Southwest Idaho’s only nonprofit children’s museum has become so popular that it plans to expand to address capacity issues.
Located in Meridian, Children’s Museum of Idaho is a place aimed at children 10 and younger so they can explore different environments. The museum’s mission is to “bring children, families and communities together to engage learning through creative play.”
The museum has 31 exhibits and interactive spaces, including a rocket ship, trains, a doctor’s office, a grocery store, and more.
Executive Director Pat Baker, the museum’s founder, opened it in 2018 after retiring from the tourism industry. Baker, who has a master’s degree in education, said watching his seven grandchildren grow up in the Treasure Valley inspired him to give back to the community.
“When I retired, I researched what a children’s museum would do for our community,” she said. “There were over 400 children’s museums in the United States, but none in Idaho.”
The Meridian Museum is a nonprofit organization that is part of the Association of Children’s Museums, Baker said. In recent years, A grass roots group in Twin Falls plans to open another non-profit children’s museum in Southern Idaho.
“The museum’s philosophy is that children learn best by seeing, touching and doing, and so those are the types of things we offer,” Baker told the Idaho Statesman in a phone interview. “Kids can come and they can pretend they’re in these different roles.”
The expansion will meet capacity requirements, says the director
Baker said that in 2022, the museum will receive about 100,000 visitors from 49 states. The only state that was not represented? Delaware.
Baker said the museum projects more than 115,000 visitors by 2023, and the expansion will improve capacity issues. He said that museum staff had to turn away visitors because there were too many people in the building at the same time. Its capacity is about 250 pieces.
The museum’s slowest hours are weekday afternoons and members-only hours from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. According to Baker, January and July are the museum’s busiest months, with 500 to 700 visitors on busy days.
The museum has 8,000 square meters of gallery space and 5,000 square meters of outdoor space, which is often limited depending on the weather. According to Baker, the expansion will add an additional 4,000 square feet to the existing building on the one-and-a-half acre property and will include a planetarium, a multipurpose room with a stage and five new exhibit galleries.
He said the expansion will cost about $2 million, and the nonprofit aims to begin construction in April so the new space can be open to the public by December.
The city of Meridian approved a proposal to expand the museum in November. Soon the museumReach for the Stars» fundraising campaign for the cost of construction.
“We depend on community support from individuals as well as corporations and foundations. We can’t do it on our own,” Baker said. “We need to expand and we can only do that with the help of the community.”