The long-awaited Cayton Children’s Museum will open Sunday, June 30 at Santa Monica Place.
The museum will offer hands-on play exhibits and cultural programs for children and families. Two hours of admission for children and adults will cost $14. Infants under 12 months old will get in for free. Annual memberships start at $105, which will guarantee free admission for a year for one adult and one child.
Cayton is also launching with a $475 per week camp for children ages three through eight.
The museum existed for the past 20 years as the Zimmer Children’s Museum near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and is now backed by philanthropists Andrea and Barry Cayton. The new museum will be almost twice as large as Zimmer and feature new play elements, including a full-size helicopter and fire truck. The philosophy of the museum will remain the same, said Esther Netter, the founder and CEO of ShareWell.
“The way children learn is through play, and it’s how children practice empathy and develop compassion,” Netter said. “We hope you’ll come visit us and play, and while you’re with us your child will be practicing kindness, caring, cooperation, taking risks and learning what it’s like to live in a diverse world.”
Cayton was previously scheduled to open earlier this month and originally planned to be up and running last November. Netter said the team has been putting the finishing touches on the exhibits and interiors.
“The design is beautiful and elevated and will inspire young and old alike,” she said.
Each area of the museum will provide opportunities for children to take chances, work and reflect together. The installations will foster different character traits and life skills, Netter said.
For example, Cayton will include a “courage climber,” a structure children can climb to view the museum from on high through “perspective windows.”
“The courage climber is about taking risks, literally reaching higher than you have before and practicing seeing the world from a different perspective,” Netter said.
The helicopter and fire truck will be part of an exhibit called “Let’s Help” that will also include a play market and cafe. The exhibit is designed for children to practice helping each other in times of crisis and their community day today. Another wing of the museum, “Together We,” features installations that children can experience on their own but become amplified when they experience them together, Netter said.
“Together We is about creating opportunities to cooperate, take turns and be patient,” she said. “To be successful adults, we need to practice negotiating shared space.”
Netter said Cayton will also include an exhibit designed to encourage quieter play and reflection.
One of the installations in “Reflect On” is a small room where a moving image of a meadow in a forest is projected on all four walls. Butterflies flutter around the meadow during the day and are replaced with fireflies at night. The creatures respond to the presence of visitors, Netter said.
“When you walk in and you’re boisterous and loud and figuring it out, they fade from the scenes of nature,” she said. “But when children stop and try to figure out why they move, in their stillness and quiet the space is filled with butterflies.”
In addition to the installations, Cayton will offer a full calendar of classes and performances of visual, musical and performing art, as well as cultural immersion programs in languages like Korean, Spanish and Farsi. The museum will also host special days for children with different abilities and needs.
“It’s hard to contain our staff’s enthusiasm, our leadership’s excitement and our donors’ passion for what we know will be an extraordinary place for children and families to come visit,” Netter said.