Meet our Intern, Arianna!


Meet Arianna, one of our interns from Decatur Public Schools! Arianna has been helping us plan some of our special events and doing some great behind the scenes work. Learn more about Arianna in her own words:


Hello! I am Arianna Davis. I am 18 years old and attend Eisenhower High School.I graduate May 19th, 2018. and after I graduate I want to go to college to become an event planner. I am an intern at the Children’s Museum and I  shadow Elizabeth. I chose the children’s museum because I knew that it could possibly be a good experience for me. Going into it, however, I didn’t know what to expect. Now I plan the ‘Young at art’ Projects and also I am helping out the museum with planning the major events going on, such as Fairytale Ball.

I like all the welcoming staff. Everyone here is so friendly and understanding. I also genuinely like the work I do here, from making crafts for the kids to helping out with the events.  The work is not only fun but probably something that will lead to something I want to do in my near future. I have been learning so much at the Children’s Museum and I am glad to have this experience.

Take Home Activities – Young at Art

Young at Art

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One of the newest exhibits in the Museum is Young at Art, our theater and art space.  It was installed in the summer of 2015.  This exhibit features a real curtain, stage, and light system for children to explore.  And around the corner, young artists will find craft materials to develop their masterpieces.

The Young at Art exhibit has already become an audience favorite.  Staff at the Museum keep costumes and puppets in supply for children to put on their own shows!  We hope that you continue the fun at home through the books and activities below!

Reading About Art:


One book we love is Draw! By Raúl Colón.  This wordless book encourages many questions from your student.  A boy named Leonardo begins to imagine and then draw a world afar.  First a rhinoceros, and then he meets some monkeys, and he always has a friendly elephant at his side. Soon he is in the jungle and carried away by the sheer power of his imagination.  He sees the world through his own eyes and making friends along the way.


Another great book is Little Melba and Her Big Trombone. By Katheryn Russell-Brown.  This book is perfect for little performers interested in music.  Melba Doretta Liston loved the sounds of music from as far back as she could remember. As a child, she daydreamed about beats and lyrics, and hummed along with the music from her family’s radio. At age seven, Melba fell in love with a big, shiny trombone, and soon taught herself to play the instrument. Melba went on to become a famed trombone player and arranger.  She spun rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs for all the jazz greats of the twentieth century: Randy Weston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie just to name a few.

Take Home Activity:

And what is a good art lesson without a craft?  Make sure to gather up some straws to create your own wind pipe, demonstrated here by Kate at Laughing Kids Learn.  First you can talk about sorting by size and color.  Then help your student gain cutting skills by trimming the straws to size.  And finally, talk about why the sound is different when you blow into a longer straw versus a shorter one!

Some questions to ask your child to encourage learning and exploration:

  • Which straw is your favorite color? Why?
  • What things do we cut?  (And remember, we only cut with adult supervision!)
  • Can you make your windpipe have a low sound? What about a high sound?
  • What happens if you blow harder? Now softer?


How can you support Children’s Museum of Illinois?

Many people don’t realize that Children’s Museum of Illinois is a non-profit organization.  We rely on a variety of sources to maintain our exhibits, staff the Museum, and to create educational programming. Much of our budget comes from grants from educational and cultural organizations.  But there are things you can do to support us and enhance your family’s experience at the Museum!

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-Visit the Museum (especially on special event days!)

You are the reason that we work so hard!  We love to see families in the Museum enjoying exhibits and spending time together.  You can participate in a Make Space Family Challenge, dress up for Fairy Tale Ball or chuck a pumpkin in October!

-Tell people about your visit

Tell your mom and dad friends about the Museum!  Invite them for a play date here in the winter.  And while we hope that everyone has a great time at Children’s Museum of Illinois, if you didn’t – please tell the staff.  We want to know how we can improve and ensure that your child gets the most out of her visit.

-Support our fundraising events

Besides our general donation form, we host two major fundraisers each year.  The Duck Derby is in spring and the Reverse Raffle in the fall.  When you buy a chance to win in either event, you show your support our mission and allow us to continue supporting students!


By either donating your time, equipment, or dollar, you help us enhance educational experiences.  This includes families that visit on the weekend, or students that visit from area schools.  Ask us about volunteering or donating today!

-Become a Corporate Sponsor

Another way to “donate” to the Museum is to become a sponsor.  If your local business is looking for a way to reach young families, you can sponsor an event or an exhibit.  We work hard with our sponsors to ensure a great return on investment!

Meet The Summer Camp Counselors!

