March 18, 2019

How Kids Learn Through Play At Premier Academy

For the last few years, I’ve been immersed in the world of play at Omaha Children’s Museum. I’ve learned that play is the best way for young children learn. Daycare centers like Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center have the same philosophy in teaching children.

Disclosure: This is sponsored post by Premier Academy. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Find out how childcare centers incorporate play and state early education guidelines into each day | This Omaha childcare center has it figured out! #premieracademy #partner #Omaha

“Play is the child’s work.”

I chatted with Jewel McKercher, a director at Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center in Omaha and Elkhorn, to get a better understanding at what sets the center apart from others.

While it’s a fact that Premier incorporates Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines into the curriculum, the center also believes that play is the child’s work, she said.

Play is great way to develop gross motor skills and develop social skill like taking turns and cooperative play. Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

“Teacher need to encourage the child’s natural curiosity and eagerness to learn,” said McKercher. “The Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines does a fantastic job of training teachers to allow for exploration and discovery.”

Related post: 7 Things To Look For In Omaha Childcare

How they include play at Premier Academy

According to McKercher, there are different techniques to building happy and strong foundation in early childhood education. She said this can be done by “balancing active time with quiet time, teacher directed activities with child selected ones, and structured learning with fun-time.”

This is where it’s pretty interesting to me, as this is how I see my co-workers at Omaha Children’s Museum trying to strike a similar balance when planning programming. It’s why the museum encourages open play in each exhibit, but also has daily programs offered for a guided learning and play experience. Both forms of play are important.

Classroom science experiment at Premier Academy Child Enrichment
Center in Omaha, Nebraska
A volcano science experiment at Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center. Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

In an early childcare classroom like at Premier Academy, the teachers understand this too. They embrace that play is the child’s work, but they also incorporate facets of early childhood learning.

In the preschool classrooms, for instance, there are different centers that incorporate play-based learning into play. The centers include the Dramatic Play Center, Blocks Center, Large Motor Center and the Creative Arts Center. As kids play, they’re learning important social and emotional skills.

All the children at Premier also get to spend time outdoors, weather permitting. Both the West Omaha daycare and Elkhorn daycare have a 5,000 square foot outdoor playground!

About the post sponsor

Exterior of Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center, which has locations in Omaha and Elkhorn, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

I learned a lot just interviewing McKercher from Premier Academy in Omaha. If you thought she was helpful, too, and you happen to be in the market for childcare, I encourage you to check out her employer and see if Premier is the right fit for you!

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March 11, 2019

Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do At Omaha’s Zoo

I’ve been a member of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium for nearly a decade, and like many residents of Omaha, I feel like I’ve got every inch of the zoo memorized after visiting countless times. And so, I still am surprised by things there. The zoo updates exhibits, adds exhibits, adds animals and adds programs, so it’s forgivable if you don’t notice all of them. Here are things that you may not know you could do at the zoo:

Get the scoop on all the tours, animal encounters and camping opportunities available at the Omaha zoo! #Nebraska #familytravel #USA

Eat not-so-typical zoo food

Sure, you can find popcorn, hot dogs and hamburgers at the zoo, but if you want to try something different, head to one of these concession stands:

Inside the Tusker Grill dining hall at Omaha's zoo
Tusker Grill is located in the African Grasslands at Omaha’s zoo. Some of the food available to purchase are African favorites. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Tusker Grill: The food includes African favorites. Some of the dishes are perri perri chicken, a beef brai sandwich and boerewors sausage, which is a farmer’s sausage. You can also get sweet potato fries there, and they’re great. (It’s open seasonally). Find the Tusker Grill in the African Grasslands.

Sea Turtle Café – You can add some candy mix-ins with your soft serve ice cream at this cafe. (It’s open year-round).

Camp at the zoo

There are a couple options for camping at the zoo, and all of them sound awesome (if you like camping, that is). The lower price option is called Family Sleeping Bag Safaris, and they range from $45 to $48 per person. With these, depending on the date you choose, you might sleep in the aquarium, African Lodge, or the Wild Kingdom Pavilion. A few require you bring a tent, and for those, you can sleep in the Desert Dome or the Lied Jungle. The Family Sleeping Bag Safaris include zoo admission, an evening snack, breakfast and a visit from one Animal Ambassador.

