Grand Rapids Children’s Museum 2024: Emotions at Play is Here Plus More GRCM Fun!

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum Trip Planner

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is one of the best museums in Grand Rapids if you’ve got kids.

With its mosaic-mural façade and rainbow-colored street, the building is a beacon of fun, drawing kids and adults inside to play.

Grand Rapids Children's Museum exterior is a beautiful tile mural.

Once inside, will you dress up as a favorite animal or pretend to run a restaurant? Maybe you’ll head straight for the mega-sized bubbles station.

There are two floors of awesome just waiting to be discovered at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

GRCM is located at 11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

In this Article

Explore the World of Emotions With Inside Out

Emotions at Play runs June 1 – September 8, 2024

Emotions at Play is the first interactive exhibit based on Disney and Pixar’s animated feature Inside Out.

Explore and learn about some ways we express our emotions – and recognize emotions in others, too.

Grand Rapid children's museum emotions at play girl in front of mirror

Step into Headquarters to explore the range and intensity of emotions at the Control Panel.

Explore some of the ways we show how we feel with our faces and bodies at the Emotions Mirrors.

Through these and other hands-on exhibits, visitors learn about the important role of emotions, memory and imagination in our everyday lives.

Wimee’s Dreams Invites Kids to Create Their Own Story – Special Exhibit

This exhibit runs Oct 7, 2022 – September 2024.

In Wimee’s Dreams, kids can see their imaginations come to life through make-believe broadcasts, fun puppets and a giant Everbright light wall that can transport you to another galaxy.

This exhibit, inspired by Wimee’s Words, as seen on PBS, encourages creativity and storytelling through puppetry and music.

Find it at the stage area on the first floor of GRCM.

Wimee’s Dreams helps kids to bring their ideas to life through lot of hands-on exploration.

Come play with the beloved puppet robot Wimee as you storyboard your dreams or record your own make-believe broadcast.

You can even create your own characters for the show at the puppet-making station.

Wimee’s Dreams Highlights

  • An interactive green screen that allows children to experience the magic of green screen technology.
  • Blast off in Wimee’s rocket boat and explore the giant Everbright light wall in an outer space galaxy world, complete with glowing planets and twinkling stars.
  • Dress up in costumes and play with props like zebras, giant crayons, and cupcakes inspired by Wimee’s Dreams.
  • A pretend camera to film a make-believe broadcast.
  • Put on your own show, just like Wimee the Robot!

You’ll find lockers with lots of dress up clothes and fun props for your broadcast.
There are plush animals and puppets, too!

Wimee’s Dreams is here for nearly two years (until Sept 2024) – so you’ll have opportunity to visit again and again.

It would be neat to see how your kid’s storytelling ideas change at the exhibit as they get older.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum Layout

GRCM’s two floors are loaded with every sensory, hands-on experience you could imagine.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum First Floor Exhibit Layout as of 10/1/2023
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum Second Floor Exhibit Layout as of 10/1/2023

NURSING NOOK
On the lower level, back by the lockers and bathrooms, is a Nursing Nook.

Mothers can sit on a comfortable chair in a secluded space and close a curtain for privacy. There’s a little table and lamp to make it extra cozy for Mom.

KID-SIZED RESTROOMS
My kids love that there are “little potties” in the restroom.

Half the stalls in the ladies’ room have short toilets, perfect for potty-training littles.

They also have a sink that’s lower to the ground and a stool to reach it in case those legs are still too short.

Favorite Exhibits at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

While the open staircase can make the museum feel like one large space, GRCM actually features two floors of fun.

GR Children’s Museum houses several permanent exhibits like Bubbles, Little GR, and the Ranger Station, along with several rotating exhibits. Past favorites have been Just Fort Fun, Boxes, and Kidstruction Zone.

Within each of these areas the museum and their facilitators are ready to play, from dressing up to building, and from experimenting to sensory play, there is sure to be something your child will find themselves totally engrossed in.

Little GR

permanent exhibit

One of GRCM’s flagship exhibits, Little GR features mini versions of Grand Rapids businesses where kids can pretend in their own little city for hours.

Little-GR-Exhibit-photos-Grand-Rapids-Childrens-Museum

You may have to pry your kids away from Little Grand Rapids. There is so much to do in this exhibit!

Favorites include a mini Meijer, complete with lots of play food, shopping carts and even a checkout.

Grand Rapids Childrens Museum girl playing in ice cream shop in little gr
Making ice cream in Little GR.

Kids can also bank, get pizza, repair cars, hit up the post office and more.

Toddler Zone

permanent exhibit

Visiting the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum with a baby or toddler? If so, head straight for Toddler Zone. This is the hit destination for kids 3 and under.

This special toddler area is fantastic. It’s mostly closed off from the rest of the floor so the littles are safely contained from the bigger kids.

Kids love playing in the kitchen, perfectly sized for their shorter heights.

When my little kids are in the obsessed-with-balls stage, they can’t get enough of the rainbow ball sorter.

Grand-Rapids-Childrens-Museum-Wee-Discover
The New Baby Barre was added to Toddler Zone in Summer 2021

They love putting the balls in and then giggling hysterically when they pull the stopper from the bottom and they all crash down.

It’s great because you don’t have to worry about big kids cruising through and there’s only one way in/out, making it easier to keep an eye on little escape artists.

New toys and play structures are added to this area regularly, so be sure to pop in to see what’s new!

The Spin Zone

Pint-sized scientists will marvel at this three-tired, fully accessible exhibit.



And honestly, grown ups will, too, as you play around with centrifugal force.

Kristen’s Corner & The Stage

permanent exhibit

Imaginative kids are drawn to this area, where they can dress up, act, explore music and more.

Grand Rapids Childrens Museum girl playing piano

The lighted tile table is always a hit

Train Table

permanent exhibit

This is the train table to end all train tables for kids who love trains! Build, create, and imagine until your heart’s content.

You’ll find multiple levels on which to play, and hundreds of train tracks, cars, and train station pieces to put together.

The possibilities are nearly endless.

Bubbles

permanent exhibit

Possibly the most well-known part of GRCM is the giant bubbles exhibit!

Kids can try making their own massive bubbles at the giant bubble table or even stand inside a bubble at the bubble tower.

boy playing bubbles at Grand Rapids Children's Museum
The bubbles exhibit is a perennial hit with all ages

(Nothing is cooler than being enclosed by a giant bubble! It’s tricky for young kids to get the rope soaked in the soap and pull slowly enough for the bubble to form, but the giggles and grins as the bubble pops are contagious.)

Experiment with the different shaped bubble wands, too. 

Pro tip: Save this exhibit for last because kids often want to play here forever!

The Live Hive

permanent exhibit

Watch a real, live beehive hard at work at GRCM’s second floor.

But don’t worry, you can’t get stung! Watch bees build their honeycomb in a fully-enclosed case – and then fly outside via a tube in the wall.

Special Events, Museum Rentals & Birthday Parties

Throughout the year GRCM hosts two to three events geared specifically to adults.

These events have ranged from murder mysteries to 90’s dance parties, and even a Carnival.

GRCM-magnatiles-table-boy-Niles-800w

GRCM gives you space to engage with the theme as well with some of the typical exhibits they have (not going to lie, I love being able to build something and not have it immediately knocked down by an exuberant 2-year-old).

One of the most exciting ways to engage at GRCM is through a museum rental.

You get the whole museum to yourself on one of the days they’re closed to the public.

At least three staff members are present to help, and you also have access to their two large conference rooms upstairs with tables and sinks.

If you’ve never experienced a Children’s Museum party, you’re missing out. It’s so fun to watch kids AND grown-ups exploring every exhibit with huge smiles on their faces.

Why Does the GRCM Focus on Play?

Play springs up naturally in children and grows organically out of their imaginations.

How many times has your toddler shown more interest in the box a shiny new toy came in than in the toy itself?

Play cannot be forced or coerced. The best way to let kids enter into the “work of play” is to give them a few options and let them figure out what to do from there.

A place like Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is a wonderland of play.

Grand Rapids Childrens Museum girl playing dress up in toddler area

The best part is that all this play is so much more than entertainment.

Play is learning.

As our kids pursue these delights, they are establishing strong foundations for the motor skills- balancing and climbing build gross motor skills, while deftly building with legos, and painting help to refine fine motor skills.

Play enriches a child’s imagination. It develops language skills, fosters empathy, and helps kids become ace problem-solvers.

GRCM promotes play-based learning because it’s great for our kids.

Sensory Support

For children with sensory sensitivities, entering the Grand Rapid Children’s Museum may be a very overwhelming experience.

With all of the lights, noises, colors, and business of the other children–they may feel overstimulated and unable to focus.

For this reason, some parents of special needs kids would simply avoid a visit.

But Grand Rapids Children’s Museum wants ALL children to be able to enjoy their wonderland of learning fun, so they set out to create a safe experience for all kids.

GRCM has Sensory Resource Toolkits available for checkout at the front desk.

A LOOK INSIDE THE SENSORY RESOURCE TOOLKITS

kid-size weighted compression vests
noise-reducing headphones
fidget tools
weighted suspenders
emotion recognition flash cards
GRCM’s Social Story. (A social story is a first person account of a visit to the museum to help visitors feel prepared for the different exhibits.)

sensory toolkit at Grand Rapids Children's Museum
Sensory toolkit at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

These toolkits help children with sensory sensitivities to feel more at home in the museum and allow parents the peace of mind that their children will have fun without the risk of sensory overload.

They were created specifically for these children in mind and the items were chosen with advice from therapists, Fun and Function, and the Autism Alliance of Michigan.

Tips for Visiting the Children’s Museum with Your Child That Needs Sensory Support

Before you go, visit the museum’s website to check the schedule and verify hours and special programming.

(Field trips and museum rentals are now scheduled on days when the museum is closed.)

Review the Social Story at home.  This explains all of the different exhibits to prepare your child and to know if there are some to avoid.

Call ahead at 616-235-4726 to reserve a Sensory Resource Toolkit.

Enjoy your time at the museum!

Even if you can’t make it to the Children’s Museum downtown, you can browse their site for ideas for games and simple crafts and projects.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for their new museum-on-wheels that will start touring soon, bringing play to communities all over Michigan.

Getting to the Museum & Parking


The children’s museum is so easy to get to, even for people like me who hate driving downtown.

There is street parking available in front of the museum or around the square. I can even park my Mom Mobile there without any trouble.

Parking on Sheldon Street in front of the museum has a three-hour limit and the other streets are two hours. Two hours is the perfect amount of time for my kids to play. They get to see everything, but don’t have enough time to get bored.

Now that the meters run on the MOTU app, it’s so easy to keep track of your remaining time.

Hours & Admission

No matter your age, play should be a part of your life. Grand Rapids Children’s Museum offers hours of it almost every day of the week!

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is located at 11 Sheldon Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

There is limited metered parking in front of the building, but you can find metered street parking on neighboring streets.

There is also a paid lot at GRPL’s main branch on Library St, just northeast of the museum.

They are open Tuesday 9:00 AM to noon for members only. Memberships are also available, and would delight the children in your family! (And probably you, too!)

Admission Rates (as of 5/12/24)

under 1free
ages 1-64$12
seniors (65+)$11
healthcare workers and first responders family members$9
active military family members (with i.d.)$9
museums for all (EBT or WIC card holders, up to 12 people per card)$1.75

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

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11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
616-235-4726

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