Thank you to everyone that has already signed up for summer camp at Children’s Museum of Illinois!  We are busying prepping paint and catapults for students to use come June…  Summer camp starts June 13th, and runs until the end of July (sign up today to reserve your spot!).  In the mean time, we wanted to introduce you to our summer camp staff!

Camp 55 Educator: Abby Koester


Camp 55 will be lead this year by Children’s Museum of Illinois Director of Education, Abby Koester!  Abby is new to the team this year and has joined us from the Terre Haute Children’s Museum where she worked for 6 years. She graduated from Indiana State University with a degree in Recreation and Sport Management and Non-Profit Management. Prior to working with children’s museums she worked for many years at multiple resident Girl Scout Camps. Abby participates in SciGirls and the National Girls Collaborative Project. She came here from Indiana, but was born and raised in Mattoon and is excited to be back in Illinois closer to family. She enjoys spending time with her puppy Pete, camping, and watching Star Wars on repeat.


PreK Camp Educator: Lizzie Merrill

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Elizabeth Merrill, our Programming Coordinator at Children’s Museum of Illinois, is in charge of Pre-K Camp. She graduated from Millikin University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. Previously, she worked as Weekend Staff at CMofIL and as an assistant conductor for the Summer Strings program. While at Millikin, Elizabeth assisted with the Decatur Youth Symphony Orchestra. Currently, she sings with Opus 24 and serves as Co-Communications Chair of Decatur Choral Society. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys listening to podcasts, practicing the ukulele, and snuggling her Lhasa Apso, Stella.

Want to help out?

Abby and Elizabeth would love a few extra hands to help with projects this summer!  If you would like to volunteer, please contact us and fill out an application.  Junior Volunteers must go through our training sessions, but adult volunteers can be orientated on an as needed basis.

Young Songwriters Workshop

Young Songwriters Workshop

Calling all young musicians!  Children’s Museum of Illinois has spring break planned out for students March 21st through 25th from 9:30 am to 11:00 am with Young Songwriters Workshop.  This event is partially supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and the Decatur Area Arts Council, and will be presented by Michael Scherer and Zach Garrett.

During the workshop, students will learn about what it takes to write a song, including rhythm, melody and lyrics. Through interactive games and activities the young songwriters will compose a song and record it! On the last day, the students will get to perform the song for their parents and take home the recording of the song they wrote.

The weeklong workshop is $35 ($25 for members), and includes instruction and materials.

Register today!

Take Home Activities – Bubble Room

Bubble Room

A question that we hear a lot at Children’s Museum of Illinois is how can parents extend learning to their house after a trip to the Museum.  Well we have a solution, starting with the Bubble Room!  We are tackling each exhibit and sharing activities, books and questions that families can use at home to continue learning and having fun!

Bubble Room

At the Museum:

The Bubble Room’s oversized wands and unique bubble solution is one exhibit that we know parents join in on the fun!  This exhibit helps children develop the following skills:

  • Following Directions – Some students have blown bubbles with smaller wands, others haven’t.  Either way, children will need to wait their turn and listen to directions in the Bubble Room!
  • Hand / Eye Coordination and Motor Skills – Operating the wands and chasing bubbles means kids will be using their hands, moving around, and watching where they go.  These skills are crucial to personal development and a ton of fun!
  • Processing Senses –  Bubble solution is kind of gross – it’s slimy, wet, and slick!  But blowing bubbles is a safe way to explore these senses!  And the act of blowing can be an effective sensory-based way to help children “organize”, calm, and focus their bodies.

Reading About Bubbles:

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After all the fun at the Museum, you can continue to explore at home!  A fun book to read is Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy.  

“When little Mabel’s bubble gets away from her, it’s her baby brother who gets into trouble. Soon he’s floating out of the house, above the fence, and all over town! It’s up to Mabel, Mother, and the rest of the townspeople to get him safely back down. Who knew that so much trouble could come from one little bubble?”


Another fun read is Curly’s Fun with Bubbles by Sherry Boddie.  This is a story that celebrates the simple things in life. It’s about a young boy and all the fun he has playing and creating memories while doing his favorite thing in the world: blow bubbles.


Or, try Pop! A Book About Bubbles by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  

“Bubbles here, bubbles there, bubbles, bubbles, bubbles everywhere-big ones, small ones, single ones, or in a stream. Some float gently, while some pop immediately. No matter what they are made of or how or where they are produced, they are always round, never square. A simple, accurate text that is also fun to read explains these facts. Delightful color photographs of charming children making bubbles and of bubbles floating freely reinforce and extend the text. Children will want to participate themselves to test the data. The book includes a page of experiments and a recipe for making a solution (which may need some adult help to prepare). This is science learning at its best.”  

