Our Playscapes Open Up Children’s Imagination
The Museum features five playscapes intended to spark imagination and playful inquiry. Build a fort in the Woods area, splash in Water, climb aboard the Voyager and take a journey with your imagination, build creations in Invention, or explore the processes of messy art in Becka’s Studio.
The playscapes are designed so that children ages 8 and under can play alongside one another throughout the space. Adults are invited to join in on the fun and play, too, or just sit back and observe from a comfy window seat along the perimeter of the playscapes.
An average visit to the museum is 90 minutes and adults are encouraged to let their children set the pace for exploration. After all, if your little one only visits one playscape on the first visit, you can always check out the rest of the museum on your next visit!
At the Children’s Museum of Tacoma we believe play is the elemental component of children’s learning. Our playscapes engage young children ages birth to 8 and their adult caregivers in self-directed play through innovative design that celebrates imagination and encourages creativity.
The museum’s playscapes and programs support children’s growth through play by addressing age-appropriate development, especially in the areas of creativity, social and emotional skills, cognitive and critical thinking skills, gross and fine motor development, and early literacy learning.
Core early childhood experiences form the platform for play in the Museum’s five main areas: Woods, Water, Voyager, Invention, and Becka’s Studio.
PLEASE NOTE: For the safety of all our visitors, only adults accompanied by a child will be allowed in the galleries. We do offer guided tours of the galleries for interested adults based on staffing availability.
Come wander into the Woods where nature and imagination collide. Both children and adults are invited to stretch all of their senses, direct their own play journey and take risks. Discover places to move over, under, around and through in the Woods. Reach new heights by climbing up into the canopy and creating cozy nooks to explore.
Visitors enter the Museum’s play space over a ramp or by climbing through a log pile into the Woods. Elevated platforms and the spaces underneath provide opportunities for children to build forts, send supplies up and down on pulleys, play with light in a dark area, or find cozy nooks for reading and quiet discovery. A crawler and toddler area encourages early sensory exploration and age appropriate gross motor play.
Water provides a variety of open-ended opportunities to experience falling, running, and still water. Tall panes of glass, metal, and rocks create a sculptural waterfall that naturally draws children and adults to observe water as it cascades onto the rocks below. Levers and cranks allow children to change the volume and pattern of the falling water.
Flowing offshoots provide both toddler and older child size areas to play with running water. Rotating panels and loose objects encourage creative problem solving as children navigate objects down stream or change the flow of the water. A still water pool creates an area for focused investigation into sinking and floating objects or states of liquids.
Voyager is built from fantastical childhood memories and descriptions of children’s play collected from museum visitors and advisors. This vessel beckons children to climb aboard and let their imaginations run free with a variety of loose props. Children can climb into the head of the vessel, load cargo, pilot the structure, and create endless pretend play scenarios. An assortment of vehicle wheels, gauges, and communication devices incorporate scientific and inventive thinking. A tower just past Voyager expands the adventure as children climb up to communicate with the vessel or slide down below to sort, shift, and dig in a sensory pit.
Becka’s Studio fosters open-ended creative art-making, experimental tinkering, and expressive endeavors. Studio experiences focus on the creative process rather than the outcome or product. Processes and material rotate regularly to highlight both artistic and scientific activities with unexpected materials.
Inside Becka’s Studio children engage in super messy projects or independent focused artwork. They also have the opportunity to collaborate with visiting artists or museum staff on projects that extend the creative possibilities in each exhibit area or express ideas that emerge from their play in the playscapes.
Within the STEAM Studio visitors are invited to make, tinker, and create. Hoppers brim with recycled materials and workstations are equipped with authentic tools. Children and adults playfully engage in designing, engineering, and building as they bring a plan into 3-D form. Start with a blueprint, or create a plan of your own. Collect all of the needed materials and tools and set to work. Experimenting and problem solving skills will be honed as curious builders imagine materials in a new light and envision sequential steps to complete their project.
