The Discovery Den is a family engagement play space for children ages 0-8. Families are encouraged to explore the natural world together through books, pretend play, making art and scientific inquiry.
Discovery Den opened in 2015 thanks in part to the generous support from the PNC Foundation through the Grow UP Great program.
Discovery Den zones are created to appeal to different ages and stages. Infants to curious 2nd graders will find something to engage and delight. Caregivers are encouraged to use the activities to play and learn together.
Discovery Den is located on Level 2 in the Natural History Hall. Discovery Den is free to explore and is open during Museum hours.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all families we have posted these rules:
Local families are welcome to register for the Small Explorers program, taking place in the Discovery Den on the second Saturday of the month. This playgroup is an opportunity for you to explore the Museum with your child and connect with other families for support. Families are encouraged to sign up for a full year of sessions to build knowledge, skills and relationships. To learn more, contact Susan Buckley at Susan.Kozak-Buckley@sos.nj.gov
Children ages 3-8 explore and learn about the natural world with books, building sets, fossil exploration and puzzles. Take notes and draw specimens just as Natural Scientists do in the field. On select days and times there may be guided science activities available.
Continue the research at home by creating a collection of rocks, shells or leaves. Open your own exhibit!
Coloring develops both gross and fine motor skills and helps your child practice color recognition. Both adults and children benefit from sitting together and talking while you color, its relaxing! Bring home your art as a souvenir or leave it hanging on the wall so you can say it was featured on exhibit at the NJ State Museum!
Here you will find a mirror for exploring movement, floor pillows to help babies sit up, age appropriate toys with a natural history theme and wall activities for toddlers to explore.
Infants can cuddle with you in the gliders or crawl and explore. When you talk or read to an infant, including newborns, you are helping their brain develop the connections it needs to understand language. Regular reading teaches new words and increases attention span.
Pretend you are at the shore in New Jersey – Is it day or night? Who are you with? What sounds do you hear in this environment? Go fishing, identify and play with marine animals and tell stories by the fire.
What do you see at the campsite? Plants, animals or insects? Talk with your child about size, shape and color of the natural environment they imagine.
Put on a show! Children can learn about NJ wildlife throughout the Den and demonstrate that knowledge or use their imagination in their original play.
Through imaginative play children explore feelings and develop social and cognitive skills.
Who will you be today? Choose an animal or a prehistoric creature. Maybe you are a gardener, fossil hunter or even an astronaut!
Engage your kids by asking how that creature behaves or what that person does on the job. If the child doesn’t know, help them find the answer by exploring books, activities and objects.
Look for the Small Explorers gallery guides available throughout the Museum to help your family explore the galleries before or after your play time. These guides are designed for children ages 0-5 and include objects to find with related activities you can do at home.