Take Home Activity:

Square (and More!) Bubbles from Babble Dabble Do 

Here are instructions of how to take straws and pipe cleaners to create your own shaped bubbles.  Your family can learn about shapes and use them as bubble wands!  A recipe for bubble solution is included on the website.

And as your student explores, ask these questions:

  1. What bubble shapes do you see inside your wands?
  2. What shape is the bubble if you blow it out of your wand?
  3. Do you see any colors in your bubble?
  4. Can you make a long bubble? What happens when it falls off the wand? Is it still long?

And be sure to take lots of photo and video to share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (#CMofIL)!  We’d love to see your family learning at home!

Have a Question about Summer Camps?


Most of us at Children’s Museum of Illinois are parents, and we know that whenever our kids are involved, we have A LOT of questions!  So, as we prepare for this year’s summer camps, we came up with a few questions that we would have if we were sending out little ones off.  If your question isn’t listed below – please email or call us at 217-423-5437 and we will find you an answer!

Question 1 – How much are summer camps?

        It’s hard to put a dollar amount on the fun had at summer camps at CMI. We’d love to offer them for free to all kiddos, but we do have some costs to ensure a quality educational experience!. Summer Camp prices vary on age of your child and which camp they participate in. All of our Pre-K Camps are $10 for members of the museum and $13 for non-members per day. Camp 55 are typically $85 for members of the museum and $95 for non-members per week.  There are a few weeks where Camp 55 is slightly more, due to additional activities!  We do have a few scholarships available. To learn more, email Abby.!

Question 2 – Why are some camps more expensive than others?

        While we try to offer the same educational experience to all of our campers, some of our camps require a bit more work or resources on our end. During our Brilliant Builders camp we will learn about circuits with littleBit kits (among other topics). Campers will be able to take home the kit at the end of the week, which is normally $99 in our store, the Toy Box.  If you’re curious about other camps that may have an extra price give us a call and we’ll be happy to talk with you about it.

Question 3 – Who is teaching summer camp?

        Summer camp will be taught by two experienced education staff at the Museum and trained volunteers. Both educators have over 20 years of combined experience working with children of various ages, backgrounds, and in different settings. Volunteers and other Museum staff have been trained through 4-H as well as museum summer camp training. All camps have a 5:1 (Pre-K Camp) and 10:1 (Camp 55) child to adult ratios while in their classrooms.

Question 4 – What should my child have / wear while at camp?

        Children should wear play clothes and close toed shoes to camp each day. Sometimes we get a little messy, either with art, playing outside, or  other activities. We try to keep them as clean as possible, but accidents happen. Please do not dress your child in “good” clothes to participate in camp.

Question 5 – Do we need to bring a snack / lunch?

        We provide snacks for all campers, but feel free to send snacks with them if they have special dietary needs. Lunches for Camp 55 children will need to be provided by the family or caregiver. We have refrigerator space available, but it is limited.

Question 6 – What if my child has an allergy / special need?

        Please make sure the museum is aware of any allergies, special needs, or behavior issues your child may have. If your child needs an aide, they’re also welcome to join us for camp. We’re happy to make accommodations so your child can participate in all the summer fun!

Question 7 – Will my child be photographed / video recorded?

        Yes, with your permission, campers will be photographed and possibly video recorded for marketing purposes (Facebook, Instagram, future flyers, website, etc.). If you do not want your child to be photographed, please let us know and we’ll make sure it won’t happen.  

Question 8 – Will my child take trips off-site during camp?

        Some of our camps may participate in off-site field trips. We’ll definitely make sure to notify you in advance of any field trips.  

Question 9 – Do members receive a discount on summer camp?

        Totally! One of the awesome perks of being a member at CMofILis that you receive $3 off for Pre-K Camps $10 off of Camp 55.

Question 10 – Can we miss part of a week during Camp 55 for a planned activity (such as vacation)?

        Yes, if you have pre-scheduled trips or if your child is sick, they can miss a day of camp. However, it’s best to find a camp in which you can participate the whole week. Each day is a different experience, but they do build on each other. Some projects may begin one day and be completed the next.

Question 11 – Can we sign up for all Pre-K Camps or Camp 55 sessions at once?

        Absolutely! It will be easier for you to call or stop by to register. Registering online for all the camps is available, but may take a bit longer.

Question 12 – Can we still visit the Museum during summer camp sessions?

