Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ring in the New Year and Register for Just for Grown Ups with Lilian Katz, Ph.D

"Nurture Learning By Developing Children's Innate Dispositions"
An Evening with International Leader in Early Childhood Education,
Lilian Katz, Ph.D

Thursday, January 22, 2009 7:00-8:30 pm
at TELLABS (1415 West Diehl Road, Naperville, IL)

Register now to ensure you don't miss Dr. Katz's discussion on how to support the inextricable connection between knowledge, skills and dispositions in young children so that they become life-long learners. More information on this thoughtful discussion can be found on the DCM website or by clicking here. Additionally, you may post your questions for Dr. Katz in the comments section of DCM's Blog, How Learning Comes in to Play!

To register, please call: (630) 637-8000 ext.0
Advance Sale Tickets: $15/Member $20/Nonmember
Day of Presentation Tickets: $20/Member $25/Nonmember
DCM program cancellation policies apply.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Risk-Taking Relates to Creativity and Learning

Allowing children to take some risks is important for their overall development. In fact, Bay Area Discovery Museum recently published its Top 5 Reasons It's Okay for Kids to Take Risks, following the UK's major study by Play England (part of the National Children's Bureau) and an article in Sunday's The Observer.

Since then, another blog, Open Education has also discussed learning and growing as risky business. In this post, they quoted the study Understanding the Risk Aversion to Risk and also share how Gever Tulley has created a list of "five dangerous things we should let our kids do" and founded a week-long camp called the Tinkering School, where he puts power tools in the hands of second graders. Tulley's camp and the importance of risk-taking have also been featured on NPR's All Things Considered.

While allowing children to take some risks is important, understanding your child's limits is important as well. So how do you determine what risks to allow and encourage your child to take? Here are four things to think about before you decide:

1.) Trust Your Instincts
No one understands your child’s abilities and skills better than you! You also can recognize previous experiences that may make taking risks more challenging. Watch and listen for your child’s cues when deciding whether or not to encourage him to take a risk.

2.) Assess the Situation Together
Talk to your child about the risk and its consequences. Encourage her to share what she thinks would be the best way to respond. This communicates your confidence in her as an active and competent learner. These floors look really slippery. How do you think we should move through this area? I think you are right. We better move slowly through here or else we might fall.

3.) Consider What Could Go Right
Sometimes adults’ own fears can dictate decisions made related to risk-taking. To help recognize the value of the risk, remember to ask yourself—What could go right? As important as it is to ask what could go wrong, it is even more essential to recognize that removing or avoiding the risk may only postpone learning the consequence, skill or how to problem solve the situation.

4.) Model Making Mistakes and Learning From Them
Treat mistakes as learning experiences. You might even share with your child a similar experience you have had. Oops! It looks like there was just too much water in the cup that time. How much water might you try putting in the cup next time to prevent it from spilling?

Friday, December 5, 2008

This Season Give Toys that Teach

Toys are tools for the young. When chosen according to a child's needs, wants or interests they can inspire curiosity and creativity as well as foster motor development, problem solving and thinking skills.

Here are a few tips to guide you as you choose toys that teach your child:

Which Toys for What Age?
According to NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), each child grows at a different pace, and knowing how your child plays or uses materials will help you choose the most appropriate toys for him/her.

Research has demonstrated that there are some features of toys that are preferred by children, depending on their age/current stage of development. These are appealing, interesting, and appropriate for their physical capacities.

The following are toys preferred by specific age groups:


  • Infants learn so much from watching themselves or watching others' faces. Unbreakable mirrors that can attach to cribs or changing areas, simple dolls or stuffed animals are often preferred.
  • Younger infants often find simple rhythm instruments that they can kick, bat or shake interesting.
  • Older infants might prefer objects which they can manipulate, put in/take out, or push. These children enjoy nesting cups, stacking blocks or balls to pass or roll.


  • Toddlers are on the move! As they become more capable of moving independently, toddlers want to practice these skills as they play. Toddlers prefer toys such as push- or pull-toys and riding toys that they can move themselves.
  • Older toddlers may begin role-playing with play objects. They may enjoy dressing or pretending to feed a doll, talking on a toy phone or "building" using toddler tools. Children at this age may also prefer role-play using other pretend play toys such as farm animals or vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.).
  • Older toddlers may also enjoy exploring art materials, including paints, crayons, play-doh and/or rhythm instruments.


