Wide open spaces and peaceful time for connection and relaxation aren’t normally what one might associate with a busy children’s museum, but the new “Meadow” exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Cleveland is designed to deliver exactly that. Scheduled to officially open next Monday, October 1, The Meadow caters to the infant and toddler crowd as the newest addition to the museum’s lineup of four existing exhibits.
“It was really important to have a space exclusively dedicated to infants, toddlers, and early walkers,” says Maria Campanelli, the museum's executive director. “We recognize that an 8-year-old plays very differently than a 2-year-old—especially on busy days [at the museum]. Our goal was to create protected space for these age groups.”
Some of The Meadow’s features include a soft, covered mat space for infant tummy time; ramps, slides, and steps for crawlers and early walkers; peek-a-boo boxes; and a tunnel made from pool noodles. Plenty of toys and reading materials are also on hand for parents to engage their little ones.
Family needs are also front and center: “Stroller parking” is provided, and the family bathroom has both a regular adult toilet and a tiny toilet for kids who are potty training. Visitors are asked to take off their shoes or wear booties to avoid spreading germs. “The idea is to keep the space as clean as possible, recognizing that infants and crawlers will be going across the carpet,” explains Campanelli.
Another thoughtful detail is the “Quiet Feeding Room,” which Campanelli says was consciously named in order to welcome and include parents who are formula feeding or pumping along with those who are nursing.
Dubbed as “a natural place to play,” the space has been intentionally designed to create a feeling of calm. Soft hues of green, lavender, and yellow lend to the mellow feel, along with lightly colored wood—all designed to emulate greenery and natural elements. “There’s a lot of depth and warmness that we hope will be soothing not only to the child, but to the caregiver as well,” says Campanelli.
Made possible by a $250,000 donation by JoAnn and Bob Glick, The Meadow “was always in the works,” according to Campanelli, but it made sense to add in later phases because of its geographical placement near the back of the museum. Now that The Meadow is ready to roll, the next exhibits to be introduced will be Playlist (a music space) and Theatre (a performance and pretend play space)—both in November.
Moving forward, Campanelli hopes The Meadow will help widen the perception of what the Children’s Museum of Cleveland has to offer: “We hope that [The Meadow] will help people who think their child isn’t old enough realize that the museum is focused on birth through eight years old."