The Project

A traditional museum has a special, almost hallowed, place in a community. It is entrusted by the community to serve as a repository for society’s knowledge, culture, and history. In a very real way, a traditional museum preserves the past. A children’s museum is about the future. When a community makes the bold commitment to create a children’s museum, they are opening their hands to hold and nurture their future: those future leaders, dreamers, scientists, farmers, artists, teachers, and helpers who are today’s children. A children’s museum thus becomes a place of possibilities and promise; the very heart of a community.

A children’s museum is about children and learning. It is a family place where children and adults learn about themselves, each other, and the world they live in through exploration, interaction, role play, and direct experience. Visitors of all ages lean on and learn from one another’s experience, talents, and expertise. A children’s museum presents exhibits, activities, and programs that provide opportunities for visitors to expand their learning, and link their existing knowledge with new experiences.

A children’s museum considers the whole child. It has exhibits and programs that foster growth in physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and interpersonal skills. As children explore, create, and succeed, they gain confidence, and take their new strengths and sense of self into the community. At The Peoria PlayHouse, they will meet gadgets, tools, novelty, and tradition and weave them all into a tapestry of learning.

A children’s museum is a partner in the learning continuum. Though its informal teaching methods are vastly different from the formal educational methods used in schools, it is a center of learning. The Peoria PlayHouse will complement our region’s educational system, with exhibits built to tie into Illinois Learning Standards, in both Early Childhood and Early Elementary years. The museum will seek accreditation from the American Association of Museums, distinguishing it from other children’s museums in Illinois.

The adult museum visitor plays a critical role in enhancing learning and play. Well-designed exhibits invite adults to become active partners in the museum experience. Adults encourage children when they encounter problems, make suggestions for new scripts or plans when the child has exhausted his repertoire, join the child as a playmate, observe the child in play, and talk about what the child has done. Adult-child interaction enriches the experience for both, and helps build strong emotional bonds.

Children’s museums break the museum mold. They are not places where people are engaged in quiet, careful contemplation. Rather, they’re a bit noisy with the happy hum of learning, a place where children of all ethnicities, social groups, cultures, and religions come together and learn about and from one another. Children’s museums are places that work with and for schools; where ideas and influences flow in both directions. They are places to learn and to teach, to be surprised, and to understand. They are comfortable, safe, funny and full of opportunity.

Perhaps most importantly, a children’s museum is a place that a community can be proud of because they helped build it, they helped shape its content, and all share the feeling that they have done the very best for their children.

Why do we need a children’s museum in Peoria?

Children’s museums represent a community-wide investment in children. Central Illinois parents and teachers have long expressed the need for a hands-on facility designed and constructed solely with the needs and interests of our youngest citizens in mind. The Peoria PlayHouse will meet this need with an environment that piques the curiosity of children, ages birth to 8, and challenges them to learn and grow.

Junior League of Peoria research has shown that no facility in our area currently offers this type of educational experience for this age group, and that our community’s younger population is not being sufficiently served. The Peoria PlayHouse will fulfill this need and provide the opportunity for children and families to learn about the things that make Peoria special.

Key Benefits for our Region

Economic benefits

Located on the Glen Oak Park campus, The Peoria PlayHouse, Peoria Zoo, and the Botanical Gardens will be a regional, full-day destination stop for school groups and families alike, bringing valuable economic benefits to our area. Throughout the development and construction process, the Junior League will work with local builders, fabricators, and craftsmen to support the local economy.

Children’s museums now represent the fastest growing segment of the museum field, with their growth exploding throughout the country over the past twenty years. According to the Association of Children’s Museums, more than 30 million children and families annually visit children's museums. We expect that attendance at The Peoria PlayHouse will benefit by its connection with the zoo, and likewise, will draw additional patrons to the zoo. As such, we anticipate an annual attendance of more than 80,000 adult and child visitors. It is our belief that life-long museum patrons will be developed and that they will support other projects in our community as a result of their experiences at The Peoria PlayHouse. Research also shows that a strong children’s museum is a contributing factor in a community’s ability to attract and retain young professionals and their families.


The Peoria PlayHouse will be accessible to children of all demographic groups, cultivating a diverse group of lifelong museum goers from a young age. Outreach programs for at-risk and underserved youth, school partnerships and parent resource programs on early childhood education are some of the ways the children’s museum can serve families in the community.

Community Enrichment

The children’s museum and expanded zoo will be an anchor in the neighborhoods around the Glen Oak campus. By retaining the Victorian design currently featured in the Glen Oak Park Pavilion, while renovating the interior so that the building is restored to its original purpose of a family gathering space, the project will help preserve the area’s rich history and expand its potential for future generations.

The Peoria PlayHouse
“Children are born motivated, not bored. They come out into the world eager, reaching, looking, touching—and that’s what we want them to keep on doing.”
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