BFK News

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A lot of giggles, memories and milestones can happen in 25 years, and The Building for Kids (BFK) is celebrating them all! It is not just a celebration for the BFK, but for the community that created and supports it. Throughout the year several exciting events and additions will take place, including the 25th Birthday Celebration and the first expansion in over 10 years.

On November 4, the BFK will be throwing a birthday party like no other. The event, which goes from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., will include the unveiling of the new Innovation Lab, a chance for adults to check out the BFK and play on the exhibits, highlights from programs and more. Guest must be 21 or older, but a kid at heart. Tickets are $10 a person, or two for $15. Click here for tickets.

And the day after is for the kids! STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Free Day, supported by The Boldt Company and Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, is November 5 from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. (10 a.m. – 12 p.m. is Members only). Part of the Wisconsin Science Festival, this free admission day will let kids investigate different interactive STEM activities and programming, including a visit by Professor Gizmo. Plus they can check out the newly opened Innovation Lab.

The BFK’s first addition in over 10 years, the Innovation Lab, is a space for kids and their adults to explore STEM. Details will be released weekly about the Lab on social media and the BFK website, with the final unveil on November 4 at the 25th Birthday Celebration. The Innovation Lab expansion is possible because of support from the Bemis Company, Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, The Boldt Company, Great Northern Corporation, Neenah Foundry, Doug and Carla Salmon Foundation, Secura Insurance, Miller Electric Manufacturing Company, Plexus Corp., Hartwig Family Foundation, School Specialty, US Venture, WE Energies Foundation, GEI Consultants, Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance and American Transmission Company.

The Innovation Lab is just one of the exciting things in progress for the 25th year. Six exhibits are currently in different stages of development, with all scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

  • The Big Rig Garage, supported by L3 D.P. Associates and Schneider National, will be a garage like no other, complete with a semi truck driving simulator.
  • Construction Junction, supported by The Boldt Company, will build off of the existing crane and add a truck and more building space and interactive construction activities.
  • The da Vinci Studio will get an update, supported by School Specialty, which will include more ways for kids to express their creativity.
  • Kwik Trip, supported by Kwik Trip, Inc., will be updated and incorporate more math, colors and shapes into the exhibit.
  • Move It, supported by AZCO Inc., will see the addition of more simple machines fun.
  • Happy Baby Garden, supported by Kimberly-Clark, will get a complete renovation, letting toddlers have around-the-world adventures in this specially created exhibit space for ages 0 – 3.

The planning for the 25th birthday started several years ago with the goal to have all of the existing exhibits renovated or updated for the anniversary year. The first addition happened in fall 2015 with the Fox Communities Credit Union’s Littlest Branch. Shortly after, the ThedaCare Physicians Doll Hospital was updated. In September 2016, the Gulfstream Aircraft, Pierce Fire Truck and Thrivent Mutual Funds Water Gallery exhibits re-opened after updates and renovations.

Because of the generous support of the community, by the end of 2018 over $2.5 million in updates, additions and renovations will have been completed at the BFK.

“The support we have received is an indicator of how important child development and family are in the community,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFK. “As an organization, we would not be where we are without that support, including donations, volunteers and community partnerships.”

The BFK birthday is not just about creating interactive exhibits, but also hands-on, innovative programs and events. New programs will add more art and STEM-focused programming to the program line-up, including studio time where kids will be able to use materials that might not otherwise be available to them. The 25th year will also see more and expanded events, including the 10th annual Children’s Parade.

Another focus of the BFK is continuing to remove financial barriers for families going through difficult times. Initiatives include Family Access Memberships and involvement in the Museums for All program with the Association of Children’s Museums. As well as grant programs for schools with high free and reduced lunch rates to visit the BFK for field trips and Discovery Classes. Outreach programs weekly visit community partners like Homeless Connections and Harbor House to bring hands-on learning to kids and families that are in times of crisis.

“As we look forward, the BFK will continue to be a resource for all families,” said Bittner. “We strive to create a space and programs where families can forget about the outside world for a bit and focus on the world of play. Somewhere that lets them create memories and form lasting bonds.”

More BFK exhibit announcements, programs and events will be listed throughout the year on social media and here on our website!

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Looking to jam? The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will have free admission for Music Makers Free Day Saturday, August 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This event, created in partnership with Mile of Music, will feature music programs from the Mile of Music Education Team, plus other music and art activities.

Along with the musical programs that will be happening all day long, families can enjoy the BFKCM exhibits and create musical instruments in the da Vinci Studio.

“Music supports learning,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFKCM. “It involves more than singing or playing an instrument. It touches on many areas of development such as social, emotional, motor and language. It also encourages creativity, confidence and self-expression.”


Schedule of events:

9:30 a.m. – Mini Mile of Music Sing Along

Songs, dancing, and music games for little ones.

10:30 a.m. – Stories that Sing

Watch, listen and interact with lively storytellers as they bring picture books to life with song, dance and a ton of fun.

11:30 a.m. – Puddle Jumpers

Puddle Jumpers is an early learning program featuring music, movement, language and storytelling.

2:30 p.m. – Rhythm Sticks & Scarves

Come sing, move, and find your rhythm in this colorful, music making session.

3:30 p.m. – Mini Mariachi

Learn all about Mariachi music and instruments.

Music Makers Free Day is possible because of the support of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., Octoberfest and U.S. Bank. Plus additional support from the Appleton Noon Optimist Club and Walmart.


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The community is invited to the Children’s Parade on Wednesday, July 26 where kids 12 and under will be expressing their imaginations by parading in costume, riding decorated bikes or other non-motorized transportation in the 9th Annual Children’s Parade presented by ThedaCare. Family members can also join the fun in costumes or by pushing young parade participates in adorned strollers or wagons.

The parade line up begins at 5:15 p.m. in Houdini Plaza. The parade starts at 6 p.m. with participants marching east on College Avenue, turning left on Drew Street and ending in City Park. Prizes will be awarded for individual and group floats for creativity, confidence, imagination and spirit.

After the parade, there will be music with 95.9 KISS FM and a Fox Valley Food Truck Rally in City Park. Plus family activities including building activities with the Appleton Public Library, Mexican tissue flower creation with Child Care Resources & Referral, paper airplanes and origami frogs with the Paper Discovery Center, disc golf tutorial with the Greater Fox Valley Disc Golf Club, Dr. Seuss activities with Xavier Theatre Academy, games with The Building for Kids and more. “The Lego Batman Movie” will play at dusk.


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It’s time to unleash your imagination and get your floats ready for the 9th Annual Children’s Parade on Wednesday, July 26 in downtown Appleton. Presented by ThedaCare, the Parade invites families to express their creativity by parading in costume, riding decorated bikes or other non-motorized transportation. Registration is free, but required, at

The parade line up begins at 5:15 p.m. in Houdini Plaza. The parade steps off at 6 p.m. with participants marching east on College Avenue, turning left on Drew Street and ending in City Park. In City Park after the Parade, there will be a Fox Valley Food Truck Rally, music with 95.9 KISS FM and family activities. “The Lego Batman Movie” will play at dusk.

“This is one of our favorite events,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at The Building for Kids Children’s Museum. “Through the years we have seen pirates, princesses, heroes and everything in between. But the best part is seeing the excitement on the kid’s faces as they parade down College Avenue with their families and the community that comes out to cheer them on.”

Prizes will be awarded for individual and group floats for creativity, confidence, imagination and spirit.

Children’s Parade is part of Children’s Week, an annual community-wide celebration of kids.

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The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will be celebrating what makes us unique at Diversity Discovery Free Day on Saturday, May 6 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In partnership with Celebrate Diversity and University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, with the support of the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, this free admission day will feature all the fun of the BFKCM plus local non-profits and community groups with hands-on activities for families to learn, discover and celebrate diversity.

