Location: 100 W College Ave, Appleton, WI
Hours: Closed Monday
Tuesday – Thursday from 9 am – 4 pm (sessions at 9 am and 1 pm)
Friday from 10 am – 6 pm (sessions at 10 am and 3 pm)
Saturday and Saturday from 9 am – 4 pm (sessions at 9 am and 1 pm)
Reserve a session here
Cost: $9.50 per person
$2 per person with Access admission (for families who receive income support)
Free for children one and younger
Free with a Discovery Center Museum membership through the ASTC Travel Passport Program. Bring your Discovery Center membership card if you go.
Disclosure: We were provided a trip to Appleton to visit the Building for Kids Children’s Museum. This review and opinions are our own.
Building for Kids is a children’s museum in Appleton, Wisconsin about 2.5 hours from Rockford, Illinois. The museum is conveniently located in downtown Appleton across from Houdini Square.
Building for Kids started off as The Fox Cities Children’s Museum in 1992. At the time, the museum only occupied a portion of the second floor of the current museum. In 2006, the museum expanded into two floors of the building and was renamed Building for Kids. The name comes from the renovation when kids were able to help design new exhibits and “build” the new space.
The museum sees around 120,000 visitors from all over the world each year. The museum offers a variety of memberships for local families as well as birthday parties, field trips, weekly programs, and virtual programming.
COVID Restrictions: As of May 2021, the Building for Kids museum is requiring reservations for three-hour play sessions. Each session is limited to 50 people and masks are required for those 3 and up. To reserve a play session, click here.
Play sessions are Tuesday – Thursday and Saturday – Sunday from 9 am – 12 pm or 1 pm – 4 pm. Friday sessions are 10 am – 1 pm or 3 pm – 6 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays.
We had the pleasure of being asked to come to Appleton and visit the Building for Kids Children’s Museum in June 2021 with our two children (7 and 3 years old).
There’s a lot to see at the Building for Kids so we’ve made a list of which exhibits we think each age group would be most interested in checking out while at the museum. You can see a full list of all exhibits here.
Things for Kids of All Ages to Do
Messy Makers Programs – We attended a Messy Makers program before our play session. The 45 minute program was held in the Innovation Lab, which was also open for play during the play session. The program included a teaching element where we learned about weight and balance. There was also a hands-on portion where we used provided materials like wire and tape to create wire hanger mobiles that we got to take home with us. For non-members, this program costs $2.50 per person.
DaVinci Art Studio – Kids of all ages can enjoy spending some time creating art in the beautiful and airy DaVinci Art Studio located next to the giant globe on the second floor. The studio offers different activities depending on the day you visit. While we were there, my kids tried out painting, working with clay, creating collages, and doing some scratch-off oil pastel drawings. Kids as young as toddlers were enjoying both the art activities and playing the musical instruments located on the back wall.
Innovation Lab – The Innovation lab also offers new challenges and programs each week, all with a STEM focus. While we were there, my kids played with marble runs, created a magnetic tube track for a ball to race down, looked at bugs through a microscope, and turned the giant color wheel kaleidoscope to see what two combined colors would look like.
Things for Babies to Do (Birth – 12 months)
The Building for Kids has a great space for little ones to explore. The Babies and Toddlers Around the World exhibit is only for kids 0-3 and is enclosed with a gate so that little ones can’t make a break for it. Inside the area are soft foam mats and a sectioned off space for crawlers. Toddlers can enjoy exploring the treehouse themed play area, slide, boat and log tunnels. There are kid friendly books available to read and soft plastic balls to play with.
Babies will also enjoy checking out the live animal displays. There are two fish tanks with colorful fish (try to find Dory and Nemo!) and an exhibit of small colorful birds.
Things for Little Kids to Do (18 months – 8 years old)
Your little kid is going to have the time of their life at the Building for Kids! This age group is the sweet spot for enjoying the children’s museum. Although kids younger and older will also have a great time, there is a ton to do for this particular age group.
There are a bunch of fun exhibits that encourage imaginative play on the first floor of the museum.
Immediately upon entering the Building for Kids, you’ll notice The Discovery Tree and suspended cargo net bridges. My kids made a beeline for them so they could get a bird’s eye view of all the exhibits. They enjoyed exploring the five tree forts and looking for the various stuffed animals and statues that were hidden around the tree.
In the Big Rig Depot, kids can check out a big rig, repair an engine, and try their hand at packing and unpacking a delivery truck. The soft foam pieces allow your kids to play a real-life version of Tetris to figure out how the blocks will fit in the back of the truck.
In the Fox Communities Credit Union’s Littlest Branch kids can pretend to be bank tellers or a customer in the drive-thru. There are keyboards, laminated money, and a telephone for kids to use in their imaginative play.
The BFK Convenience store is a mini grocery store with pretend food to buy, cash registers to run, and a pizza making station. The pizza area has a good selection of toppings that kids can add to pizzas and then box them up and deliver to their customers.
If your child dreams of being a medical professional, they will love the ThedaCare Physicians Doll Hospital. Here kids can perform check-ups on the variety of baby dolls or each other.
Don’t forget to go around the corner and check out the plane! There is a large model of a plane that includes seating as well as an interactive screen that shows the plane’s navigation system.
After you check out the first floor, head up to the second floor for ever more opportunities to play and move your body. One of our favorite things about the Building for Kids is that it encourages kids to be active. There are places to climb, slide, and play sports throughout the museum, especially on the second floor.
The Amazing Heart Slide is a 10 foot climber and slide that gives kids a close up look at a heart’s anatomy. It’s a slow slide down that even the littlest one can handle.
If your kids need to get some energy out, the Clubhouse Sports temporary exhibit is a must-do. Inside this room are several putting greens, a basketball court, hula hoops, cones, balance boards and space to run around. Families can engage in a little friendly competition; at least that’s what my husband and I always do when there’s a basketball hoop available!
Right across from the Clubhouse Sports room is Construction Junction. Here you’ll find a kid-sized crane and construction blocks that can be moved around and dropped in and out of the pit. There’s a safety rope that prevents kids from going into the pit where the crane drops so you don’t have to worry about bumped heads.
As you walk around, you’ll also find Station 99 complete firefighting gear and a large fire truck with flashing lights that kids can pretend to ride in.
One of our favorite exhibits, and a place where my three year old spent a lot of time, was the Move It exhibit. This exhibit allows you to move plastic balls around the enclosed space using air flows. You’re in control of where the ball goes and you can use levers, pulleys, and ramps to set it on its path. No matter which path you choose, most of the balls end up falling from the ceiling into a bin. Since they are plastic balls like you’d find in a ball pit, they bounce around and it’s fun to watch them scatter throughout the space.
Another top spot was the Thrivent Water Gallery. If your kid likes to play in water, it’s going to be hard to pull them away from this exhibit! There is a large water container filled with moving water on one side and a shallow pool on the other. The moving water side includes a boat racing course. You can add obstacles to the course for a slower race or remove all obstacles to see how fast the boats can go. On the other side of the water container, there is a vortex where you can drop balls and see them spin through the eye of the tornado, a fog mushroom with light, a spraying gun that you can aim at chimes, and a water tube that allows you to change the shape of the spraying water by holding different caps to the top. Don’t worry, your kids won’t get soaked while playing in here because there are a bunch of waterproof smocks of all sizes that they can use.
The Building for Kids is made for families so they’ve thought of all the little touches that make it comfortable and enjoyable for a family to visit. There are numerous benches in view of exhibits so parents can relax while their kids play. There are also bathrooms located conveniently on each floor of the children’s museum with changing tables in them. There are water bottle re-fillers available too, but the drinking fountains have been shut off as a safety precaution so bring your own reusable bottles!
We loved exploring the Building for Kids in Appleton, Wisconsin. If you have kids under the age of 10, we’d highly recommend taking a weekend trip there and checking it out!