Introducing: The Des Moines Children’s Museum

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There is an amazing event happening on Friday June 9th from 4:30-6:30 at Union park in Des Moines!  And we’re not just saying so because we are planning it.  The Des Moines Children’s Museum is having a launch party and fundraiser to officially kick off our summer traveling exhibit, “Let’s Play Outside!”  With a donation of $10 per family in advance or $15 per family at the event, you get to be among the first to explore our summer traveling exhibit, meet  and greet the Princesses and Superheroes of Storybook Adventures, and enjoy unlimited rides on the wonderful Heritage Carousel!  We’ll also have food trucks, a silent auction, the very exciting naming of the boat, and the kids can slide down the amazing Rocket Slide and cool off in the splash pad at Union Park.  For more details, check out our blog post about the event here.

If you haven’t run across us on Facebook yet, you may be thinking: “What? There’s a children’s museum in Des Moines?  How did I not know that?!?”  Our answer to that is that there isn’t a children’s museum in Des Moines yet.  A permanent children’s museum in the metro is our long term goal.  Right now we are a “museum without walls” which means we don’t have a permanent home.  We’re a small traveling museum bringing exciting exhibits out into the community  to raise awareness of the need for a local children’s museum, and create a stellar grassroots movement that can help make it happen.     

Our short term goal, and the reason we are having a fundraiser, is to raise enough money for a trailer.  We’ve found so much more support and enthusiasm than we expected that we’ve made our traveling exhibit a lot bigger and better than we originally planned.  It’s outgrown our minivans, and we need a trailer so that the traveling exhibit can actually travel!

What’s this “traveling exhibit” we keep talking about?

A children’s museum is all about learning through play and hands on exhibits, and that’s what our traveling exhibit is about too.  It’s called “Let’s Play Outside!”  We have a play campsite and picnic, a boat on a “river” where kids can fish for magnetic fish, baby toys, some toddler-sized climbing equipment, a couple different crafts, a mini forest play set, a garden sensory table, and more!  We’ll be doing lots of events over the summer, some will be big events with the full exhibit, other times we’ll have a smaller space and only bring what we have room for.  Our Launch Party on June 9th will be the first chance to explore the full exhibit together all at once!

So who are we, anyway?  

We are Laura Johnson and Julie Burtnette, two stay at home moms with seven daughters between us who think Des Moines deserves an amazing children’s museum!  We went out for pizza after a play date not long after we met last summer, and between bites of pizza and toddlers spilling stuff, we talked about how much we loved visiting children’s museums with our kids, and how we wished we could have that here at home.  We decided that day to get started.  We spent last fall and winter researching and planning, we started calling our play dates “business meetings” and by spring we were ready to go public.

We’ve been so awed and humbled by the responses we’ve been getting on Facebook, our website, and at events from parents and kids.  When we made our Facebook page and website public, we didn’t expect that to be a very big deal or get much attention.  We mostly wanted to have it available so that we would have somewhere to send people for more information as we talked to families at events this summer.  Our original plan for the traveling exhibit was to have a couple sensory tables, a craft, and a small area for babies to play.  We thought we would fund it mostly out of our own pockets, and haul it around in our minivans.  Then we made our Facebook page public, had over 1,000 people following us by the next day, and everything went into overdrive!  We expanded our plans for our summer exhibit, got to work on a fundraiser so we can get our trailer, and we’re starting to think about a second exhibit for this fall and winter.

What can you do to help?

  • Come to our Launch Party:

We can’t wait to meet families on June 9th who are just excited as we are to kick off the Des Moines Children’s Museum!  To get your advance tickets, click here and make a donation of at least $10.  We will pull a list of donors from PayPal, just check in at the event to get a wristband for the carousel and exhibit for the kids.  Easy!  The price goes up to $15 the day of the event.

  • Support us on social media:

Like our page, share some of our events or posts, help us get the word out!  A big social media presence will help us prove that there is public support for a children’s museum in Des Moines.   

  • Buy and Wear our T-shirt:

We have a t-shirt!  You’ll help us spread the word every time you wear it, and a portion of the proceeds come back to us to support or traveling exhibit this summer.  We are really excited about the t-shirts.  They can be purchased through Broken Arrow.  

  • Come see us at our events:

Check our events page to see where we’ll be popping up, and stop by to let the kids play!

  • Tell us what you think:

Do you have advice?  Suggestions?  Questions?  Skills you’d like to contribute?  Know someone that we should be talking to?  Opinions?  Shoot us an email at dsmchildren@gmail.com, we’d love to hear from you!




Erin Huiatt

Erin is a reliable resource and stepping stone for women and families to find support and make connections within our community. She wants families to feel confident to reach out and ask for help and advice to get pointed in the right direction. She enjoys traveling and exploring with her two children in tow!

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