Children’s Museum To Launch Next Year

Felix Sternberg enjoys the Tot Spot play area in the upcoming Children’s Museum of Jamestown. Photo by Allison Slagle

With a vision to bring families together in play, the Children’s Museum of Jamestown is planned for a 2019 release date.

In the meantime, staff will launch the Tot Spot at the 14 E. Second St. location to encourage playtime, creativity and imagination with families and their young ones.

The Tot Spot is slated to open Wednesday and feature a playroom, gift shop and cafe. Hours of operation are still to be determined and will be contingent on volunteer help. Those interested in helping set up the Tot Spot or volunteering during its operation can visit cmjwny.org. Donations can also be made online.

The official mission of the upcoming museum states, “The Children’s Museum of Jamestown encourages the curiosity and imagination of children and families by providing fun, interactive experiences and programs for families to explore, discover and play together in a welcoming environment.”

Linda Andrews, acting director of the museum, organized her fellow board members as volunteers who wanted to see something akin to other children’s museums like those in Erie, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Phoenix come to Jamestown.

Photo by Allison Slagle

This type of museum features educational activities and exhibits that represent the surrounding community.

Spaces to perform art, play with tactile displays and interact with water-based exhibits are often provided in children’s museums. As will be the design of the Children’s Museum of Jamestown, corporate sponsors are often recruited to simulate micro versions of places like grocery stores, doctor’s offices and shops. For instance, the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum in Erie offers play food in a pizza shop that can be put together and ordered. Imagination also comes into play with a replica locomotive that includes the same layout for the controls as a real train engine would have.

The Jamestown museum may offer block construction that would resemble the furniture manufacturing industry. Role playing in a veterinarians’s office was another idea that could be implemented. The relation to the greater community is meant to keep adults interested as well.

“We decided to offer Jamestown another choice for family time,” Andrews said. “Typically (sponsors) reflect the history of the community.”

The idea for the museum and Tot Spot originated a few months ago, and then a tenant moved out of the Second Street location, making room for the Tot Spot and eventual museum floors. In addition to the National Comedy Center, Northwest Arena and other tourist attractions, the question was asked: “What is there for families?”

Photo by Allison Slagle

The Tot Spot will be a more traditional area for children up to five years of age to play in with members of their family. The volunteer-run space will not be a daycare nor drop-off spot for parents and guardians. Instead, the focus will be to engage young children with their loved ones.

A grass-roots movement began to donate toys and games to the play area. Two TVs are set up with Wii video game consoles to engage older children as well. Playing together as a family will be the focus.

Andrews and her team has posted a survey on their website at cmjwny.org to evaluate what the community needs, including future hours of operation and ideas for the Tot Spot and museum services.

“We could start up on a shoestring, and we could grow from there,” said Andrews, who mentioned the volunteer search has proven successful so far.

The board has already applied to incorporate as a nonprofit and a tax-exempt, charitable organization. While volunteers will initially run the Tot Spot and museum, Andrews would like to pay employees in the future.

T-shirts and educational toys will be available in the gift shop and online after the grand opening. If insurance is in place by August, the tentative Aug. 1 release won’t be pushed back.

“If we have our ducks in a row, we will open the doors,” Andrews said.

Tentatively, the Tot Spot will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesdays through Sundays. The Monday closure will likely expand to a Monday and Tuesday closure starting in the fall since school will be back in session.

School field trips are in the works for pre-schools and daycare groups at the Tot Spot. Programming in the fall may consist of science-based evenings of instruction and crafts led by local teachers.

Birthday parties can also be hosted at the Tot Spot. With 25,000 square feet and five floors of space, there will be lots of rooms to engage local children.

“It’s all been falling into place very nicely,” Andrews said.

She credits her group of friends and fellow volunteers for the Tot Spot and Children’s Museum becoming a reality. With four children and three grandchildren herself, Andrews wanted to give back so that young people would have an interesting place to play and learn in the community.

“It will be a safe place for families to spend time together,” Andrews said.

The hope is that tourists will stop by in the summer months and that the Tot Spot and museum will be an interesting respite during frigid winters. An elevator will soon be installed to make the location handicap accessible. Stroller parking will also be provided.

“We’re trying to meet needs of young parents,” Andrews said.

Andrews thanks all donors and volunteers who have helped make this effort possible. Those interested in helping or asking more questions about the planned attractions for children can email Andrews at director@cmjwny.org.

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