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Play On: The Importance of Adult-Only Play Events at Children’s Museums

Thesis by Kelley Devon (2016)

Play is an important part of an adult visitor’s museum experience. While recent research shows that adult visitors benefit from opportunities to play much like their younger counterparts, many museums are slow to incorporate play into their exhibits and programming for adults. Recognizing the benefit of play for visitors, some children’s museums are beginning to host adult-only events so older visitors can play with their exhibits and experience their programs. The purpose of this research is to examine adult-only play events at Madison Children’s Museum, Hands On Children’s Museum, and Children’s Museum of Phoenix to understand the museums’ motivation to host these events, the benefits to adult visitors, and how museums in general can incorporate opportunities to play for their adult audience members. Results indicate that these adult-only play events are being well-received by audiences, increasing attendance numbers, and attracting new audiences to the museums. Findings also show that these events are financially lucrative for the museum and could be adapted for use by many museum types.


Keywords: adults, visitors, children’s museums, play, learning, research


Kelley, D. (2016). Play on: The importance of adult-only play events at children’s museums (Order No. 10138535). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1821306707). Retrieved from