Sometimes, mornings are playtime for Deborah Tenino, a mom-on-the-go and restaurant owner.

Tenino owns Contigo, 1745 E. River Road, and works evenings, leaving the kids with husband Jesse Barrios. Mornings are reserved for special time with 10-year-old Gianluca and the 2-year-old twins, Sophia and Grace.

They grocery shop and cook — mom and kids all love cooking — but it’s the Children’s Museum Tucson that brings this family back again and again.

“With three kids and trying to find something to interest all of them, that’s a tough one,” Tenino said.

The Children’s Museum does the trick.

With exhibits about trains, art and electricity, among others, the museum has entertained Tucson’s kids since 1986.

Tenino has been taking the kids to the Children’s Museum since they started moving. They’re members and swing by multiple times a week. In fact, Tenino’s father actually helped get the museum started when she was in high school.

Gianluca loves building with the wooden Kapla blocks. As a Lego lover and architecture aficionado, the blocks keep him happy. The girls adore Wee World, a padded area for wobbly climbers, but can play anywhere, running their favorite route through the museum each visit. Though the kids all have manners for a full-blown adult museum — thanks to their upbringing around fine-dining restaurants — the Children’s Museum gives them a chance to cut loose.

The girls especially love goofing around a display with air vents that keep ping-pong balls aloft.

“My girls have curly hair,” Tenino said, explaining that the toddlers stick their faces in the vents, making their hair stand up. “And then they giggle.”

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at or 573-4357.

Writing about Tucson's heart and soul — its people, its kindness, its faith — for #ThisIsTucson.