        Definitely! Camps will be held in our Classroom, Party Room, and outside. Campers will have some playtime in the Museum, but regular guests won’t interfere with summer camp or vice versa.

Don’t forget – register today to save your child’s spot!

Full Summer Camp Information Coming Soon!

Even though it’s only February, the Museum is prepping for summer camp experiences in June and July!  (Really.  We have had about ten people contact us asking for the schedules already.)  Summer is always a fun time, but we are always excited to host informal education opportunities during camp season!

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STEAM Based Summer Camp Experiences

This year’s summer schedule is going to be jam-packed with fun, new activities.  And even though the full schedule isn’t set yet, we wanted to give everyone a sneak peak!  As always, these programs will have a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) focus and be lead by our awesome educators!

Summer Camp Teaser

PreK Summer Camp

Children’s Museum of Illinois is bringing back toddler camps and Camp 55.  But, toddler camps are now called PreK Camps.  This series is for children aged three to starting Kindergarten.  Sessions will be held Wednesdays and Fridays from 9am to 11am.  Topics for PreK Camps include making music, becoming a ‘science kid’, and creating amazing art. Check back soon for confirmed list and dates!

Camp 55

Camp 55 was such a hit last year that it is returning too!  It is for students entering 1st grade through 3rd grade. Sessions will be held (tentatively!) weekly from TuesdayFriday from 9am, to 1pm. Activities include working in our garden and learning about crawly bugs, doing explosive experiments, and blasting off to ‘galaxies far far away’….

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Open Programming in the Make Space!

And, this year we are happy to announce that the Museum received a Creativity Garden grant from the Association of Science – Technology Centers and Disney.   The Museum is hosting open programming for older students and their family members on Mondays and Saturdays thanks to this funding.  This series will focus on MakerCamp (link), a nationwide program.  We will take part with students and provide instruction and tools to compete!

So – keep a look out – soon you can sign your child up to “Create and  Investigate” this summer at CMofIL!  We’ll spend some time outside to learn how vegetable grow and how bees pollinate.  We’re going to put on our lab goggles and get ready for some explosive fun.  And we’re going to build and create art, bridges, or music in and out of the classroom. There’s something for every child’s interest during this jam packed summer!


Charlie Visits the Museum

Charlie’s Favorite Exhibits at the Museum

Charlie is two years old, and has been to Children’s Museum of Illinois MANY times!  Since he is so young, his interests change often.  But, the Museum’s exhibits are for children up to twelve, he is always finding new things to enjoy!

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Right now, his favorite exhibit is the pedal tractor in Seed to Shelf!  His grandpa has a tractor, which Charlie loves to ride on when he visits, but this one is just his size!  Even though the tractor doesn’t move, Charlie likes to pedal and turn the wheel.  He imagines driving through the fields and waving to the animals.

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Charlie also enjoys the water table, which is at just the right height for him to get in and splash around.  He needs help from his mom and dad to create channels to race boats down, but he is an expert and cheering them on!  Sometimes Charlie forgets to put on his smock to keep dry, but mom doesn’t mind too much.


Another favorite of Charlie’s is Ready. Set. BUILD!  When it’s cold or rainy outside, he can still explore the slide and climb inside the exhibit.  He also gets to play with the screwdrivers that are small enough for his hands, and wear a hard hat just for him!

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Even though Charlie doesn’t know it, he is building skills that will help him in school and later in life.  He is learning to associate animals and plants with food production in Seed to Shelf.  At the water table, he is able to explore the physics of water and current, which leads to biology and ecology.  And in Ready. Set. BUILD!, he’s learning about skills in construction, and building gross motor skills (balance and climbing).

What’s your child’s favorite exhibit?  How old is she?

New Superhero Event at the Museum

Calling all Superhero Dads, Uncles, and Grandpas!

Only the best superheroes train at Children’s Museum of Illinois!  Join as the Museum hosts Me & My Sidekick, a Super Man and Super Kid night, on February 20, 2016 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.  Super moms are invited as well!  All participants are encouraged to dress like their favorite hero, or create a new one!

Activities for Me & My Sidekick:

  • Mask, cape, and gadget making
  • Obstacle course through the Museum
  • A superhero photo booth to show off your powers!

Me and My Sidekick is sponsored in part by Heroic Age Studios; Eric Hector will be on hand to create a memorable take home portraits for families that participate.  Admission is $10 per person ($7 for members) for those two years or older.  Tickets are available now!  Snacks, including sandwiches from Jimmy John’s, chips, and cookies will be available, and included with admission.

Sign up today!