The Wonder Cabinet

For ages 4 and under and their siblings

Welcome to The Wonder Cabinet: A FIRST 5 Early Learning Laboratory. This 3,100 square foot exhibition is dedicated to children ages 4 and under, and the adults who accompany them.

Children and their caregivers are invited to engage in hands-on exploration in a remarkable environment rich in materials and textures that inspire curiosity and imagination. Snuggle with a puppet and a good book, experiment in "The Sand Laboratory," touch natural wonders, step inside a child-sized kaleidoscope, and much, much more. Caregivers are encouraged to play with, as well as observe, their child as they make new discoveries visit, after visit.

Daily Programs

Art Studio

For ages 4 and under and their caregivers; siblings welcome.

11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
(Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. for Members only)

Ongoing: The Paint Wall

Small children love things "big." The paint wall allows many little hands to color a large area together. Children are encouraged to add on to other’s creations and add to our "communal canvas."


February 5th - March 2nd: Cloud Dough
Cloud Dough offers children an opportunity to explore a material that is not only soft and powdery, but strong and moldable! This awe-inspiring sensory experience can be a delight for toddlers and parents as well.

March 4th - March 30th: Spin Art
Children will be surprised by the designs they create using a simple salad spinner and some paints. Experiment with different colors to see how they blend together and with different speeds to see how the paint moves.

April 1st - May 4th: Ice Exploration
Ice is truly amazing when you take a look. In this sensory activity, children will have the opportunity to explore ice with their hands, tools and liquid watercolors. As children investigate how ice changes, they work as scientists asking questions and searching for answers.

Storytime in “The Forest”

12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Join CDM for a whimsical storytime, complete with engaging activities designed to capture the interest of children and to provide ideas for caregivers to try at home.

Infant Activities in “The Crawl Space”

12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Join CDM for fingerplays, songs and open-ended activities designed to delight your baby. Please note, "The Crawl Space" is an enclosed environment for babies, crawlers and pre-walkers.



The Wonder Cabinet was designed in partnership with local teachers, cultural groups, and children’s organizations. In the Travel Exhibit, dioramas highlight the diverse cultures of Silicon Valley. The boxes present an opportunity to identify both the similarities among people and their differences, fostering pride in self and respect for others.

Currently, the exhibit features dioramas designed in partnership with Vietnamese teachers from the Santa Clara Country Office of Education Head Start program.

The Wonder Cabinet was created as a learning environment – where children learn about their world, parents learn about their children, and the community learns how to best serve the needs of families and children.

“Wonder Wisdom” sheets located around the exhibit provide parents with hints to get the most out of the exhibit, and the “Wonder File” near the front of the exhibit houses many FIRST 5 Resources and The Wonder Cabinet handouts for parents, teachers and caregivers.

In The Wonder Cabinet, young children expand their imaginations as they use all of their senses to explore the environment. Rich, fine, high-quality sand in "The Sand Laboratory" provides a pleasurable, highly tactile learning experience.

Children learn the joy of reading, singing, and playing with language as they listen to storytimes with trained staff. At the natural history hexagon, children classify and categorize various natural objects by smells, colors, and textures. And, children can dance amidst colorful light and shadows.

The Wonder Cabinet Health Procedures

Children explore by putting things in their mouths. To help to keep our children healthy, sanitation procedures are ongoing in The Wonder Cabinet (and throughout the Museum). You can assist by putting any objects that have been in your child’s mouth into the specially-marked bins for immediate attention.

The Wonder Cabinet Sponsorship

The Wonder Cabinet was made possible through the support of FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, which developed a $1 million partnership with the Museum in 2003 to impact the learning and lives of the county's youngest citizens.

With this funding, the Museum has developed a number of innovative projects that focus on the cognitive, social and emotional development of children 0 – 5 as well as provide information and resources for the adults who live and work with them. The Wonder Cabinet is the most significant project from the partnership.

The Wonder Cabinet sponsor FIRST 5 offers a free kit for new parents, as well as information on Kindergarten readiness and a variety of valuable parenting resources at



Field trips

Next Steps Toward Teaching the Reggio Way, by Joanne Hendrick

Fine Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos, by Maryann F. Kohl

Bambini: The Italian Approach to Infant/Toddler Care, Lella Gandini, ed.


Related Programs
The Wonder Cabinet Schedule

Games & activities
The ABC Case Online

Crawl Space Fingerplays
Rhymes, songs and stories that will delight your baby.

The Wonder Cabinet Worksheets
Ideas on how to recreate our art studio activities at home

The Wonder Cabinet Wisdom Parent Resource Sheets

The Wonder Cabinet Tips
Some quick tips on ways to enjoy you and your child’s time in The Wonder Cabinet

Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years, by Laura Davis

Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Revised Edition: Birth to Age 5, Shelov, ed.

Touchpoints Three to Six: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development, by T. Berry Brazelton


Games & activities
The ABC Case Online


Picture books for preschoolers and toddlers:

I Went Walking, by Sue Williams

We're Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen

Listen to the Desert (Oye al Disierto), by Pat Mora

The Water Hole, by Graeme Base

Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis

From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle

Board books for babies and toddlers:

Little Green, by Keith Baker

Hush Little Baby, by Sylvia Long

Barnyard Banter, by Denise Fleming

Alphabet Books:

Alphabet Under Construction, by Denise Fleming

The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book, by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault