2023 PLAY report

Dear valued supporters and friends,

Celebrating 35 years of service, the Lincoln Children’s Museum continues to evolved, embracing inclusivity as a cornerstone of our mission. In the spirit of this commitment, we’ve made significant strides towards sensory sensitivity and hosting events within the museum tailored to diverse needs. Additionally, our outreach extends beyond our walls, with sensory tents enriching community events.

By joining nationwide initiatives such as Museums for All, we now offer discounted admission to those receiving assistance, ensuring economic status doesn’t impact a family’s opportunity to visit. moreover, we proudly stand with our armed forces through participation in the Blue Star Families program, welcoming military families into our vibrant community.

These endeavors reflect our dedication to fostering an inclusive environment and creating memorable experiences for every member of our community.

Tara Knuth

Leadership Team

board of directors

Thank you to our dedicated board members, who each contribute their time and talents to help ensure the Lincoln Children’s Museum meets the needs of our ever-growing community.

board of directors

let’s cheer for a great year!

Individuals came through our doors

guests attended a birthday party at the Museum.

guests were able to enjoy the Museum through the Museums for All program, available beginning June 2023.

children participated in camps and workshops

students learned through play on a field trip to the Museum.

from seed to harvest

new exhibits unveiled

2023 was a big year for new and updated exhibits at the Lincoln Children’s Museum.

In late spring of 2023, The Orchard exhibit opened to the public. Previously part of the original treehouse located on the upper level of the Museum, the newly remodeled area of play has been a huge hit with visitors.

Children can push, jump, and turn through this exhibit to see what apple items can be made, and watch the apples travel through the exhibit on conveyor belts just in time for “fall” when they’re ready for harvest and drop into the bushel basket below.

Additionally, children can learn about pollinators and the vital role that honey bees play in the production of apples.

The exhibit upgrade was made possible by the Kimmel Foundation. Len Weyeneth, president and treasurer of the Kimmel Foundation’s board, was happy for the opportunity: “One of the first grants made by the Kimmel Foundation was the Kimmel Tree when the Children’s Museum moved to its current location. The impact of the Museum has had on so many children to ‘learn through the power of play’ is incredible. We’re happy to continue to support the Lincoln Children’s Museum and its mission.”

Late fall of 2023 also boasted another new exhibit opening – Here We Grow, a brand new, immersive exhibit that cultivates the imaginations of young visitors while providing an educational adventure through Nebraska agriculture.

Tara Knuth, the Museum’s Chief Executive Officer, expressed her enthusiasm for this exciting addition to the ever-evolving lineup of exhibits.

She said, “We are thrilled to introduce Here We Grow to the community. This exhibit is a unique opportunity for children and their families to connect with our state’s rich agricultural heritage while having a blast in an immersive, hands-on environment.”

Designed with a focus on interactive play, the exhibit offers a variety of activities that allow children to explore the world of farming and agriculture in a way that is both entertaining and educational.

One of the standout features of the exhibit is the water table. Visitors can learn about the important role of water in agriculture as they explore irrigation, manipulate the pivot, control water run-off, and more. Guests can also role-play different careers, care for a life-sized steer and pig, gather eggs from the chicken coop, and even “drive” a combine. These activities not only promote fine and gross motor development but also instill an understanding and respect for the people, animals and machinery that are essential to farming and ranching.

Here We Grow is an opportunity for parents and caregivers to engage their children in valuable learning experiences. By participating in these hands-on activities, children can develop important life skills, such as problem-solving, teamwork, and critical thinking.

Plans are already in motion for future additions to the Here We Grow exhibit, featuring a three-story Luckey Climbers play structure – the first of its kind in Nebraska. The climber is projected to be completed by the end of 2024.

taking care of those who care

Partnering with others to support the “workforce behind the workforce”

Childcare Provider Night

The Lincoln Children’s Museum hosted its inaugural Childcare Provider Night, an event dedicated to celebrating and supporting childcare providers. This special evening was just for the grown-ups, featuring food and drinks, adult-takeover jumbo games, giveaways, and more. Plus, a variety of community partners were also present to offer their resources to childcare providers to take advantage of.

Gladys Haynes, Director of the Nebraska Early Learning Initiatives at the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, emphasized the importance of supporting and encouraging childcare providers through events like these:

“Early childhood providers are the cheerleaders in the classrooms, always encouraging children forward and celebrating their successes. The Buffett Early Childhood Fund is honored to have had the opportunity to partner with the Children’s Museum to recognize them.”

Attendees enjoyed the event as well. Jenny Nelson, an educator at the UNL Children’s Center said, “It is so important to invest in our teachers. This event was an outlet of community resources, opportunities and support. As an early childhood educator, I felt recognized for the effort, love and passion it takes to do what I do. Thank you for a night of encouragement, inspiration, and empowerment.”