  • At this age, children often enjoy extended periods of dramatic play. Props and materials to enhance the experience can include dolls, clothing accessories, large blocks, puppets, kitchen accessories/play food, play money, etc.
  • Preschoolers also may prefer building using a variety of construction toys, including wooden or interlocking blocks.
  • Children might enjoy experimenting with sand and water play materials (cups, strainers, funnels, fish, scoops, etc.).
  • Children are more capable of manipulating smaller objects and may enjoy a variety of puzzles, art materials, patterning tiles or stringing/weaving sets, and sorting or matching small objects.
  • Preschoolers prefer beginner board games. Older preschoolers may also begin playing card games (Old Maid, Go Fish, etc.).

Kindergarteners/School-Age Children

  • Children prefer more specific props and costumes for dramatic play schemes.
  • School-age children prefer to play with action figures.
  • Kindergarteners prefer building more elaborate, detailed structures/models using a variety of construction blocks and toys, wood and real tools (under supervision).
  • Children prefer arts and crafts with more complex materials.
  • Children are more capable of manipulating smaller objects and may enjoy a variety of puzzles, patterning tiles or stringing/weaving sets, sorting or matching small objects.
  • Many prefer guessing games, strategy games or games related to math/words.

(Sources: Early Years are Learning Years Toys: Tools for Learning and The Right Stuff for Children Birth to 8).

Choose Child-Powered Before Battery-Powered

Child-powered toys are those driven by a child's own creativity, imagination or logic. They are more "open-ended," allowing your child to take lead of the play, exploring and mastering the skills at his/her own pace. Many times child-powered toys also allow others (parents, family, friends) to join in the fun and take part in the learning experience. Finally, child-powered toys are usually a better value for parents because they rarely have an age limit. Blocks, dramatic play accessories, art supplies, and pattern blocks are all great examples of timeless treasures - that do not need batteries.

(Source: Toy Action Guide http://truceteachers.org)

Safety First!

According to U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), "While most toys on store shelves are safe, we continue to find toys that pose a range of safety hazards to small children. As a result, parents and other child-care providers need to remain vigilant in order to prevent toy-related deaths and injuries." The group's pamphlet, "Tips for Toy Safety" can provide families with more information on basic toy safety information. For specific information on toy recalls, check out the Illinois Attorney General's "Play It Safe: Product Recall Guide."

What Are Some of Your Child's Favorite Toys that Teach?

Does your child have a favorite "timeless treasure," an open-ended toy that he/she has or continues to learn by using? Share these by clicking on the "comments" section below.

Did You Know? You Can Find Great Toys at the Explorer Store!
DCM's Explorer Store (found directly across from Visitor Services) is a great place to find creative, fun and educational toys and items related to the Museum's mission. Store hours coincide with Museum hours and admission is never charged to shop the store.

Remember: DCM members receive a 10 % discount at the Explorer Store!

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Nurture Learning By Developing Children's
Innate Dispositions"
An Evening with International Leader
in Early Childhood Education,
Lilian Katz, Ph.D

Thursday, January 22, 2009 7:00-8:30 pm
at TELLABS (1415 West Diehl Road, Naperville, IL)

DCM welcomes Dr. Katz for a practical discussion of how to apply what parents know to develop an active learning partnership with their children. She believes that all children have innate learning dispositions and that how we nurture those dispositions is crucial in encouraging children to become lifelong learners. Dr. Katz has been helping parents and teachers for over 30 years to recognize and support the inextricable connection between knowledge, skills and dispositions in young children so that they become lifelong learners.

Dr. Katz taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for more than three decades and has lectured in all 50 states and in 43 countries. She is currently the Principal Investigator for the Illinois Early Learning Project and continues to lecture and consult around the world. Her new book, Intellectual Emergencies is expected to be available in January, 2009.

Advance Sale Tickets: $15/Member $20/Nonmember
Day of Presentation Tickets: $20/Member $25/Nonmember
DCM program cancellation policies apply.

To register for this event, call (630) 637-8000 ext. 0
For more information, click

This presentation is being generously underwritten by:

Do you have any questions for Dr. Katz?
Post your questions by clicking "comments" below. These questions will be answered by Dr. Katz following her presentation.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Brain-Building Play at DCM

On October 23rd, Jane Healy, Ph.D presented "Your Child's Growing Mind: How Families that Play Together, Build Brains Together" as part of DCM's Just for Grown-Ups lecture series.

Many thanks to those who joined us and we offer special thanks to The Christopher Family Foundation for sponsoring this amazing event!

During the presentation, Dr. Healy discussed how hands-on, open-ended play experiences, like those found at DCM, are essential to children's development.

