The highly anticipated Cayton Children's Museum is now open to the general public at Santa Monica Place in Downtown Santa Monica. The new flagship facility is the city's premiere children's museum, made possible with a generous gift by philanthropists Andrea and Barry Cayton.
The Cayton Children's Museum is located on the third floor of the popular open-air retail and hospitality destination, Santa Monica Place, with the visibility and accessibility to reach the many diverse neighborhoods of greater Los Angeles. The 21,000-square-foot-facility features hands-on exhibits and a robust calendar of arts and cultural opportunities for children and youth ages 0-10, seven days a week. Designed by award-winning architects OfficeUntitled and celebrated environmental museum exhibit designers, S2 Associates, the new space houses more than 35 child-directed exhibits, multipurpose rooms, art studios, a start-of-the-art theatre, curated murals, a rotating exhibit gallery, gift shop, community and public space, and administrative offices.
"Children's museums are powerful spaces for gathering, for being in community, for celebrating, for playing and for learning," explains Esther Netter, founder and CEO of the Cayton Children's Museum. "We are so excited to unveil the Cayton in Santa Monica for all the families, children and youth of our great city."
Building off of the values and history of the former Zimmer Children's Museum in Los Angeles, the reimagined Cayton Children's Museum offers a series of unexpected experiences that empower young visitors to author their own adventure. The space is designed as five exhibit wings that work in concert to inspire visitors to explore core universal values, such as kindness, compassion, respect and hospitality.
The five wings feature the following themes and highlighted exhibits:
REACH FOR: inspires children to discover their personal capacity and ability to achieve. Visitors can test new heights through the Courage Climber, a mesh web of ropes suspended from the ceiling that form a canopy, giving children the opportunity to explore the museum from different vantage points, expanding their perspective and worldview.
LAUNCH YOUR: allows our youngest visitors (ages 0-2) to explore what it means to push beyond, in a safe yet exciting way through the Skyscape, an exhibit of suspended ceiling sculptures that combine color, movement, and air to stimulate senses and engage young minds.
LET'S HELP: teaches children the many ways they can serve and support our communities as active citizens who respond, rescue and help one another. Exhibits include the Help-a-copter where visitors interact with a repurposed helicopter to fly to the rescue; our Animal Hospital, sponsored by VCA, where children practice caring for and taking responsibility for their pets in imaginative ways, so they understand the importance of taking accountability for others; To the Rescue!, a sea-like ball pit with a recycled Coast Guard rescue boat.
TOGETHER WE: encourages collaborative play, communication and discovery in an effort to explore what is possible when we work together in shared space. Exhibits include Teamwork Waterworks where children build, sail, explore, invent, play and watch as droplets join together and turn into rivers; the Wisdom Wall, where we aim to inspire by sharing the wisdom of great thinkers, artists, and leaders; and the All Systems Go! Ball Machine, a Rube Goldberg-inspired interactive exhibit that engages children and adults of all sizes and abilities in making healthy choices.
REFLECT ON: inspires introspection, reflection and connection, while teaching our young visitors what it means to be still so we can listen and observe the world around us. Exhibits include In Tune With Nature, a room that is buzzing with 360-degree digital scenes of nature with a bench for meditation and reflection; the Wishing Wall which has been created with inspiration from many cultures, sacred spaces and memorials throughout the world that prompts reflection, response and questioning; and the Hello Booth inspired by the Telephone of the Wind in Japan.
With a commitment to hands-on learning and early child development, the Cayton has also partnered with the Simms/Mann Family Foundation to launch Simms/Mann Habits for Health, an initiative to engage youth and caregivers on mind and body wellness. Incorporated throughout the entire museum and its five exhibit wings, the initiative features interactive exhibits including the All Systems Go! Ball Machine, iconography, and QR codes, which lead to online content. Visitors will gain access to informational resources, tips and expert articles on integrating wellness into their lives through food, water, sleep, movement, play, reflection and connection.
Apart from the five exhibit wings, the Cayton also offers The Derfner Theatre, a state-of-the-art theatre featuring a full green screen and costume center, underwritten by The Derfner Foundation; Art Studios which will host arts and public programming all week-long; two Multipurpose Rooms – S. Mark Taper Foundation Brilliant Blue Room and the Celebration Sphere, which will act as private, functional spaces for birthday parties, celebrations, after-school programs, camps and classes; a 500-square-foot Exhibit Gallery space for artist residencies, rotating exhibits and curated pop-ups; and The Grand Exit, one of the best memory-making photo shots of the whole museum featuring a mini amphitheater for story time, puppet shows, sing-alongs and performances.
Built on kindness, responsibility, social justice, and inclusivity, the Cayton Children's Museum will be the culmination of over 30 years of working with children and youth to inspire lifelong creativity and promote civic engagement to build strong communities.
"Our gratitude to Andrea and Barry Cayton and all of our supporters who have brought us to this moment," acknowledges Andy Kaplan, chair of the Board of Directors at the Cayton Children's Museum. "The Cayton will be a celebration and manifestation of the efforts of so many, and we hope to be a place for all children and families to play, share and learn from one another."
Admission to the Cayton Children's Museum is $14 for children and adults. Children under 12 months are free. The Cayton offers annual memberships, starting at $105 for an adult and a child, with additional members added for just $40. Visit caytonmuseum.org/membership for more information.
Hours of operation are Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. To learn more, visit https://www.caytonmuseum.org/.