Midtown MarketStorybook StageTot SpotWaterWorksImagination StationAmbulanceCity Builders

Where young children learn to explore their world.


A destination for the youngest explorers and their favorite grown-ups opened on March 8, 2008. Designed with a cityscape theme, the new gallery offers an extraordinary collection of friendly exhibits and fun activities for young children ages 0-5 (babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers).

KidsPlace has many features sure to delight and engage children, including a crawling-climbing space for toddlers with an adjoining aquarium. A multi-level waterworks will encourage cause and effect reasoning and hands-on exploration of dams, spouts and water jets. Preschool visitors will be challenged to use their construction skills in the renovation of a child-sized three story home that resembles one of Harrisburg’s fine historic buildings. Young minds will be encouraged to imagine stories with their favorite characters on Storybook Stage, a theater that includes lighting effects, costumes and changing scenery. Finally, KidsPlace would not be complete without an ambulance to handle health emergencies as well as a Midtown Market with bins and shelving to hold a bounty of farm produce.

“Activities throughout the gallery provide a wide variety of age-appropriate mental and physical challenges that have been proven successful in many children’s museums,” said Steve Bishop, vice president of the Science Center. KidsPlace will immediately offer more than one third of families in Central Pennsylvania a place to call their own, where the youngest children and their parents can explore unique interactive learning experiences together, free from competition from older children.” KidsPlace is located on the Arcade level as guests enter through the science center gateway, permitting easy access for families with children in strollers. Signage offers parent and caregivers some simple tips on how to help their children get the most out of their visit to KidsPlace.

KidsPlace forms a crucial bridge between young families and a lifelong relationship with Whitaker Center,” said Dr. Michael Hanes,Whitaker Center president and CEO. An important goal of the Science Center’s Exhibit Master Plan is to generate new energy and interest in science. Our intent is to explore ways to create totally new science experiences for all of our visitors—young as well as mature learners.”

KidsPlace Gallery is made possible with the generous support of: The John Crain Kunkel Foundation, Inc., Harold A. McInnes, Dr. Denis J. Milke and Kristen Olewine Milke, The Hershey Company, Lois Lehrman Grass, Tres Bonne Annee, Drs. Michael and Madlyn Hanes, R. Timothy and Mary Webber Weston.

Midtown Market

This kid-sized version of Harrisburg’s famous Broad Street Market offers bins and shelving holding plastic produce items. Children can collect and sort items in little grocery baskets, weigh them on a working scale, and “check out” with a play cash register. On one side of the Midtown Market is a large aquarium tank with myriad colorful fish and other intriguing objects. The Midtown Market is an excellent developmental activity, where young children can mirror observed adult behavior and build knowledge and skills in role-playing, nutrition, life science, sorting, and fine motor control.


Storybook Stage

Inspiring expression, music and movement, this performing arts-oriented exhibit links to Whitaker’s mission as well as Harrisburg’s many outdoor festivals. It consists of a small riser with curtains, adjustable lights, easily changeable backdrops and bench seating for adults. An audio track narrates popular children’s stories that can be acted out by kids using props and costumes. Stuffee™, our nine-foot tall, blue-haired friend, is displayed nearby and makes periodic appearances on Storybook Stage. With a zipper down his tummy, Stuffee opens up to show how our bodies work and the importance of good nutrition. Stuffee is presented in cooperation with the Gift of Life Donor Program.

Tot Spot

This very popular and simple exhibit for babies and their parents offers a safe and comfortable foam-cushioned ‘gym’ that encourages crawling, exploration, collecting, sorting and “nesting” behavior. The aquarium in the adjoining Midtown Market offers toddlers a view of colorful fish.


This open-ended experiment area encourages cause-and-effect reasoning and increases familiarity with water.WaterWorks consists of four shallow rectangular tubs arranged to form a hollow square. Designed for young children of varying heights, the tubs have four levels, descending like stair steps, with water flowing from the highest to lowest and then back to the top tub again. The top tub allows parents and caregivers to place infants and toddlers in dry and secure seats within reach of the flowing water and colorful floating toys. The second tub gives preschoolers an opportunity to manipulate water flow by building their own dams and channels. The third tub lets young children experiment with water flow in pipes; kids can connect short pieces of plastic pipe to gentle water jets, creating their own flows and fountains. The lowest tub offers activities for very young children like pouring, floating and measuring.

Imagination Station

An arts and science activity corner where kids can make their own creations. The area includes a large work table with benches for kids and parents, a storage area for supplies, and kid-friendly instructions for a variety of projects.


A three-dimensional “ambulance” offers a cab area for steering and turning on/off lights and siren, and a rear area for fixing patients, putting on bandages, and related role playing.

City Building

One of Harrisburg’s fine historic homes is undergoing renovation, and kids are the construction workers! Filled with fine- and gross-motor activities that build coordination and self-confidence, this open-framed multi-level “house” invites kids to fill wall gaps with lightweight foam bricks, collect and move bricks around the “construction site” using tots’ wheelbarrows, raise them to the top floor with a pulley and basket, or dump them down the demolition chute to a bin below. Children can slide down a slide, crawl under the floor and hide out, talk to other kids through pvc “plumbing” in the walls, turn on an oversize light switch or ring the door bell.