Experience Shapes the Brain throughout Life
A recent article in The Washington Post states that educators are now looking to neuroscience to offer guidance on what works best in terms of educational strategies. According to the article, the recent revelation that the brain's structure is much more flexible than was previously thought, is helping teachers find ways to create brain-building experiences. In her presentation, Dr. Healy discussed the plasticity of the brain and how experiences indeed shape the brain's development. She states, "New experiences make the brain grow." New experiences strengthen the neurons' potential to take more messages in and send more messages out. This happens, Healy says, as a result of stimulation. We (as children or adults) stimulate our brains and learn when we manipulate ideas and objects.

Brain-building Play
According to Dr. Healy, play is changing. She states that children are becoming more engaged in electronic play that may distort the brain-building process, interrupting development of language, creativity, problem-solving, social interaction skills, and ability to sustain attention. Healy states, "While there is nothing wrong with adding new kinds of play, we need to not forget the power of 3-dimesional, hands-on, object play. These kinds of play experiences stimulate the brain and lay the foundation for children's intellectual, social, emotional and language skills."

Fufilling Children's Need for Brain-building Play at DCM

In today’s world, the type of objects children are playing with and the stimulation they get in return are different than in the past. These different experiences affect how the growing brain "wires itself." Electronic toys and technology provides children with new and different experiences, but Dr. Healy stresses that, "a balance needs to be struck between these experiences and those 3-dimensional, open-ended, hands-on play experiences necessary for children's development." DCM is filled with "brain-building play experiences" for children and families. Healy encourages parents to visit the museum because it is filled with "simple little things" that build children's brains and allow for open-ended, child-centered play. "The very best play is 90 % child and 10% toy," says Healy. "Families there (at DCM) together can learn to play, release stress, build brains...and clearly I think the children's museum is a fabulous place."

To hear Dr. Healy's entire presentation, please click here:

Save the Date!
Join us on: Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Lilian Katz, Ph.D
International Leader in Early Childhood Education
as she presents,

"Nurture Learning by Developing Children's Innate Dispositions"

Fees: Advance Sale - $15 members/$20 non-members
Day of Presentation - $20 members/$25 non-members

To register, call (630) 637-8000.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nurturing Children's Curiosity and Wonder in Creativity Connections

(This is the third in a series of postings directly related to each of the DCM neighborhoods.)

Creativity Connections was designed on the premise that sensory experiences (visual, sound and tactile) can stimulate children’s understanding of learning concepts. Sensory experiences stimulate children’s curiosity and wonder and can inspire children to ask questions like Why? and How? It is from these experiences that children gain a better understanding of how the world works and learn about many concepts related to math, science and the arts.

These are just a few of the sensory experiences you might find inside Creativity Connections:

-Color My Way: children can compare how their drawings change inside the Color Booth, create a design at Color Dots or with Picasso Blocks or describe how their environment looks through a Colored Pane.

-Music Room: children can create rhythms/patterns on a Slit Drum, explore the feel of a Babydinda or Amadinda or feel the vibrations emitted from a Whale Drum.

-Light Effects, Table and Kiosk: children can wander through the Mirror Maze, experiment with form in the Light Painting Room, create their own window using Stained Glass Blocks or place vinyl shapes at Window Art.

Creativity Connections is a great place to begin wondering about the scientific concepts of shadow/light, color and sound. A child's interest and familiarity with science come from active engagement at an early age. Each of these experiences provide children with opportunities to explore aspects of their world and develop skills necessary for scientific thought - observation, investigation/asking questions and experimentation.

"Although young children have been described as “natural” scientists, they are afforded few opportunities for learning not only science concepts and content but also the functions and structure of scientific language, discourse, and processes" (Patrick, et al., 2007).

Creativity Connections can spark your child's curiosity and wonder -- and you can encourage and extend their learning by:

-Welcoming and embracing children’s questions

To help nurture children’s inquiry, communicate positive responses to their questions—no matter how many!

  • Provide a positive response. This will communicate to the child that their thoughts are important and that you encourage their curiosity. If the moment isn’t right, assign a time for the two of you to talk about the concept later. Can we talk about this at lunch? I’m going to think about it till then.

-Giving answers that extend learning opportunities
Provide children with a short explanation that can reinforce a concept and open the door to future investigations.

  • Add a challenge to the end of an answer. I see you've made a rainbow with the prism. What would happen if you pointed the light in another direction?

  • Connect the explanation to something they already know or are familiar with. The prism breaks up the light and creates the colors of the rainbow, just like the raindrops did to the sunlight outside that day we saw a rainbow at the park.