Along with the family-friendly, interactive activities, The Mielke Family Theater will have different programs including multicultural story time with the Appleton Public Library, the Oneida Nation Dancers and the Lawrence University Gamelan.

“The Building for Kids is a place where families can come and celebrate who they are every day,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFKCM. “Diversity Discovery Free Day is a way to celebrate all of the different cultures and traditions make up the tapestry of our community.”

Diversity Discovery Free Day is supported by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region, Bemis Company Foundation, Mielke Family Foundation, Associated Bank, City Café, Schneider National Foundation and Shopko Foundation.

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Big Arts in the Little Apple, a collaborative program between The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) and the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, will be unveiling a community-wide art exhibit on April 5. Over 650 original pieces were created by Appleton Area School District 3rd and 4th grade students this past fall and will be displayed in various places in the community through May 15.

The program brought art and music with a new twist into the Appleton Public Schools. Students were challenged to listen to, “Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), TrV 190, Op. 40” an orchestral tone poem composed by Richard Strauss, and then create visual art inspired by the music. The piece musically depicts the adventures, battles, loves and the life of a hero. As students listened they were encouraged think about and visualize the different elements in the music, such as melody, rhythm, dynamics, tone color, instrumentation and texture, and use that to create their pieces.

The art pieces inspired by “Ein Heldenleben” range from abstract to more figurative, bright colors to more muted tones. Over 35 locations are housing the unique pieces, most being in downtown Appleton. A map featuring all the locations can be found at or at one of the art locations.

“Big Arts in the Little Apple encouraged students to explore different ways to spark inspiration and creativity,” said Jarrad Bittner, executive director for the BFKCM. “Being able to have helped create this experience for the students, and then share their art with the community has been a very rewarding experience.”

On May 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., all of the pieces will be exhibited at the BFKCM for Art on the Town. The art reception will also feature live performances by members of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, an instrument petting zoo hosted by Heid Music and more.

Big Arts in the Little Apple was made possible with the generous support of the Appleton Area School District, Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Heid Music, Mielke Family Foundation, Octoberfest, Richeson School of Art & Gallery and School Specialty.

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The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) knows that adulting can be hard. In a new event series, Adult Recess, the BFKCM will give adults the chance to be a kid again, if only for one night. The first in the series is a 1920s Casino Night on Friday, February 10, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Other dates in the series are May 12, August 11 and November 4, which will be the 25th Anniversary celebration for the BFKCM.

Adults 21 and older are invited to try their hand at roulette, poker, blackjack and craps. The night will also include ice cream from Crazy Sweet, Moonshine Mixology with The Shinery, 1920s dance lessons from Inspiration Dance and Fitness, photo booth, hor d’oeuvres and cash bar. Plus the excuse to become a fire fighter, race boats in the water gallery, climb in the tree house and more.

“Adult Recess is a chance for us to create unique and fun events for the community,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “It also lets us showcase the Museum for people that might not otherwise have an opportunity to visit. Or for parents that want to play without sharing with the kids.”

Tickets for Adult Recess are $15 and can be purchased at, by calling 920-734-3226 ext. 10 or by stopping at the BFKCM.

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The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) had quite a year in 2016 and is looking forward to a busy 2017. Many changes took place in 2016 including a new Pierce Fire Truck, renovated Thrivent Mutual Funds Water Gallery (including a new water table), renovated Gulfstream Aircraft and the addition of a Building Block Wall in Construction Junction. The exhibit renovations also take into consideration kids of differing abilities, making it easier for everyone to come play. And those are just some of the most noticeable changes.

The BFKCM has added new and exciting programs to their line-up including Busy Bees, an interactive program that incorporates elements of science to the hands-on activities; Suzuki, which uses the Suzuki method to encourage different skills and concept development and Big Arts in the Little Apple, which helped inspire visual arts and music appreciation in the Appleton School District. Existing programs like Puddle Jumpers, Storybook Stars, Spectrum Saturday and SPARK! have seen an increase in programs, expanded content and increased attendance.

