Museum Closed: March 14 – April 28th

Following recent developments in Oregon’s measures to contain COVID-19, and the new announcements regarding Salem-Keizer’s school closure, Gilbert House Children’s Museum has assessed the need to close the museum as a precautionary measure to protect our community members, staff, and the families we serve.  The health and safety of our visitors is our highest priority at this time.

Beginning Saturday, March 14th, the museum will be closed through April 28th.  We plan to resume our regular hours on April 29th.  We continue to monitor this situation according to the guidance from the CDC, OHA, and public health officials, as we make decisions regarding future events, programs, and the reopening of our museum.

Summer Camp registration will open March 16th, as planned, for those who would like to reserve their placement in our summer programs.  Please be assured that any necessary camp cancellations pertaining to COVID-19 will be fully refunded.  As our offices will be closed during this time, we thank you for your patience in returning any calls or emails regarding registration assistance.  For spring educational programming that has been cancelled as a result of our closure, parents will be contacted directly by our education department staff.

We are proud to be a part of the Salem-Keizer community, and are looking forward to resuming our operations in April.  As you look for ways to inspire creative learning during an extended break from school, we invite you to visit our Pinterest Page for activity ideas.


Stay Healthy, Play Healthy

*3/18 UPDATE:  Gilbert House Children’s Museum will be closed March 14th-April 28th.
Following recent developments and the closure announcement impacting Salem-Keizer schools, the Museum will follow suit as a precautionary measure for the health of our community. 

At Gilbert House Children’s Museum, the health and safety of our visitors is a vital priority year-round.  We have daily cleaning and sanitation schedules in place to provide a safe and healthy environment for families to enjoy.

It is natural to have concerns and questions regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Oregon.  It is our goal to provide you the information you need to make the right decisions for your family, and to provide assurance of the protocols we currently have in place.  Our Facilities and Visitor Services team have actively reviewed these procedures and increased the intervals of routine sanitation:

  • Highly accessed surfaces, including doorknobs, banisters, and handles are disinfected every hour.
  • Exhibit and bathroom surfaces are disinfected twice daily.
  • Soft props (e.g., dress-up clothes, puppets, etc.) are laundered every day.
  • Hard props (e.g., play food, sand toys, etc.) are disinfected every day.
  • Items that require immediate attention (i.e., objects placed in a tiny mouth) are placed in cleaning bins throughout exhibits and disinfected before returning to the play area.
  • Classroom spaces are sanitized before each class/workshop.
  • We’ve pared down the quantity of props, removing items of particular concern.

The Museum remains open for play Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.  We are following best practice regarding our operations in accordance with guidelines provided by Association of Children’s Museums and Center for Disease Control (CDC).  Any vital updates pertaining to the museum will be posted on our homepage, and Facebook page.  Current programming announcements include the following:

  • Field trips scheduled within the next 30 days will be postponed, or cancelled.
  • The Museum will be limiting our daily visitor count to 250.  You may call before your visit, if you’d like to check on our daily count: (503) 371-3631.
  • Our Members Only Night, scheduled for March 13th, has been cancelled.
  • The Creative Space and The Gilbert Engineering Studio activities will cease for 30 days.

We ask that our visitors do their part in keeping the museum and our community a healthy place.  We encourage visitors to practice hygiene protocols of frequent handwashing (scrubbing for 20 seconds) or use of hand sanitizer.  We request that if you or your child are feeling unwell, that you refrain from visiting the museum for the benefit of others, until symptoms subside.  Thank you for helping Gilbert House Children’s Museum maintain a worry-free play environment.

There is no need for healthy individuals to refrain from play at the museum.  Talk with your children about fighting germs and illness by handwashing, eating healthy foods, and getting good rest.  Choose a favorite song to sing together for 20 seconds while washing hands, and model good hygiene.  To learn more about prevention, the World Health Organization (WHO) is a trusted resource we recommend.

Unlock Spring Fun with Affordable Family Memberships

Spring is just around the corner, and we are already gearing up for a season of active learning, new member opportunities, and hours of outdoor play in the Oregon sunshine.  If you’re considering becoming a member for unlimited year-round play, this is one of the best times to do so.  Here’s why:

  • Summer Camp Savings:  Members receive discounts on summer camp registrations.  Become a member now to take advantage of these savings before camp registration opens on March 16th.
  • Spring Break Fun:  When schools out, there’s no better place to run off your energy or enjoy an afternoon than the museum.  Enjoy unlimited visits as a member and participation in spring break activities.
  • Free Admission to Other Museums:  When you become a Gilbert House Member, you gain access to all the perks of our Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) affiliation.  You will receive free admission to more than 360 additional museums and attractions.  That adds up to a summer full of free family fun.
  • Exclusive Play Opportunities:  This month we are rolling out a special Members Only Night, a chance for families to play after hours at the museum.
  • Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles:  This summer we will open Bill’s Bubble Factory, a major addition to the museum.  Membership will allow you to experience this sudsy magic over and over again, all summer long.
  • Affordable Investment:  The price of a Gilbert Family Membership is less than the cost of three visits for a family of four.  We purposefully keep this cost low.  If you live locally, this is an investment in early learning opportunities for your child, quality family time, and your purchase helps to build ongoing opportunities and exhibits at the museum.  We offer additional discount membership opportunities for families who meet the criteria for assistance or fostering children, covering more than half the cost for you.  Through these membership options, we hope all families are able to take advantage of all we have to offer.  Let’s dive into a season of active learning!