One of the Family Sleeping Bag Safaris allows families to stay overnight inside the zoo’s Desert Dome. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

For something a little fancier, you can also stay overnight at the Safari Tent Camp near the African Grasslands, right by the lion enclosure. This sounds a bit more like glamping, where you’ll get a tent with cots, a rug, night stand, lantern and an electrical outlet. For Family Safaris, the cost is $100 per person (two-person minimum and a five-person maximum in the tent). Included with that cost is zoo admission, educational programming, snack, breakfast, a morning hike, and a visit from Animal Ambassadors.

The Safari Tent Camp at Omaha's zoo
The Safari Tent Camp is located near the lion enclosure at the zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

There are requirements for each of these camps. For most, if you bring a child, he/she must be at least 4 years old. If you bring many children, you need one adult per 10 youth. And some camps

Camp with no kids around

I bet a few of you like the sound of this (I know I do). Similar to the Family Safaris above, it offers all the programming, animals, hike and such, but one-ups it by adding a gourmet dinner, drinks, and an additional hike. It also costs more ($120 per person). And you have to be 21 or older.

One of the tents at Omaha zoo's Safari Tent Camp with a view inside
The zoo has adults-only camping options where you can stay at the Safari Tent Camp overnight. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

There’s also a Photography Safari for those 18 or older. Camps for adults are held a few times a year so check the zoo’s website for details.

Be a keeper for a day

Learn how to take care the zoo’s animal ambassadors in the Animal Programs Keeper experience. You’ll work side-by-side with keepers in the Wild Kingdom Pavilion. These happen only on select days of the month. Kids under the age of 17 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Workout at the zoo

Yoga sessions take place in the aquarium on select Saturdays and Sundays in the morning. The cost includes an hour of yoga and admission to the zoo. Participants must be 16 years old or older.

A yogi holding a pose in the aquarium at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
Yoga in the Aquarium is held on select weekend mornings at Omaha’s zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Each September, there’s a fun run in the zoo. This one’s open to all ages. Watch out, though, there are more hills than you think.

Runners at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
The Zoo Run is held each September at the zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Feed animals

One of the oddest experiences is feeding a giraffe; though, it’s second only to feeding a stingray. You can do both at the zoo each summer (for an added fee, of course). Giraffe feedings are $3 and happen on the weekends, weather permitting.

Crowd at the Stingray Beach pool at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
At the Omaha zoo’s Stingray Beach, you can touch stingrays as well feed them.

Admission to Stingray Bay is $3 for members and $4 for non-members; feeding cups are $1.50 and they limit the quantities daily.  Keep in mind that you will have to pay admission into Stingray Beach AND pay for a feeding cup. You don’t have to feed stingrays if you don’t want to.

Other food experiences include feeding a budgie (parakeet) in the Children’s Adventure Trail area. It’s only $1 a stick. The feedings are on the weekends, weather permitting.

Feeding a giraffe at Omaha's zoo
You can feed giraffes at the zoo on the weekend, weather permitting, for a small additional fee. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Have a beer at the zoo

Little known fact, alcohol is available for purchase at the zoo. Beer is available at the Durham TreeTops Restaurant (and you can’t take it out of the building). Some special events also have alcohol available for purchase.

Watch monkeys while you eat

Durham TreeTops Restaurant is the restaurant to go to if you want to eat with a view of the indoor rainforest. Stalk the tables near the windows for the best views.

Diners at TreeTops Restaurant sitting at tables by the windows overlooking the indoor rainforest at Omaha's zoo
The TreeTops Restaurant at Omaha’s zoo is one of the best places to eat for one big reason: The tables located by the windows overlooking the indoor rainforest.

Go behind the scenes

The zoo has a program called Backstage Pass. My son was gifted a chance to go on the Octopus Backstage Pass, where he got to meet a keeper and go behind-the-scenes at the aquarium.

Behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
The Backstage Pass takes visitors behind-the-scenes at Omaha’s zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Other options include an aquarium general one where you can watch a feeding of sharks, Kingdoms of the Night, and a Lied Jungle experience. These happen only on select days and are limited to a small group. Kids under the age of 17 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Catch the bats at their most active moments

Love bats? You’ll want to head to the Lied Jungle at the end of the day to see them when they’re most active (aim for 4 p.m. or later). Me? I don’t personally like having bajillion* or so bats flying even remotely close to me, but my kids love it.

*My estimate may not be exact

Walk around lemurs

Back in my newspaper days, many years ago, I attended the grand opening of Lemur Walkway (located in front of the Expedition Madagascar exhibit). At that time, the lemurs were pretty curious creatures, and they got pretty close to us.

