Imagine growing up in a log cabin, attending a one-room schoolhouse, bargaining at a trading post and journeying through the wilderness in a Conestoga wagon. You can, when you visit Kidsfirst Children’s Museum. Kidsfirst engages children’s imaginations through hands-on environments and provides fun ways for young ones to discover history.
In Kidsfirst, kids will find Pierre Navarre’s Cabin, named for the first European to settle permanently in the St. Joseph River Valley. The area is complete with a child-sized dining table, chair and bed, plus hands-on household items.
Hand-crafted furniture give an authentic feel to the 1830s one-room schoolhouse, adjacent to Navarre’s Cabin. An 1838 map of South Bend and McGuffey Readers can be explored in the schoolhouse.
Adjacent to the schoolhouse is the trading post of Lathrop Taylor, who was one of the founding fathers of South Bend. Like many of the first residents in South Bend, Lathrop Taylor was a fur trader who built a trading post along the St. Joseph River.
A major renovation completed in 2010 includes the addition of Peter Coleman’s livery stable and farrier shop. Here, kids learn about Peter Coleman, the first local African American settler. His trade, among the most essential on the frontier, can be “practiced” using the new brick forge, shoeing horse, and mountable, saddled “pony.”
Kids can also explore Chief Leopold Pokagon’s wigwam and “navigate” the St. Joseph River in a life-sized birch-bark canoe.
Kidsfirst is staffed with an interpreter who can facilitate educational programs for children, families, and school groups by leading interactive presentations and role-playing activities. The Pioneer Village areas are wheelchair accessible to meet current American Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
Kidsfirst hours are 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday. School groups may schedule tours on Tuesday and Thursday. Kidsfirst Children’s Museum can no longer be rented for birthday parties.