This year’s Childcare Provider Night will be April 9th at the Lincoln Children’s Museum. For more information, visit lincolnchildrensmuseum.org/childcare-provider-night.

We Care for Kids Collaboration

The Lincoln Children’s Museum also joined in the efforts of We Care For Kids, a statewide collaborative effort to build support for quality early childhood education for all Nebraska families. We Care for Kids engages Nebraska parents and families, early childhood educators, and networks of community and opinion leaders so that Nebraskans have a shared understanding of what it means to provide quality education for young children, as well as the essential role that early childhood educators play in providing that quality.

Childcare Provider Night


celebrating life through play


Bergman Family honors late daughter with generous costume donation

In a heartwarming tribute to their late infant daughter, Cora, the Bergman family recently made a meaningful donation to the Lincoln Children’s Museum’s Johnny Carson Stage.

Jordan and Ashley Bergman enjoy visiting the Museum with their children who love to play dress up and perform on the Johnny Carson stage. The couple couldn’t help but notice the well-loved costumes as an opportunity to share a gift in honor of Cora.

The Bergmans set out on a mission to gather new costumes to donate, resulting in an impressive collection of over 40 costumes.

To celebrate Cora’s heavenly birthday, the Bergman family made a special trip to the Museum and together, placed the new costumes on display for guests to enjoy.

The Museum is humbled by the thoughtfulness of the Bergmans and honored to be a part of their family’s story.

designated heart-safe

Lincoln Children’s Museum staff completed training through Project ADAM’s heart-safe school program and became the 1st non-school organization to receive a Heart Safe Designation from Children’s Hospital & Medical Center – Omaha.

Staff members completed training to be CPR and AED certified and have a practiced emergency plan to respond to a collapse, giving everyone staff comes in contact with the best possible chance to survive a cardiac event.

a place to learn through play at any age

From capstone projects and internships to tours and job shadows, high school and college students looked to the Lincoln Children’s Museum as still a place to explore, but through a different lens.

Embarking on her final semester at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, interior design student, Makena Ninete, chose the Museum for her capstone project and brought big ideas to life with her drafts and renderings.

UNL’s College of Journalism hosted a digital media summer camp where high school students chose the Museum as their “client” and created a multi-media website which included practicing interviews, writing stories, flexing their graphic design and videography skills, and more. To make the project extra special, Lydia Hernandez, both a UNL CoJMC student ambassador and Museum employee, took the lead on helping the students understand and capture the mission of the Museum in their work.

The Museum also had the opportunity to pilot a summer internship through UNL which provided non-profit organizations paid intern support to allow UNL students to gain skills, knowledge, and insight into their own interests and strengths through those internships. This program was targeted to students who are first generation, and/or black, indigenous, or a person of color.

Luis Gervara was thankful for the program: “My internship at the Lincoln Children’s Museum provided me with marketing experience that helped me grow professionally. I was able to develop my portfolio and network with

a variety of individuals.” Gervara was hired on as a Museum staff member for an extended period of time after the end of the original internship.

These examples are just a few of the student involvement opportunities the Museum experienced over the course of 2023. These students serve as a reminder on how the power of play can leave a lasting impact and guide children in their future.


opening more doors to play

Museums for All

The summer of 2023 marked the beginning of LCM’s participation in the national Museums for All program. This program allows the Museum to offer $3 admission per person to those who show their SNAP/WIC EBT card.

LCM joined current program participants, University of Nebraska State Museum – Morrill Hall and the International Quilt Museum, making Lincoln a nationally recognized HUB city through the Museums for All Program.

Museums for All participation helps break down financial barriers so more families have access to the educational resources and experiences museums offer.

Blue Star Museum

The Museum was once again a proud participant of the Blue Star Museum program, providing active duty military and their families free admission beginning Memorial Day through Labor Day. This program offering will continue into 2024.

Sensory Awareness Initiatives

From sensory-friendly nights at the Museum, Calm Corners, and a Sensory Tent debut for community events, the Museum strives to be an inclusive and accessible space that celebrates neurodiversity and welcomes people of all needs and abilities.

the power of PLAY

see what’s new in 2024!

Here We Grow Phase 2

The second phase of Here We Grow has begun! Footings are in place for an all-new, state-of-the-art Luckey Climber. This climber is the first of it’s kind in Nebraska and will stretch three stories high, offering a view of each floor of the Museum.

The climber will feature a colorful array of large “leaves” for climbing the stalk surrounded by a protective netting. It is expected to open to the public in the fall of 2024.

  • Day & Summer Camps
  • Discovery on the Deck
  • Game Day Play Dates
  • Imagination Workshops
  • Little Learners
  • Make Believe Midnight
  • Sensory Evenings
  • Super Saturdays

Learn how you or your business can become part of the excitement by supporting the Lincoln Children’s Museum in 2024!

Contact Ken Dobbs at kdobbs@lincolnchildrensmuseum.org or call 402-477-4000.