Open-ended exploration is an important play focus. Invention offers innovative opportunities for large and small scale building play. Using blocks, boards, fabric, tubes, and more, children influence the space around them to support a range of activities from constructive to dramatic to gross motor play. Air tubes and moveable tracks provide opportunities to build math and other important cognitive skills.
Playful Little Library
The Columbia Bank Playful Little Library opened in the lobby of the Children’s Museum of Tacoma in August 2016, welcoming children and their grown-ups to a cozy space to connect and relax over a good book. The Playful Little Library offers families a space to transition into or out of the Museum, or take a calm break from imaginative exploration in the playscapes, as they peruse picture books together. Created in the community spirit of Little Free Libraries, visitors can choose to take a book home with them and bring a book to leave for other families to enjoy.
Thank you to Columbia Bank!
While you are here
Park your ride in the museum lobby before your adventure begins
Strollers are not allowed in the Museum galleries and playscapes. We ask that you park your stroller before playing. Limited stroller parking is available in the Museum lobby, so please consider leaving your stroller in your vehicle or at home.
When parking your stroller in the Museum lobby, we recommend removing all personal belongings from your stroller. There are 40 free lockers available to keep your belongings safe while you play.
Strollers will be admitted into the galleries for medical uses. The Museum will provide signage for your stroller.
Lock it up before you play
The Museum offers 40 lockers, free of charge, to visitors. We encourage you to store your valuables in lockers before you play.
In order to use a locker, we will ask for a deposit of either identification or a credit card.
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Make the most of your visit
Plan your visit
Where are we? Where do you park? What hours can we come in?
What about admission?
Admission to the museum is called “Pay As You Will,” which means that it is by donation only. This admission model is the only one of its kind among children’s museums in the nation and has been recognized with a national award from the Association of Children’s Museum and as a finalist for the IMLS National Medal of Honor. We also have several other admission options through local partnerships.
FAQ | Visiting
Our admission is Pay As You Will. This means that everyone is invited to donate what is right for their family, with no minimum amount required.
There are lots of options! Unfortunately, we do not own or operate the parking lot adjacent to the museum. This lot is only available for paid public parking after 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, and all day Saturday – Sunday. Street parking, as well as the public lot behind the Tacoma Art Museum are all paid parking options. We additionally suggest using public transportation, like the Link Train or Pierce County Transit to come and play.
Our hours are:
Monday (Member Only) : 10 – 5 p.m.
Tuesday (Special Needs Playday) : 10 – 11:30
Wednesday – Sunday : 10 – 5 p.m.
Our Museum’s playscapes are designed with children birth to 8 in mind. However, all children with an imagination and playful spirit are welcome to play.
Strollers are not allowed in the Museum galleries and playscapes to insure the safety of all our guests. We have limited stroller parking in our Museum lobby.
We offer 40 small lockers, free of charge, to guests for their personal items they don’t want to bring into the playscapes. We just ask you to exchange a form of identification for a key to the locker.
Yes! We have member hours all day on Monday, and from 9 – 10 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Wee Ones Weekly (WOW) is a thematic and musical program perfect for toddlers, preschoolers, and their grownups. Program participation includes 30 minutes of exclusive play in the Museum. No registration required. Wee Ones Weekly is free to members, and $5 for each non-member family.
Downtown Tacoma is full of great things to see and do! The Children’s Museum of Tacoma is proud to be part of the Tacoma Museum District
which is comprised of 7 world-class museums in the heart of downtown Tacoma.
Packed food can be enjoyed in the Museum’s cafe area. Please do not bring food into the playscapes. The cafe does not offer any hot food, but we do have vending machines with a variety of snacks and beverages.
Becoming a member of the Children’s Museum of Tacoma means you are supporting your museum, and also receiving many benefits! Enjoy special museum hours, discounts on Museum events and camps, discounts at our community partner’s businesses, and so much more. Become a member.