At the Cayton we have a bold, ambitious and achievable mission.
To create a future where young people are nurtured at every age to become compassionate, confident human beings with the power to shape their lives and a desire to make the world a better place. Through hands-on learning, arts education and values-based exploration, we are helping young people understand complicated ideas and generate their own ideas, nurturing their moral compass, and encouraging them to think critically and to be responsible, engaged citizens.
The first museum of its kind in Los Angeles, the Cayton Children’s Museum offers 21,000 square feet of discovery-based exhibits, immersive play and hands-on learning for children ages 0-10. With robust public programs, workshops, classes, camps, and arts and cultural activities offered seven days a week, the museum is designed around core universal values, giving children, youth and families a unique space to practice being their best selves.
Close proximity to the Santa Monica Metro Expo Line and public transportation also enables the Cayton to reach more diverse neighborhoods of Los Angeles, ensuring that we can be a place where all children can thrive for the benefit of families, communities and the world.
Our story began in 1991 with a 600 square-foot play space in the Westside Jewish Community Center that was designed to bring young families together. Creating a space for young children soon gave way to a need to serve older youth beyond the museum walls, prompting the launch of youTHink—our youth development program that mobilizes students into action, both in and out of the classroom. As we became an anchor in the community, the Westside JCC proved too small for our big ambitions. In 2000, we moved into a 10,000 square-foot space in the Jewish Federation Building in Los Angeles and began to forge our founding identity, with great support from the Max and Pauline Zimmer Foundation.
In recent years, we found ourselves at yet another turning point. After nearly 20 years in the Jewish Federation Building, visitorship grew from 30,000 visitors in 2011 to nearly 90,000 with increased demand. The Zimmer had simply outgrown its walls and identity, showing us that we had to evolve to meet the needs of the children and families that made up our beloved community. Understanding the great opportunity ahead of us, we launched a $15 million capital campaign initiative to relocate the museum, fund operations during the transition, and strengthen our financial position for the future. From there, we began seeking our new home, eventually partnering with Macerich to bring the city’s premiere children’s museum to Santa Monica Place in the center of retail and hospitality.
The all-new and reimagined Cayton Children’s Museum in Downtown Santa Monica is named with support from Andrea and Barry Cayton and The Goldrich Family Foundation. Building off of the values and 30-year history of the former Zimmer Children’s Museum, the Cayton is designed to nurture core values in young visitors so they grow up to be brave and generous thinkers. It embodies the ethos that the world is our responsibility and everyone has something meaningful to contribute. This belief guides our exhibits, programs and culture as we double our practice and play space.
THE IMPACT OF PLAY
Children’s museums have long been recognized for their educational, economic and societal benefits. Nationally, they contribute $5.5 billion to annual economic activity and are a vital and rapidly expanding element of the cultural sector, hosting 30 million visitors each year. In the last decade, the number of children’s museums have doubled with nearly 70 new ones currently in development across the United States.
Studies show that children’s museums attract diverse audiences including local residents, domestic and international tourists, and schools—all of which seek the benefits of play that these institutions provide as a source of personal growth, development and character building. Children’s museums also have long-term economic impacts by improving educational outcomes and transforming neighborhoods by bringing different families together and by building partnerships across communities.
Children’s museums also fill gaps where public education is lacking. Today, public schools across the country have drastically cut or eliminated arts education due to lack of funding. With this stark reduction in arts funding for
public schools, there is a void in terms of childhood growth opportunities for individual expression and creativity. Studies show that play optimizes the cognitive, social, emotional and physical competencies that are fundamental to a child’s lifelong success. Play also improves “whole child readiness” by nurturing language and early math skills. It has even been shown to mitigate toxic stress and enhance a child’s resiliency so they can more easily adapt to change.
As community leaders, we have an unprecedented opportunity to provide this and future generations with a world-class children’s museum and youth programs that create positive change in our neighborhoods and city. Art and education are cultural cornerstones of all communities. At the Cayton, we are investing in the young people who will grow to inherit the diverse communities and enhance the economy we have worked together to build.