-Instead of “I don’t know,” try “Let’s find out!”
Let children take the lead role of scientist by encouraging them to problem solve and figure out the answer to some of their questions.

  • Young children may need your help to get them started. Start by offering suggestions. Allowing children to predict, observe and test their theories are important steps of the scientific process. What would happen if you hit the other end of the drum?

  • Follow up after the experience by asking your child to repeat back what he or she has learned. How did you make your picture green? What colors did you use?

Next time:
Learning and growing is risky business! In a future blog post, we will take a look at a recent post from Bay Area Discovery Museum on the importance of taking risks. We will talk about how taking risks can promote creativity and problem solving. We will then provide a few questions for adults to think about as they determine what risks to allow and encourage children to take.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Make It a Museum Night at DCM

In a recent post on Museum Audience Insight, the author mentioned her son's excitement for "Museum Night," a visit to the children's museum that has now become a tradition for their family to celebrate over and over again.

At DCM, we know Thursday evenings have become "Museum Nights" for many of our visitors. Because of the Museum's extended hours on Thursdays (open till 8 p.m.), many visitors use DCM as a destination to meet up with family members coming home from work and enjoy quality time together.

Additionally, Third Thursday is a tradition for many families of children with autism spectrum disorders, visual impairments, and/or mobility impairments.

Every third Thursday of the month, the CAN Coordinator, Parent Support Coordinator and Interdisciplinary Arts Specialist provide extra parent resources and activities from 5-7 p.m. "Some parents have been bringing their children to Third Thursday for years," says Cindy Miller, Community Access Network (CAN) Coordinator. "We have regular visitors that use Third Thursday to meet as part of a specific group's scheduled activities or just come to spend time together as a family. Some come in to check out resources or ask questions," says Miller.

Longtime DCM Volunteer, Dick Treadway has been a part of Third Thursday since its start in 2002. He enjoys greeting families with special needs, helping them check-in and letting them know the resources available to them during the event. "First time visitors seem to appreciate this and many then feel comfortable returning at different times during the week," Treadway states. Adaptive equipment/materials and Photo Books are available to our visitors with special needs anytime the Museum is open.

Please join us October 16, 2008 from 5-7 p.m. as DCM recognizes Disability Awareness Month on Third Thursday. CAN partner Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA) will provide visitors with hands-on disability awareness activities to experience physical, visual, auditory and cognitive challenges. Back by popular demand will be Steven Keefe and his audience-participation Family Jug Band, as well as Janet Hoff with Casey the Therapy Dog. Be sure to visit the Studio for a special art session.

Don't Forget!

Register Now for:

Your Child's Growing Mind: How Families that Play Together Build Brains Together

Thursday, October 23rd 7-8:30 PM

As mentioned in a previous blog post, DCM welcomes Jane Healy, Ph.D for a thought-provoking presentation about how playing with your child can keep your own brain growing along with your child's and help your entire family develop resilience in a rapidly changing technological world.

Dr. Healy will also be taking questions from those submitted on the DCM blog. If you have a question, please submit it here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Experience Play=Learning with FREE* KMI to Kindergarten Classrooms in DuPage

Attention, Teachers and Parents! For the third year, DCM is excited to offer Kindergarten Math Initiative (KMI), a FULLY FUNDED Learning Lab field trip for Kindergarten classrooms throughout DuPage County. *Every DuPage County public school kindergarten is eligible; does not include transportation costs.

DCM began offering the KMI Learning Lab with knowledge that there were many schools with the ability to enroll their students in our Learning Labs, and many without that ability. It was DCM's goal that by offering KMI, it would “level the playground” by expanding the Museum's school programs and focusing on the essential “gateway skills” year of kindergarten.

KMI supports the essential math skills needed by every kindergartner through a choice of two Learning Labs - Patterns, Strategies and Number Sense OR Geospace.

Patterns, Strategies and Number Sense

In this lab, explore sorting, counting, patterning and geometry. Children will use and apply math language as they gain understanding and insight using common objects. Analytical thinking, problem solving skills and spatial sense emerge during this hands-on, interactive experience.
(Requires a 1.5-2 hour visit)


Transform two-dimensional paper shapes into three-dimensional geometric solids! Students construct their own "geo-worlds" with cylinders, cubes, spheres and cones. Through physical manipulation of shapes and solids, students internalize basic geometric principles. (Requires a 2.5-3 hour visit)

In addition to the Learning Lab, teachers and students will be able to explore DCM's Exhibit Neighborhoods, including Math Connections.

