Access for All: Gateway to Play Year in Review 2022

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota continues to make a positive impact on children’s lives through its Gateway to Play program, which aims to provide access to play for children facing various barriers, such as income, language, cultural factors, ability, special needs, or other special situations. 

In 2022, the program had 608 families as members, totaling 7,998 admissions with a value of $72,352.  About 32% of these families reported having an income of less than $24,999. 

“Having a membership to the Children’s Museum is a blessing to my family. I love being able to bring my kids someplace they can play, learn, explore, and be themselves!”  – Gateway to Play Member from Mankato, MN

Gateway to Play Access for All Program at the Childrens Museum in Mankato

“Being a single mother, I am unable to afford many activities outside the house. Winter/COVID restrictions have been difficult. The Museum will offer my children an amazing opportunity to safely play, learn and be in a healthy, engaging atmosphere. We will be able to bond and play together as well.” – Gateway to Play Member from Waseca, MN


The Museum also welcomed school groups, with 1,191 adults and 3,954 students receiving discounted admission. Group visits include all school field trips, home school groups, child care centers, preschools, non-school day programs, summer enrichment groups, and any other large group of children coming to the Museum together. Our group visits are most appropriate for Early Childhood through 3rd-grade groups. We welcome mixed-age groups if specific considerations can be met, such as chaperone requirements (one adult for every four kids). (Read our blog describing group visits here.) 

Group Visits Access for All Program at the Childrens Museum of Southern Minnesota


The Blue Star Museum Initiative provided free admission to 135 families currently serving in the military or veterans of military service. Traditionally hosted at museums across the country between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, Blue Star Museums offer free admission for active duty military personnel and their families with proper ID. The 2023 Blue Star Museum Initiative at CMSM will take place from May 30th – September 3rd, 2023.  Find other participating museums here. 

The Museum also offers Military Appreciation Days. In 2022, we welcomed 54 Military family admissions during those four days. These special events take place at the Museum twice a year to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Military Service members (past and present) and their families and includes free Museum admission. 2023 Military Appreciation Days will take place on June 30–July 2 and November 11.

“It’s not only helped my child grow in social interactive and cognitive skills, it’s helped my mental health, as a mother to have somewhere to go and get out of the house.” – Gateway to Play Member from North Mankato, MN


Additionally, in early 2023, we launched the Gateway to Baby Play program. With a goal of supporting families through the first year, Gateway to Baby Play Memberships are available to families of newborns and first-time parents up to their child’s first birthday. This Membership includes free admission for two parents and their baby until one year of age. After the baby’s first birthday, the Gateway to Play Membership may be transitioned to another Membership level.   

“Our hope is that by introducing the CMSM environment and staff to newborn and first-time families we will create a pathway of experiences and relationships by supporting parents in their parenting journey and encouraging play and exploration for the children who come to visit.” – Kim Kleven, VP of Play & Learning, CMSM

Gateway to Play Access for All Program at the Childrens Museum of Southern Minnesota


The impact of the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is evident in the stories of families who have benefited from the Gateway to Play program. Parents of children with autism have found the Museum to be incredibly inclusive and beneficial for their children’s social, interactive, and cognitive skills. Families have also appreciated the opportunity to bond and play together in a healthy, engaging atmosphere, especially during the winter or COVID-19 restrictions. The Museum has also made a positive impact on foster and adopted children, filling gaps in their learning and providing fun experiences.

“The Children’s Museum has helped my foster and adopted kids in many ways. They look forward to all the educational and life experiences they have here. Many of my kids have had very few experiences. This helps to fill the many gaps in learning the kids come to me with. Plus it’s super fun!” – Gateway to Play Member from Sherburn, MN

“Our children have a trauma background and are adopted from foster care. Their time at the Children’s Museum is a big treat. We appreciate the kind and attentive staff during our visits.” – Gateway to Play Member from Granada, MN

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is grateful for the support of community partners and donors throughout the region, as well as the corporate partners who have helped make the Gateway to Play program possible. The Museum remains committed to its vision of ensuring that all children can experience the joy of learning through the power of play.

Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota Gateway to Play Access Impact Report

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