I love the Children’s Museum of the Arts. I think it’s my favorite child oriented museum in the area. It’s not huge and it’s not somewhere you’d aim to visit monthly, but it’s such a special little place. It makes me happy whenever we visit. Art is such an important part of childhood, so having a place that dedicates itself to celebrating childhood art is just fantastic.
The CMA is located on Charlton Street on the west side of Lower Manhattan (West SoHo). I’ve been taking my girls since my older one was a wee toddler. It’s been awesome getting to see how she experiences the museum’s offerings as she grows.
When you enter the CMA, walk past the admission desk and coat rack area and you’ll find the large stART Studio dedicated to arts and play for children age 5 and under. Previously known as WEE Arts, this area is full of hands on adorableness for little ones.
Art stations change regularly, but you can always find things like flubber to play with, a clay based project, Do-A-Dot markers, Magna Tiles, washable markers and watercolors. There will always be CMA workers on hand to assist your little ones with their crafting. And whether you’re local or just visiting for the day, there are all kinds of registered courses and drop-in courses offered in the stART Studio.
The aesthetics everywhere at the CMA, but particularly in the stART Studio, are just beautiful; it reminds me of a chic preschool room.
Fine Arts Studio
On the second floor of the CMA you’ll find The Pepperman Family Fine Arts Studio. This is where elementary aged artists can flourish by taking part in rotating workshops “inspired by the current exhibition, holidays, artworks by famous artists, seasons, and more.”
The Fine Art Studio offers all the supplies and equipment you’d expect to find in a real artist studio. My girls love putting on a smock and pulling up a seat to one of the many easels in the room to paint. Like the StART studio, the projects in the Fine Art Studio change often and registered and drop in courses are available.
The Sound Booth
There’s more to the CMA than just the paint and markers you may also have at home. The Sound Booth allows children to learn about sound design - they can create soundtracks or podcasts or participate in a jam session.
Be sure to sign up for a timed entry to the Sound Booth promptly upon entering the CMA, as space and sessions are limited. Also, check the CMA’s website before your visit because the Sound Booth often hosts themed events. Note this area of the museum is best suited for kids aged 5 and up.
The Clay Bar - My Favorite Part
The highlight of a visit to the CMA is definitely the Clay Bar, recommended for kids ages 4 and up. I have vivid memories of being so excited for my then toddlers to become old enough for the Clay Bar. Hooray that time has come!
At this adorable, literal bar, Clay Bar Teaching Artists walk your child step-by-step through the creation of her own magical clay bar creature. On our last visit, the Clay Bar’s theme was aquatic creatures - both my kids opted to make a dolphin. The creations are then sent home with your child in a cute little CMA bag.
The Clay Bar is a VERY popular station and only seats about 10 kids per session - so DEFINITELY sign your kiddies up for a session as soon as you enter the CMA. (Usually the folks working the admissions desk will remind you of this fact). Each adult may sign in up to 3 kids for one of the 35 minute Clay Bar sessions happening roughly every 40 minutes throughout the day.
There’s Even a Little Physical Play
And just in case you were thinking that sitting for hours doing art might not work well for your very active little one, the CMA also has an adorable active area for your kids to get their sillies out. It used to be a large “ball pit” back in the day, then I believe it was an Imagination Playground, and on our last visit, the room was filled with Magis Spun Chairs
If you’re local, the Children’s Museum of the Arts makes for a great spot for a children’s birthday party (yes, I’ve considered carting a bunch of CT kids here for my kid’s bday), and it also offers camps when school is out of session.
The CMA is open Thursdays and Fridays from noon until 6pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am until 5pm and Mondays from noon until 5pm. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Admission to the CMA is $13 per person for ages 1 - 65. (Under age 1 is free and seniors pay as they wish). There is also a weekly Pay as You Wish for all ages on Thursdays from 4pm until 6pm. Note that the museum also offers a themed gallery exhibition to view.