By scheduling a Kindergarten Math Initiative Learning Lab field trip, classrooms also receive:

-Pre- and post-visit teacher materials that demonstrate lab's alignment to Illinois Learning Goals and NCTM focal points and provide suggestions on how to extend learning based on the experience.

-Take-home materials for parents (describing what children learned in the lab and ideas for learning at home)

-A FREE Museum admission coupon is included for all participating kindergartners to build upon their learning experience with another Museum visit.

Parents: Please encourage your child's kindergarten teacher to call and schedule their KMI Learning Lab today!

Educators: Book now to schedule a KMI Learning Lab that will best fit your schedule!

To schedule a KMI Learning Lab, please contact the DCM Education Bookings Coordinator at: (630) 637-8000 ext. 6150

Did You Know?
In addition to KMI, DuPage Children's Museum offers multiple other ways for schools to nurture children's understanding of science, math and art concepts through open-ended exploration - while meeting state and national standards.

Thanks to Our Funders
In the first of the three-year Initiative, Comcast and West Chicago Charter One Bank funded field trips for well over 4,000 kindergarten students. Comcast also awarded the Presidential Award for the first time outside of Chicago, providing funding over a three-year period (through the 2008-2009 school year) to allow KMI to extend to all DuPage County public schools.
For more information on school programs, such as Learning Labs, Field Trips and Exhibits-To-Go, please call DCM at: (630)637-8000.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Five Exciting Reasons to Visit DCM This Fall

1. The Interact with Art Gallery's new installation is the Cat's Meow!

In Cat Tower, inspired by the surrealist painting Cat's Paradise by Remedios Varo, children can step into the artist's world by dressing up in original costumes and exploring the cranks and wheels inside. Experience this exhibit, as part of Phase 2 of Wheel Works of Art, and have a purr-fectly good time!

2. Wheel-Inspired Exhibits Keep Rolling In

In addition to your favorites, Wheel Works of Art also features these two new pieces:

  • Build a Tune - a DCM original instrument inviting children to compose a tune while experimenting with sound and cams
  • Quadrapult - a new kinetic sculpture by nationally-known artist, Bradley Litwin that launches balls to targets at the press of a button.

3. All New Creativity Programs and Free Themed Studio Drop-Ins

Designed to foster children's joyful learning about the world and themselves, DCM has five new Creativity Programs to offer! These include:

  • Images of the Season (Beginnings - Science, Math & Art Explorations Series)
  • Life at Sea (Beginnings - Science, Math & Art Explorations Series)
  • 3-D Fall Collage
  • Ramp & Roll
  • A Floatilla of Boats

These new programs and continuing favorites promote children's exploration of concepts related to math, science and the arts and help parents understand how to support that learning. Call (630) 637-8000 to register today!

In addition to DCM's Creativity Programs, drop in to the Studio and experience the Museum's new thematic approach to daily activities! Each month a different theme will be supported by math, science and art activities for children. Studio Drop-In Activities are free to members or with paid admission.

September- Kids on the Move (exploring rhythm and movement)
October - Images of the Season (exploring shape, collage, sculpture, color, lines and nature)
November - Set Sail (exploring pointillism, oil & liquids)

See the DCM Calendar for more information.

4. A New FRC Focus:

Creating meaningful, hands-on exploration and investigation and encouragin children's use of inquiry and process skills (questioning, providing explanations) helps children learn science best. And that's what we do here at DCM - stimulate children's curiosity, creativity, thinking and problem solving.

To find ways to nurture your child's understanding of science concepts as a play partner, visit DCM and its FRC (Family Resource Center) on the 2nd Floor. Inside the FRC and throughout the Museum, we offer many parent books and resources related to Developmental Concepts, Play at the Museum, and Play at Home.

5. DuPage Children's Museum has great events, including those Just for Grown Ups!

Save the date for the following events:

Educator Open House
Wednesday, September 17th 4-7 PM

An opportunity for educators to learn about the variety of resources and programs the Museum can offer, featuring the presentation "Math: Right From the Start" by Angela Andrews.

Thursday, September 25th 7-8:30 PM and Sunday, September 28th 1-2:30 PM

View this PBS Documentary that examines the importance of play and the impact it has on children's mental and physical well-being.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, DCM welcomes Jane Healy, Ph.D for a thought-provoking presentation about how playing with your child can keep your own brain growing along with your child's and help your entire family develop resilience in a rapidly changing technological world. Dr. Healy will also be taking questions from those submitted on the DCM blog. If you have a question, please submit it here.

Advance Sales: $15 Members/$20 Non-members

Register for any of these Just for Grown Ups events by calling (630) 637-8000 ext. 0

Finally... Don't forget! DCM reopens its doors to the public on September 15th!

What is Going On Behind the Museum's Closed Doors?

For two weeks, beginning September 1st, DCM closes its doors to the public for its annual "shutdown." What many don't know is that inside the Museum, staff actively revive the Museum by:
  • researching and installing new experiences for our visitors,
  • making repairs and conducting maintenance to neighborhoods and exhibits, and
  • going above and beyond our already high-level of cleanliness by doing some deep cleaning.

According to Kim Stull, Director of Guest Services; and Paul Gooding, Museum Floor Manager, being open seven days a week can make it challenging for our team to do major repairs or maintenance without closing down certain areas of the Museum. Stull says, "We are one of the few museums that doesn't close sections on a regular basis." Both state that closing an exhibit or neighborhood for a prolonged period of time is something the Museum tries to avoid to ensure visitors get the most out of their visit. Gooding states, "if we have to close a neighborhood for more than a week, we try to do it during shutdown." Besides general repairs, maintenance that will take place over the next two weeks includes painting and inventory of all books and supplies.

By closing the Museum's doors for two weeks, staff members also have the chance to install new exhibits. This year, this includes installing new artwork and interactive exhibits in the Interact with Art Gallery. Staff also use this time to research new materials and/or manipulatives to be used in neighborhoods and exhibits.

Finally, DCM follows a regular cleaning schedule for its facility and its equipment throughout the year. Nightly and weekly routines ensure materials found throughout the Museum are sanitized and disinfected. However, the two-week shutdown provides the Museum with the opportunity to clean everything inside and out. "It's a time to clean inside all the nooks and crannies," says Gooding. Floor mats in WaterWays are removed and powerwashed, carpets are steamcleaned, and all pieces within the Museum (including fans and motors within AirWorks exhibits) are taken apart for a thorough cleaning.

Our staff is excited to share with our visitors the work that we have done during our two-week shutdown. DCM will reopen to the public on September 15th.

Stay Tuned!
In a later post, find out how learning=fun for DCM staff during shutdown! We'll discuss how over the next two weeks, DCM staff get to know one another, learn more about new exhibits/neighborhoods and get excited to see our visitors as we reopen on September 15th.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Algebra in the Museum?!

Algebra in the early years establishes the necessary groundwork for ongoing and future mathematics learning. -Jennifer Taylor-Cox

Recently we discussed the recently re-opened Math Connections neighborhood and how it highlights many math concepts, including algebra. But what does algebra look like at DCM?

In the article "Algebra in the Early Years? Yes!" author Jennifer Taylor-Cox describes the central ideas of algebra and illustrates ways they can be applied to young children's activities and experiences. These concepts, "enhance children's natural interest in mathematics and their disposition to use it to make sense of their physical and social worlds."

The central ideas of algebra that are described within the article are also the core concepts of the many exhibits and activities found in DCM's Math Connections neighborhood. Below are some exerpts taken from Taylor-Cox's article, describing each central idea. We have also described how children can explore these four ideas inside Math Connections at DCM.

Central Idea #1: Patterns

"'Recognizing, describing, extending, and translating patterns'"

In Math Connections, children can explore symmetry, create patterns with shape and color or create 2-D or 3-D patterns.

Try this: Encourage children to point to each color or shape as they "read" patterns throughout the neighborhood. For example: red, blue, red, blue, red, blue.

Central Idea #2: Mathematical Situations and Structures

"'Experiences with mathematical situations and structures through representations and analyses of equality'"

Children can explore representations and the concept of equality in Math Connections.

Try this: As you explore the neighborhood, use words like equal/not equal, same/different, more/less, balanced/unbalanced.

Central Idea #3: Models of quantitative relationships

"'Explore models of quantitative relationships in a real-life context"

Throughout the neighborhood, children can push individual or sets of beads or manipulatives together to represent different values.

Try this: As you play with manipulatives, narrate the child's actions. You might say, You pushed 5 red beads and 2 white beads; that's 7 beads! Ask questions like, What other ways can you make 7?

Central Idea #4: Change

"'The understanding that most things change over time, that such changes can be described mathematically, and that changes are predictable'"

In Math Connections, children can explore change related to size, shape and measurement.

Try this: Encourage children to use words like bigger/smaller, shorter/taller to describe objects, structures or creations. You might ask, How many blocks tall is your tower?

Tell us about a moment you have shared with a child who was thinking "algebraically" as they played at DCM!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Exploration and Play: From Staff to Visitor

As staff of a children's museum, our jobs not only allow us the opportunity to experiment and play, but also often require we do so! The many great examples of what our experimentation and play have generated can be seen in each of our neighborhoods and exhibits. However, the fun doesn't end once an exhibit is on the floor. The experimentation and play continue as we add and alter these exhibits to enhance the learning experience for our visitors.

At DCM, exhibit staff generally follow a process in which they collaborate with the Museum's early childhood specialist and interdisciplinary arts specialist to discuss developmental goals and outcomes before brainstorming prototypes, observing their use, reviewing the model and offering a final product. But what happens when they want to improve or maintain an existing piece?

Mark Wickart, Manager of Exhibit Fabrication and Maintenance, states that since he began working for DCM seven years ago, "Everthing here we have made stronger." Existing exhibits need to be maintained, fixed or sometimes altered to enhance visitors' experiences.

One recent example of an exhibit which we have some fun revisiting is our Baby Wind Garden, inside the Build It Young Explorers neighborhood. The exhibit is designed to introduce infants and toddlers to the concepts of air, shape and surface. Young children experiment with cause and effect, trial and error and the sensory experience created by wind spouts and the many manipulatives (small balls and scarves) provided.

Staff noted that although the Baby Wind Garden exhibit did indeed introduce these concepts, it was not attracting visitors. It was at this point that Wickart began to brainstorm permanent manipulatives that would be immobile but draw attention and interest to this exhibit. Prototypes using plastic bottles of different kinds and ribbons, yarn and pompoms of different weights were created and observed by floor staff. Wickart drilled several holes in bottles and jars in an attempt to adjust airflow and alter materials' movement to create maximum visual stimulation.
This trial and error process continued until a plexglass cylinder containing one pompom was placed over a wind spout in the garden. Staff observations demonstrated increase in interest, the brightly colored pompoms' movement drawing attention to the exhibit. The prototype was a success! From there, the stronger, more durable and larger model currently in use was created. Able to now hold more pompoms, once over the wind fountains the contents create a "popcorn" movement - which draws infants and toddlers attentions to explore and interact with this exhibit.

Look What I See! See What I Learn!

These young children toddled over to take a peek at the "popcorn" jars in Baby Wind Garden and were soon giggling and laughing, enjoying the sensory experience of playing in the "wind." Mom then picked up a small ball and demonstrated the Bernoulli Effect (objects floating on streams of air). Soon both boys were experimenting with balls, large and small trying to create Bernoulli Effects themselves. Mom did a great job modeling vocabulary like air, wind, and float during their time in the exhibit.

As a museum professional, have there been times where you have found yourself using play and experimentation or trial and error to make improvements on an exhibit? Share these with us!

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Summer Stop for Everyone!

Designed for children up to the age of ten, DCM offers interactive, open-ended, fun experiences for everyone! Whether it is the exhibits within our seven neighborhoods or our daily drop-in programs developed around the integration of the arts, math and sciences, there are many shared experiences for multiple age and developmental levels within your family.

Whether it is your first visit or a returning trip, if you are a family with school-aged children, here are a few ways to explore a children's museum:

No Agenda Necessary.
Overwhelmed by overscheduling? Too many camps and classes? Children's museums offer a place that does not pose an agenda. Children can explore and problem solve whichever of the over 150 exhibits they choose.

Empower active investigation.
Older children begin to understand more complex vocabulary and concepts related to specific subject matter. Older children are also often more attentive and can stay at a task longer. They may enjoy exploring familiar materials, but seek out challenges and opportunities to problem solve.

At DCM, the exhibits empower children to set their own pace, transcending age and experience. The following is one example of how exhibits provide learning opportunities for the entire family from the Museum's neighborhood, Make it Move:

An older boy experiments with ways to extend a ramp at Ramps & Rollers, while his infant sister sits nearby with Mom. The sister puts her hands in a bucket of balls and dumps them out on the floor. “Mom, watch!” the boy says. He places a golf ball at the top of his ramp and together they watch it move down and finally off the bottom onto the floor. It rolls past the infant, who begins to then scoot over towards it, but stops. She reaches for it. Together, the boy and mom laugh. “How could you make the ball roll closer to Jessie?” the mom asks. The boy then rotates the ramp and adds another section to the end to extend the ramp closer to his sister. He then leans a few plastic cards from the Maxi-Rollway against the wooden ramp pieces, as if to create even more of a barrier to further position the ball’s path toward his sister. Mom rolls a golf ball in the infant’s direction as she watches the boy construct his new plan. She then offers her daughter a lighter whiffle ball to explore. “Where do you think the ball will roll now?”