    Browse Memberships: 
    Gilbert Family Membership ($95)
    Gilbert Family Plus Membership ($110)
    ACCESS Membership ($40)
    Family Foster Membership ($40)

Sensory Regulation and Prompting for Creative Play

Inspiring children to learn through creative play has long been the mission of Gilbert House Children’s Museum.  We are constantly evolving in best practices, advancing opportunities, and novel experiences for children.  It is also our priority that the museum is accessible and welcoming for all children.

Recently, our staff has assessed ways in which we can partner with families and children with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and sensory processing disorder (SPD), to facilitate a positive and educational experience across our exhibits.  We are excited to introduce our visitors to Sensory Kits that are now available to checkout upon request at our Welcome Desk.  The Sensory Kits include tools for sensory regulation, such as noise-cancelling headphones, fidgets, sensory chews, a visual timer, pair of gloves, sunglasses, and a weighted vest.  It is anticipated that these accommodations will allow for families to enjoy the museum for a longer duration of time, allow children with ASD and SPD to feel more comfortable at the museum, and engage in meaningful play experiences in a focused way.

We celebrate the individual differences that make children unique, and desire caregivers to feel supported during museum visits.  We’ve rounded up some helpful play-based prompting strategies from leading researchers1, doctors, and directors of autism centers and clinics.  The compiled list of prompting procedures are encouraged for caregivers to guide a child with ASD into meaningful play opportunities:

  1. Modeling: Demonstrate the desired behavior.  For example, in our Farm to Table exhibit, begin to pick the apples from the tree or gather the eggs, letting your child observe how to collect them in the basket.
  2. Physical Guidance: Use your hands to guide your child’s hands.  For example, place your hands over your child’s to guide the motion of reaching toward the apple, picking the apple, and releasing the apple into the basket.  Fade this prompting as you go along (i.e. guiding hands toward the apple and letting your child do the rest).
  3. Proximity:  Help your child locate and choose the corresponding items for the play activity.  In Main Street, an example may be gathering the rolling pin, mixer, and cupcakes together on one play surface.
  4. Gestures: Gesture toward the correct response.  If your child picks up a train in Salem Station, gesture toward the railroad track it can roll along.    
  5. Verbal Modeling:  Demonstrate the correct sound or phrase for your child.  In Vet Clinic, you may model, “Meow,” when playing together with the cat, or “Hello?” when answering the phone on the secretary desk.   

Why play?  We believe in the power of our mission for all children, as it’s backed by research.  Exploratory and functional play aids children in cognitive development, facilitates language development, teaches joint attention, and promotes relationship building (Charlop et al, 2018).  As we continue to evolve to meet the needs of our community, we hope to be at the top of your list when it comes to family friendly fun.

1 Charlop M.H., Lang R., Rispoli M. (2018) All Children Can Play: Prompting and Modeling Procedures to Teach Play to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In: Play and Social Skills for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Evidence-Based Practices in Behavioral Health. Springer, Cham

Breaking Ground for Bubble Exhibit

Gilbert House Children’s Museum invites the community to inaugurate a major next step for the museum through attending The Inventor’s Yard Groundbreaking Ceremony on Monday, February 17th, at 10:30 a.m.  Drafted in 2018, the museum’s plans to remodel the outdoor playground and build a separately-housed bubble exhibit are coming to fruition this spring after a year of intensive fundraising efforts.

Sponsorships secured from foundations and local business are funding this first stage of the build, along with the generous contributions of individual donors.  It is estimated that the build will take three months to complete, with the unveil of Bill’s Bubble Factory in time for the summer season.

“Our children remember visiting the Museum and falling in love with the Gilbert House—especially the bubble room, comments sponsor Dr. David C. Swiderski.  “We are proud to be a sponsor of The Inventor’s Yard… We feel that early learning concepts in physics and natural sciences can benefit children in countless ways.”  Through collaboration with Learning Landscapes, RedBox Workshop, and volunteers with expertise in their fields, staff at the museum have approached the build as an opportunity to diversify S.T.E.A.M. play in Gilbert House’s outdoor space.

“When we began working on the project, we felt it was important to incorporate design elements from the existing structures at Gilbert House,” comments Andrew Lethin of C&R Remodel, a sponsor and design contributor for one of the new structures to be built on the property.  The integrity of the museum’s historic houses required that all plans for construction pass the city’s historic review criteria.  “We specified the materials used, the pitch of the roof, and the color scheme to be a part of the overall environment,” Lethin adds.

In addition to visual criteria, accessibility improvements were a priority for the flow of the new space.  Front entrance ramps will be improved, and new play opportunities will be wheelchair accessible.  “Mobility is huge for children,” shares sponsor and CEO of Hope Orthopedics, Lorissa Addabbo.  “Learning for them includes being able to touch and see how things work.”  The new “put-yourself-in-a-bubble” element will allow for guests in wheelchairs to enjoy the same experience.

Celebration of the ceremonial groundbreaking will kick-off a day of free admission, the museum’s fourth annual Legacy of Play Day.  Families are invited to explore the exhibits and Outdoor Discovery Area with S.T.E.A.M. surprises between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.  All exhibits will remain open during construction, with a temporary entrance relocated to Parrish House.

“The community support for this project is wonderful and greatly appreciated,” comments Karen Larson, Board Chair of the museum.  “It is a pleasure to partner with donors, sponsors, and our members to improve Gilbert House Children’s Museum for the next generation of children in our community.”