Family is near lemurs at the Lemur Walkway at Omaha's zoo
Lemur Walkway is located at Expedition Madagascar at Omaha’s Zoo. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The walkway is one to definitely visit, but I’ve yet to see the lemurs get very close to people since that first day. Keep your expectations in check for this one.

Ride the rides all day long

If you wanted to, there’s the option of having unlimited rides all day long at the zoo, seasonally. This is for unlimited rides on train, tram, Sue’s Carousel and Skyfari.

Tons of animal encounters

You probably knew the zoo had animal encounters each day, but did you realize how MANY they had?

Kids touch a tortoise at Omaha's zoo
The zoo has animal encounters with Animal Ambassadors as well as regularly scheduled feedings and enrichment programs to watch. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Here’s what I’ve come across:

Touch Tank Open, Scott Aquarium
African Animal Discovery, Kopje Outcropping – African Grasslands
Antarctic Penguin Feeding, Scott Aquarium
Elephant Enrichment (Memorial Day – Labor Day), Lower Elephant Yard – African Grasslands
Sea Lion Training (Excluding Wednesdays), Sea Lion Pool
Shark Feeding (Wednesdays and Saturdays), Scott Aquarium
Animal Discoveries, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion
Meet a Reptile Keeper (Saturday – Sunday)
Orangutan Enrichment (Memorial Day – Labor Day), Hubbard Orangutan Forest
Lion Training (Memorial Day – Labor Day) Lion Viewing – African Grasslands
All animal encounters are weather and staff-dependent. Check the website for specific times.

There are a ton of experiences, tours & food you didn't know you could have at Omaha's zoo! #Nebraska #USA

Before you plan your next outing to Omaha’s zoo, check out Experts’ Tips For Visiting Omaha’s Zoo.

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March 4, 2019

Guide To ONE Festival For Families & Opera Beginners

Opera Omaha is bringing back the ONE Festival to Omaha for its second year running March 30 through April 14, 2019. It’s unlike any festival I’ve ever been to, and I think if you appraise good storytelling, you’re going to want to check it out. There is a full lineup of events, and it can be hard to figure out which one is good for someone new to opera and which one is good for families, so I’ve written a guide to the ONE Festival to help.

Disclosure: This post is a partnership between Opera Omaha and Oh My! Omaha. I was not paid to write the post. Opera Omaha provided passes for the giveaway. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

What you need to know about the ONE Festival in Omaha if you're new to opera - What's kid-friendly, what's accessible to opera newbies and how to get tickets #Omaha #Nebraska #opera

Related: Looking for more festivals and events in Omaha? Check out this post with an updated list of kid-friendly events, exhibits and festivals in the Omaha Area.

What is the ONE Festival?

The ONE Festival explores opera in all its forms. Sure there are two operas in the festival, but the rest of the festival deconstructs it into concerts, installations, social gatherings, dance and exhibitions. There’s an exhibition in 2019 that I think most families are going to love (more on that in a little bit).

The focus of the ONE Festival is experimentation and new work. The festival is held at different venues around Omaha. Some of it is free, some of it requires tickets. Here’s a list of all the performances and events in the 2019 ONE Festival.

Is the ONE Festival for families?

The full operas in the ONE Festival are not going to appeal to young kids or elementary aged kids. They can last up to three hours long and are quite often performed in an other language. However, there are a couple things at this year’s ONE Festival that I think will appeal to a younger audience.

A performance during the 2018 ONE Festival presented by Opera Omaha
The unique thing about the ONE Festival in Omaha is that it deconstructs opera with performances that range from dance and instrumentals to vocal performances. Of course, the festival also includes full operas. Photo courtesy Opera Omaha

One truly exciting exhibition, that I think will appeal to adults and kids alike is called “Playground.” You’re going to want to check out this operatic sound sculpture at Joslyn Art Museum March 30 through April 14. It’s pretty much a playground set inside the museum curated by Ellen Reid. What that means is you can swing on this playset and create music while someone else is accompanying you on the slide.

The performance part comes in on select days and times when “Run” is performed. This 15-minute original composition for voice features ONE Festival soloist Naomi Louisa O’Connell and International Contemporary Ensemble artists. “Run” is performed at select times on March 30 and 31, as well as April 4, 6 and 13.

Families may want to look into attending one of shows in the CINEsound operatic film series at Film Streams (at both the Dundee and Ruth Sokolof theaters). The one in particular that I’m told is family-oriented is called “Sights on Sounds.” It’s a documentary-style compilation that explores the connection of music and film.

Is the ONE Festival accessible to opera beginners?

I think the entire idea of the ONE Festival is to introduce opera to people who’ve never been to a traditional opera. With that said, there are some performances that are more accessible to newbies than others.

The first performance to check out happens before the festival event begins. “An Evening With Paul Barnes” on March 15 will be a good one to check out since it will give you a glimpse at what’s planned for the 2019 festival, as performed by pianist Paul Barnes. He’s famous for his collaboration with Philip Glass and has been called “ferociously virtuosic” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

An opera performance at the 2018 ONE Festiva in Omaha, Nebraska
The ONE Festival in Omaha explores operas in all its forms — from full operas to instrumental performances, dance and cinema. Photo courtesy Opera Omaha

Reid + Concert on April 4 is another one I’m told is good for those new to opera. It’s a chamber concert featuring Ellen Reid (the artist behind “Playground”), as well as performances by Holland Community Opera Fellows, Creighton University Chamber Choir and members of the International Contemporary Ensemble. The performance is on the shorter side, so it gives you a taste of things without having to sit for a three-hour performance.

“For Research Only” is a dance exhibition that puts you in the middle of the performance (which may appeal to some and not to others, right?). This performance at KANEKO takes place April 6, 10, and 11. Due to the intimate nature of it, seeing is limited. The performance tries to put the audience into the thoughts of the performers, offering a glimpse into how a performance is made. It involves contemporary dance, live music and projection mapping.

I also think the “CINEsound” series sounds pretty interesting, especially the midnight screening that kicks off the festival. The score will be performed live with the movie.

About the operas in ONE Festival

There are two full opera experiences at the 2019 ONE Festival. “Les Enfantes Terribles” is the shorter of the two, if you base your opera viewing on time. It’s a twisted twisted opera by Philip Glass based on the 1929 novel. “Les Enfantes Terribles” is April 3, 5, 7, 13 and 14 at The Mastercraft. It’s definitely not suitable for kids.

The other opera is “Faust,” and due to its 3 1/2-hour-long run time, it’s going to be one for the seasoned opera fans. It sounds visually cool, with a Vegas-y feel to it, though. This performance will feature music that hasn’t been heard in more than 150 years, which is cool. “Faust” is on April 12 and 14 at the Orpheum Theater. Like the other opera, it’s not for the kiddos.

Going to the ONE Festival

The ONE Festival is March 30 through April 14, 2019 at various locations around Omaha. You’ll want to check if the performance you’re going to attend requires tickets, and if so, you’ll probably want to get them early (especially for performances with limited seating like “For Research Only). “Playground” is one that is FREE to attend, but you’ll want to time it right to see the performance of “Run” while you’re there. See all the performance and event dates and times here.

Tickets range in prices. Be sure to follow Oh My! Omaha on Facebook because I’ll be giving away a pair of Festival ONEpasses! The Festival ONEpass gets you into “An Evening with Paul Barnes” (VIP option available), “Les Enfants Terribles,” and “For Research Only” plus gives you discount codes for “CINEsound” and “Faust.”

Opera Omaha's ONE Festival is held each spring in Omaha. Here's what you need to know about taking kids to a performance or attending your first opera #Omaha #Nebraska #opera

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March 1, 2019

What To Expect At Air Play

“Air Play” will be performed in Omaha soon, and I’m pretty excited about it. I’m not sure if I can quite describe it to you, but I’m confident both the kids and I will love it. Why you ask? If there’s one thing I learned about Omaha Performing Arts’ Family Series, it’s to trust them and just go see the show. (I still remember the season when I saw two amazing shows I’d never heard of in the Family Series: Cirque Mechanics Pedal Punk and Mummenschanz: The Musicians of Silence).

I’m partnering with OPA to tell you about the show and to give away a four pack of tickets so one of you can with your family too! “Air Play” is on Saturday, March 16, at 2 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha. Tickets are on sale now at TicketOmaha.com.

What to expect if you go to "Air Play" - The family-friendly touring production is part circus and part street performance theater. #AirPlay #Omaha

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Omaha Performing Arts. I’m being compensated by tickets for myself to attend the show and to giveaway. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

What is “Air Play”?

“‘Fun for all ages’ is a common puff in the arts, but with Air Play it’s strictly true. From the minute the curtain goes up on this buoyant fusion of wordless clowning and aerial spectacle, you feel as if you’ve stepped into an enchanted world somewhere between childhood and what comes afterwards, where normal rules (gravity included) have been temporarily held at bay. A joy from start to finish, Air Play will entrance children, and will act as a great reset button for stressed adults.” – Sydney Morning Herald

“Air Play” is a family-friendly show that’s part-circus, part-street theater performance. It’s the brainchild of husband and wife team Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone, who collaborated with renowned air sculptor Daniel Wurtzel to create the visually stunning, and often funny, show.

A scene from "Air Play," a family-friendly theatrical performance
Christina Gelsone and Seth Bloom are the creators, performers and producers behind “Air Play.” Photo courtesy Air Play by Florence Montmare

The show’s description gives you a little insight on what you can expect: “Air Play is a circus-style adventure of two siblings journeying through a surreal land of air, transforming the ordinary into objects of uncommon beauty. Fabrics dance in the wind, balloons have a mind of their own, confetti turns into the night sky, and an enormous canopy of hovering silk forever alters their future.”

Who is this show designed for?

All of the shows in the Omaha Performing Arts Family Series are curated to appeal to the widest audience and the broadest of age ranges. The show is about an hour long and in the middle of the day, which is ideal for families, if you ask me.

A scene from "Air Play," a touring show
“Air Play” is an hour-long show that appeals to children as young as 5 years old as well as adults. Photo courtesy Air Play by Florence Montmare

Given the whimsical description and the physical and visual nature of the show, this is going to appeal to kids who are at least 5 years old or older. It is not recommended for infants and toddlers.

Want to win tickets?

I’ll kick off a ticket giveaway on the Oh My! Omaha Facebook page on March 4. One winner will receive four tickets to the show on March 16!

A scene from the touring production of "Air Play" starring Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone
“Air Play” will be performed in Omaha on March 16, 2019. Photo courtesy Air Play by Florence Montmare

It’s going to be the first in several days of giveaways for family-friendly activities so if you don’t follow Oh My! Omaha already, now’s a good time to start.

If you go

“Air Play”

When: March 16 at 2 p.m.

Where: Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.

Cost: $15-$30. Purchase tickets online at TicketOmaha.com or save on ticketing fees and buy them in person at the Ticket Omaha box office located inside the Holland Performing Arts Center.

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February 21, 2019

Omaha Children’s Museum Insider’s Tips

It’s been several years since I’ve written a post dedicated to Omaha Children’s Museum. My last non-exhibit post about the museum was written before I started working there. (Now’s a good time to fully disclose, that, yes, I’m employed at Omaha Children’s Museum. And I’m totally biased.) But with more than eight years as a member and three as an employee, people often ask me for tips, so now I’m going to put them into a post. Read on for my tips on the best times to visit, how to navigate special events, and dining at the museum:

Tips for visiting Omaha Children's Museum - Know when to go, know how to save money, and understand the perks of membership #Omaha #Nebraska #museum

Who is the museum’s target audience?

I said this before, but children’s museums are geared toward about a 10 and younger audience, while science centers cater to a wider range (but aren’t always zeroes in on the younger kids). In Omaha, I’d say the exhibits are best for 8 and younger, though the Tinker Lab is the exception. My son is 9 and still loves visiting and never misses the chance to build something in the Tinker Lab.

If your kids are preschoolers, you’ll spend most of your time in the museum’s most popular exhibit, Imagination Playground, where you’ll find the mini grocery store, barn, hospital, and climb space. Actually, even early grade schoolers love the space.

Mini grocery store at Omaha Children's Museum
My kids baking a cake at the grocery store’s bakery inside Omaha Children’s Museum.

There’s a three-tiered water table that pretty popular. There are covers to keep kids dry, but you may want to bring a change of clothes, just in case.

The Imagination Playground is a great spot for parents on their own with two or more kids. There is just one way in and one way out.

For kids under 3, there’s a space called the Wiggle Room. You’ll need to remove your shoes or wear shoe covers if you go in there.

If you have a baby, the museum has a breastfeeding room. It’s located in the Family Discover Room, which you’ll have to pass through the Imagination Playground to get to. It’s cozy and has peaceful music playing over speakers.

When to go to Omaha Children’s Museum

Omaha Children’s Museum has two sets of hours – winter and summer hours. In the winter, the museum is closed on Mondays, and then is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The later weekend hours are new for 2019.

In the summer, the museum is open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Dancing in the Moving With Light exhibit at Omaha Children's Museum
The end-of-the-day parade held at the museum each summer included a brief dance at the Moving With Light exhibit.

Member hours: These are great… if you aren’t working a full-time, weekday job. Member hours are weekdays from 9 to 10 a.m. when the museum is open. So, in the winter, that’s every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. In the summer, Monday is also included.

If you’re a member, this is the ideal time to go. I’ve heard people say it’s like having the museum to yourself. Monday mornings in the summer are the best of the best.

If you’re not a member, though, weekdays are still going to be the best time to visit. In the winter, this is especially the case. When to time the visit depends on your kids, really. When they were younger, they got up early and took ridiculously long naps, so afternoons were straight out for going to the museum.

But let me tell you – those last few hours of the day? Those are great times to visit. The morning crowd typically leaves around lunch time (AKA, nap time), leaving the great parking spots open to boot.

Special events at Omaha Children’s Museum

Omaha Children’s Museum has special events almost monthly, and all but a handful are included with museum admission. That means, the events are free for member families.

The museum’s Friday Family Date Nights are popular events happening on select Fridays during the winter months. The hours for these events have expanded in 2019, so they now run from 4 to 8 p.m. I highly recommend arriving before 4 p.m. if you can manage it. Chances are good that your child will want to play first before doing any of the themed activities, so might as well let them.

Tip: You can visit even come earlier in the day, leave and then return. So, let’s say you visit in the afternoon, leave for dinner, and then return for themed activities. Totally acceptable. Just keep your admission stickers on.

For Friday Family Date Nights, and other events like Star Wars Night, you do not need to purchase tickets in advance. Just show up and buy them at the front desk.

Making flower crowns at Omaha Children's Museum
At one of the Worldfests at Omaha Children’s Museum, the Lithuanian area included making flower crowns.

Besides evening events, there are a few annual ones to look forward to. I love going to Worldfest with the kiddos each summer, as well as Tinkerfest. There is also an annual Little Scientist Day that ties in with NESci Fest. I know I’m missing a few others.

The museum has a few ticketed events that require pre-purchasing tickets. The most popular is the Fairytale Ball, held each summer. Kids (and many of their grown ups) dress up for it. It includes a dinner, tons of characters, crafts and horse-drawn carriage rides. You save about $15 off each ticket if you’re a member.

Eating at Omaha Children’s Museum

The museum has the Rainbow Cafe, located upstairs by the carousel. The prices are surprisingly low for museums or attractions, in my opinion. And there is a good amount of healthy options like sliced apples & dip, cheese sticks, and carrots & dip. And then, of course, there are the not-so-healthy options like pizza slices, large pretzels, and hot dogs.

I’ve eaten there a few times when I forget to bring my lunch to work. It’s easy to make healthy choices, but I often end up getting a pretzel and cheese sauce (because I’m weak).

New food in 2019: The museum’s cafe just added Mini Melts Ice Cream to its offering. This brand is similar to Dippin’ Dots, only creamier.

On the first floor, your offerings are limited to what’s available at the gift shop. This includes $1 popcorn. There’s also coffee available, and a little tip for winter visits, the coffee machine also makes delicious hot cocoa.

The good news is that it’s totally fine to bring outside food here and eat it in one of the designated dining areas. Please do not eat in any of the exhibits spaces. In the summer, I often eat at the picnic tables outside. The tables are next to the antique fire truck kids like play on.

There aren’t a whole lot of restaurants within walking distance of the museum, not at least any that I’d send you guys too. One of the closest is Block 16, and while it’s crazy delicious, you’ll likely encounter a line (and there’s no kid’s menu). You’re better off driving the short distance to the Old Market and trying one of these family-friendly restaurants.

Parking at Omaha Children’s Museum

The museum has two parking lots on the south side of the building. Parking in them is free. On the weekends and in the summer (and on school holidays), the parking lot of the elementary school across the street is available for free, overflow parking, as well.

On busy days, during the summer, and on the weekends, though, the free parking fills up. There are plenty of metered parking spots along the street, but of course, those cost money (except on Sundays). Timing your visit on one of those busy days may help you snag a parking spot in the main parking lots. I recommend visiting right after the lunch hour, say around 1 p.m. Why? Because families often leave around lunch in order to get home in time for naps.

What makes Omaha Children’s Museum unique?

Very few children’s museums have as many special exhibits each year. In Omaha, there are two big special exhibits in the larger, upstairs space each year. On the lower level, there’s a smaller exhibits space that changes more frequently, and usually includes something seasonal. So, for Halloween, there’s Cobweb Castle and at Christmas time, there’s Santa’s Magic.

Omaha Children's Museum's light piano.
Don’t skip playing a song or two on the museum’s light piano.

The museum is also one of the few to design and build their own exhibits (well, for bigger pieces, they design and then hire places like Heartland Scenic Studio to build them). These exhibits tend to be more hands-on and less branded. They occasionally rent an exhibit, and that’s when you’ll typically see the brand name characters involved.

Upcoming special exhibits include:

Attic Adventures (March 2 through Sept. 1, 2019)

Enchanted Kingdom (summer 2019)

Digging’ Dinos (October 2019 through mid-April 2020)

OCM Family Memberships

If there’s a chance your family is going to visit more than two or three times in one year, I highly recommend getting a membership. Even if you think you’ll only visit twice – get one.

Why? Your membership gets you into other museums and science centers around the country for FREE (they have to belong to the Association of Science and Technology Centers and be more than 90 miles from your home museum). This is why I also recommend getting a family membership even if you have a kid on the verge of aging out (or if your oldest has already aged out). The regular Family Membership gets you reciprocal membership benefits to more than 250 science centers and technology centers. Some of the places I’ve used the reciprocal membership include the Science Center of Iowa and The Field Museum. I explain it better in this post.

If you buy a Patron Family Membership, which costs more, you also get discounted admission into children’s museums that are in the Association of Children’s Museums. ACM doesn’t give you free admission for up to four people, though. It’s usually 50% off. It’s still a nice perk.

I wrote an entire post about the perks of an Omaha Children’s Museum membership; read it to learn about the discounts on camps, birthdays, gift shop purchases, etc.

Discounts to Omaha Children’s Museum

People often ask about free days at Omaha Children’s Museum. Well, hate to break it to you, but there aren’t many free days. The only one is the first Sunday in December during the Omaha Lights Festival’s Family Festival. As you can imagine, it gets very busy and parking is hard to come by.

Your best bet, if you’re local, is to have an Omaha Public Library card. On certain times of the year, each OPL branch has a limited amount of family passes to check out. The passes admit up to four people, and you must show your library card when you bring it to the museum. There are some limits to it – you have to be 18 and older, for instance; and you can only check one out per “wave” of passes.

Other libraries that have similar pass programs include Council Bluffs Public Library and Carter Lake Public Library.

If you’re not local, I recommend downloading the Visit Omaha app called the Omaha Savings App. You can save money on each ticket for up to six people.

Better yet, if you have a membership to a science center that might belong to the ASCT, use it to get in free! Remember, there are rules that apply, so if your ASCT membership is to a museum closer than 90 miles of OCM, it won’t get you in for free.

Things to know before you visit Omaha Children's Museum - Get tips on when to go, dining options, and parking suggestions #Omaha #Nebraska #familytime

Want more Omaha Children’s Museum tips?

I could write another 1,000-word post about the museum, but I’d rather not. Leave me a comment if you have a specific question for me to answer. I’m happy to help!

If you go

Omaha Children’s Museum

Where: 500 S. 20th St.

Cost: $13 (ages 2 to 59), $12 (seniors), and FREE for kids under 24 months and members.

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February 11, 2019

7 Things To Look For In Omaha Childcare

The days of searching for daycare in Omaha are fresh in my mind. Walking in wide-eyed to each place, not knowing what things I should be looking for, what signs to note for a “good center” and a “bad center.” I asked for recommendations, but ultimately, I just went with my gut. And how a center makes you feel is important, but there are some universal things you should consider beyond the happy vibe a place gives off. I talked with Jewel McKercher, a director at Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center in Omaha and Elkhorn, to help me fine-tune this list.

Tips for finding the right child care for your family in Omaha | Expert tips on what to look for when you tour a center #Omaha #Nebraska #daycare

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Premier Academy. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Before you start looking for childcare

Congrats! You’re having a baby! Or you’ve had your baby. Either way, I bet you’re exhausted and, maybe, overwhelmed. Well, hopefully I can help with this task you have in front of you: Finding the right childcare center.

It’s an important task trying to find a childcare center where your kid is going to be happy. Photo courtesy Premier Academy

Step 1 – Start early.

I was barely showing when we started touring different centers in downtown and Midtown Omaha. For my search, I asked friends and co-workers and family and anyone who looked pretty trustworthy. I didn’t realize there were more resources like local experts you can talk to, as well. McKercher suggested you contact Child Care Resource and Referral Agency to get started. They’ll give you facts and a list of childcare options that may meet your needs.

Step 2 – What are your needs?

Ah, see in Step 1, I said you’d contact the referral agency to get started, but you’ll have to have an idea of what your needs are. For me, location was important, as well as flexibility with cloth diapers, for instance. What are your needs?

Step 3 – Make calls.

Once you have a list of places that may fit your needs, it’s time to lineup a tour. Call each place to schedule an appointment.

Things to look for in an Omaha childcare center

Time to tour! Yay! (Or not. I was totally overwhelmed when I started looking at childcare centers). Expect your tour to take around 20 minutes. You can do this.

Here’s what to look for:

The center as a whole

Check if the center is licensed or regulated. “Licensure ensures that the center is registered and has met or exceeded the state’s local requirements,” said McKercher. She also said it’s advisable to contact the state to see if the center has any complaints filed against it.

The employees

You want to know who works there, because these are the people who will spend the most time with your child. McKercher said the State of Nebraska requires the following background checks, at minimum: Department of Health and Human Services Central Registry Check; Nebraska State Sex Offender Registry; and Nebraska State Patrol Criminal History. 

Also ask about any special training employees are required to have. “It is important for providers to have the following training: Pediatric CPR, Pediatric First Aid, Child Abuse prevention; Safe With You training, which is required by the State of Nebraska; and Continuing Education in the field of Early Childhood Education,” said McKercher.

Also be aware of the employee turnover rate. “Consistency is extremely important to children and the environment in which they learn best,” said McKercher. “Getting used to new teachers takes time and energy that could be spent learning.”

Communication

I can’t tell you how delighted I was to get updates at the end of the day from my kids’ teachers. Back in my day (not too long ago), it was all paper and an occasional emailed picture. At places like Premier Academy, teachers have tablets that make it easy to send updates to parents, like photos or a video of a fun activity.

So, check how the center’s teachers communicate with parents. McKercher said parents should get a daily report of their child’s day. It should highlight what they ate and drank, lessons or curriculum, and if the child is younger, how many diaper changes.

How’s the classroom?

Most parents eyeball the teacher to student ratio in things like swim lessons, but it’s also a very important thing to keep low in childcare, too.

When you’re touring a childcare center, look into what the teacher to child ratio. “The fewer children the better for your child,” said McKercher. “You want your child to get plenty of attention and care.”

McKercher said babies need a teacher to child ratio of 1:4, while 4-year-olds can do well with a ratio of 1:12.

Kids drawing with sidewalk chalk at Premier Academy in Omaha
Drawing with sidewalk chalk outside at Premier Academy in Omaha. Photo courtesy Premier Academy

The curriculum

And while you’re in the classroom, ask about the curriculum. Yeah, we’re talking about toddlers, but there are sound practices on how youngsters learn best and develop essential skills. McKercher suggested you ask if the center incorporates the Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines into the curriculum.

On top of that, ask what the Kindergarten Readiness rate is, and how prepared or advanced the students are when beginning Kindergarten. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even think to ask that when I was looking!

Meals at the daycare

Find out how the food is prepared and how healthy it is. McKercher said you can ask for the menu. Also ask if kids are encouraged to try different fruits and vegetables.

One of my kids had trouble with dairy early on, so when I was looking for a center, I wanted to be sure I could bring non-dairy drinks for him (most should be fine with this).

Kids having lunch at Omaha childcare center Premier Academy
Lunch time at Premier Academy in Omaha. Photo courtesy Premier Academy

The outdoor space

When you look at that outdoor space, note if it’s fenced-in and if the equipment looks safe. McKercher suggested asking if the caregivers can see the entire playground and all the children playing. You should also ask how often they go outside.

Childcare expert gives tips on what to look for in a daycare center in Omaha | Guide to researching and touring daycare centers #childcare #Nebraska

My final thoughts on what to look for

I hope this list gives you plenty of ideas for things to look for and questions to ask when you’re looking at a daycare center. It’s an important decision that may be easy to make or may take some time researching. Good luck!

About the post sponsor

I learned a lot just interviewing Jewel McKercher from Premier Academy in Omaha. If you thought she was helpful, too, and you happen to be in the market for childcare, I encourage you to check out her employer and see if Premier is the right fit for you!

Exterior of Premier Academy, a daycare center with locations in Omaha and Elkhorn, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Premier Academy

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