The questions asked by the mother above provided the boy with a challenge and provided him with an opportunity to practice using his problem solving skills. All the while, she was able to facilitate play with her infant. Here are a few more questions you might ask a school-ager:

What could we make using all of the (Giant Tinker Toys, blocks, ramps)?
· Can you make a bubble inside another bubble?
· Do you think we could draw a family portrait in Glow Art?
· Why do you think a foam ball floats on the wind spout, but not a yarn ball?

Check the DCM Calendar or What's Happening? sign.
Daily Drop-in programs, including storytellers, musical guests, and Studio projects are some of the many arts programming planned throughout the summer. These special programs are meant to be interactive for the varying age groups that visit the Museum. One of the many benefits your child will receive from arts programming is the opportunity to use and understand symbolic communication.

Enjoy the memories.
Hands-on activities, like those found throughout the Museum, can nurture children's learning at any age. "When you are part of what you are learning--you are going to remember it better," says Chris Barry, School Programs Manager. "To memorize that a cube has six sides is one way to understand its dimension. However, to touch and create a 3-dimensional, six-sided shape is another." This kind of hands-on exploration creates memories. “Children learn the most from memorable experiences." She states that children reference pleasurable experiences they have had, throughout their lives.

As you and your family have fun and learn together, notice the achievements, developmental milestones and concepts being grasped and new skills being mastered. Remember: Talk about what you do together! You might be surprised at what your children have discovered!

How do you interact with older children while at the Museum? Let us know! To join the conversation, click on "comments" below!

Check This Out!
We want to know: Who's reading the blog? Let us know by clicking on the poll found at the top of the How Learning Comes in to Play! site. You can also always let us know by leaving us a comment anywhere throughout the blog. We hope to hear from you soon!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Growing Minds:

Families that Play Together, Build Brains Together

An Evening with Dr. Jane Healy

On Thursday, October 23rd DCM welcomes award winning author, Dr. Jane Healy (Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds--and What We Can Do About It, Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think and What We Can Do About It), to discuss intelligent play as a foundation for learning skills, emotional resilience and social competence. This special evening program will provide parents, caregivers and teachers ideas on how to encourage the development of children's creativity in a fast –changing electronic world.

To register for this event, call (630) 637-8000 ext. 0

For more information, click here.
This presentation is being sponsored by:

Do you have any questions for Dr. Healy?
Post your questions by clicking "comments" below. These questions will be answered by Dr. Healy following her presentation.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Math Comes in to Play Every Day!

Did you know that almost everything we do relies on some form of mathematical thinking? Think about when you serve a meal or set a table. How do you know where to set the plates or glasses or how many to use? To complete this task, we rely on our understanding of patterns, counting and estimation skills. Imagine riding a bicycle without understanding distance, balance, or spatial orientation. Without these skills, many of us might still need training wheels and a guide!

Math Connections = Play and Learning
At DCM, we understand how often math comes in to play throughout our lives and that it is important to provide opportunities for children to investigate, practice and reflect on math. According to the position statement, “Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings,” by exposing children to math concepts and models early on through hands-on explorations, experimentations and literature we better prepare them for the opportunities that await them! (National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2003)

To best provide children with opportunities to explore, experiment, discover and enjoy math concepts at their own pace, the Museum recently reopened its Math Connections neighborhood. Generously funded by the Tellabs Foundation, part of the neighborhood’s redevelopment included Museum staff consulting with math education experts and concluded with more than ten new exhibits.

The following are just a few of these new exhibits:

Crawl Through Kaleidoscope
Children discover multiplying patterns and symmetry as they climb or peek inside. Share how their reflections change as they move.

Wandering Loom & Twisting Loom
Ponder patterns of color as children weave or thread beads on each of the looms. "Count" out the pattern they have made by repeating each of the colors (red, black, red, black) or use the alphabet to describe them (ABAB).

Large Beam Balance

Children explore equality, comparison and measurement through large motor play. Ask questions like, Which side weighs more? or What happens when you put another block on the other side? Make sure to model safety by saying, Go slowly or Sit on your bottom.

Each of the exhibits in Math Connections addresses one or more of the following math concepts:

  • Measurement and balance - understanding size, length, width, capacity, weight, quantity, and equality
  • