with the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine to promote indoor play, imagination and discovery. For more than 30 years, CedarWorks has been committed to designing and crafting the safest, most beautiful, and highest quality play systems for children.

“The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is a wonderful space which blends education and fun for families,” said Barrett Brown, CedarWorks company president. “Our indoor play products are a perfect complement to the goals of the Playscape exhibit in that they awaken young imaginations, and get kids moving and exploring through active play,” Brown added.

Tory W. Rogers, MD Director of Let’s Go!, a childhood obesity prevention program in Maine, said “Let’s Go! believes in providing opportunities for Maine children to be more physically active and The Museum is doing just that!” She includes, “Part of Let’s Go!’s commitment to decreasing childhood obesity rates involves encouraging community partners, like The Museum, to get kids moving. We’re happy to support The Playscape and what it stands for.”

About the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine:
The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, located in the vibrant heart of Portland, exists to inspire discovery and imagination through exploration and play. The Museum & Theatre serves as an indispensable resource for families and educators, helping to create a broad community devoted to our children’s development and learning. The Museum & Theatre is a significant and valuable community asset, offering a broad and diverse array of educational and cultural enrichment opportunities especially developed for children ages 0-10 and the adults who accompany them.

Using four core areas of focus, including Science, Multicultural, Arts, and Early Childhood Education, the work within the Museum reaches children 6 months to 10 years of age, as well as their families and caregivers. Theatre productions include cast and crew members ages 7 to 16, with their performances being enjoyed by audiences of all ages. Outreach and programming serve students and educators throughout the state, in classes from Pre-K through 5th grade.

Recognition includes winning the Nickelodeon’s Parents’ Pick Award for the Best Museum in Portland (2009) as well as being named one of the 12 Best Children’s Museums in the US by Forbes (2012) and one of four children’s museums in the world to receive the MetLife Promising Practice Award (2012).

The Playscape Exhibit is generously sponsored by:



WCSH News Center Logo COLOR





New exhibit provides endless possibilities for fun

Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine Director of Exhibits Chris Sullivan offers a look at the planning that has gone in to the launch of our new exhibit, “The Playscape,” opening to the public on March 14th, 2014.


Playscape graphics package_poster tempPlanning our next exhibit, we decided early on that we wanted to celebrate the philosophy of open ended play as learning. We don’t want to direct any one particular type of play, but provide an environment that supported a variety of activities.

Our exhibit production model requires months of research before we begin design work. Because of our small staff and limited resources, in order to be successful we need to do extensive on-the-floor prototyping and develop close partnerships with local businesses who can volunteer their expertise to the project.

Last August, we started prototyping with large building blocks to see what types of activities our visitors instinctively did. After observing visitors play with the blocks for a while we started staging pre-built structures made from the blocks and found that this impacted how visitors interacted with the exhibit. From there we started testing permanent structures that visitors could build onto and climb on. The process of incorporating more and more structural components into the space led us to a decision to seek out a partner who could help us build a natural play structure. Our first choice was CedarWorks.

CedarWorks has been a consistent supporter of the Museum and Theatre for years. More importantly, they are a Maine based company who (like us) specialize in play. Their involvement has been a huge help. They have been creating play structures for many years and are intimate with all the accessibility and safety issues that come with a project of this sort. I learned a lot about playground design form working with their designer and manufacturing team.

Playscape is a playground like space for imagination and physical activity. The exhibit features both climbing structures for children ages 2-12 and blue blocks made of biodegradable foam. The climbing structures will be whimsical, natural wooden towers for kids to explore and role-play in. The blocks include a variety of sizable shapes and balls that kids can use to build their own towers. The abstract nature of the towers and blocks gives the exhibit the potential to cover an endless amount of educational topics: gross motor, engineering, tactile exploration, physics, dramatic play, and so on. Most importantly, it will be a fun, safe, and comfortable space to be in.

Many thanks to our sponsors:


LG+5210_cmykWCSH News Center Logo COLOR