Thanks to community support, the BFKCM hosted more free and reduced admission days than ever before. This allowed almost 8,000 visitors to enjoy the Museum that might not have otherwise done so.

All of these changes helped the BFKCM see an increase in attendance and memberships. Looking forward to 2017, the BFKCM is planning on more of the same. Which means anything but.

dsc07755“The Museum had an excellent year in 2016,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “And we are planning an even better 2017. We take the commitment to our community very seriously. Whether through programs and events, new and exciting exhibits or different partnerships, we want to serve our community in the best way possible.”

The BFKCM will be closed for its annual maintenance in September 2017 and there are already exhibits on the schedule for renovations including the Boldt Crane in Construction Junction, Huggies Happy Baby Garden, Kwik Trip, Move It by AZCO and the Renewable Energy House. The Gulfstream Aircraft will be going through stage two of its renovation that will see the addition of flight simulators to the exhibit. Some renovations will be minor, updating the space and adding some new elements. But some will be major, with the exhibits being completely reimagined and redesigned.

“We don’t want to get to a place where the Museum feels stagnant,” said Michael Wartgow, Chief Operating Officer for the BFKCM. “Some of our exhibits, especially new ones, take months, if not a year or longer to go from concept to completion. We always want to make sure that we give enough time for the creative process.”

Programs currently in development for 2017 include art classes, summer camps and more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming. Also in the beginning stages of development is a STEM Lab, which will include space for kids to try different scientific and engineering experiments, as well as have classes and programs.

As for events, February will bring the first Adult Recess, an event crafted to give the adults a little play time. Each of the quarterly events will have a different theme and activities. The first in the series is a 1920’s Casino Night on February 10. Adult Recess is a great way to introduce the BFKCM to adults that might not otherwise have a reason for visiting, or to give parents some time to play without having to share with their kids.

Pete the Cat will be visiting on March 30 and 31 for Pete’s Pizza Party. Kids can come and enjoy story time, activities and pizza with Pete. This is one of several events that the BFKCM has held outside their regular admission hours. Surveys of Members and the community found people were looking for more programs in the evening. This led the Museum to have more late closings and after hours programming.

All this leads into the 25th Anniversary Celebration on November 4, 2017. The BFKCM will be asking the community to help them prepare for this event by sharing photos and memories of the Museum. These will be collected and curated into an exhibit to highlight the anniversary, and create excitement for the future.

“We want the community to be involved in our 25th Anniversary Celebration,” said Bittner. “It is because of them that we were created, that we have been around this long and that we have been able to do the amazing things that we do. This is not just a Museum celebration, it’s a community celebration.”

After all this activity, what is left for 2018? Plans are already in the works for a traveling exhibit, renovations to the da Vinci Studio and more.


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Celebrate the New Year at The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) with Noodles Around the World on December 31 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sponsored by Noodles & Company, the event will include different noodle dishes every hour including Penne Rosa, Bangkok Curry and Wisconsin Mac & Cheese.

There will be countdowns and ball drops at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., with dance parties and parades around the BFKCM to ring in the new year.

Noodles Around the World is included with BFKCM daily admission or membership. The BFKCM will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

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We will host a very Grinch-y guest for brunch on Saturday, December 17 from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Tickets for Brunch with the Grinch are on sale now for $12.50 per person or $5 for Museum members. The event includes breakfast, story time with the Grinch, activities, crafts and a Grinch-themed photo booth. Ticket price also covers Museum admission, so families can stay and play after the event.

Brunch times will be 9:15 a.m., 8:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 1:15 p.m., with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” story times at 10:15 a.m., 12 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at, by calling 920-734-3226 ext. 10 or by stopping at the BFKCM.

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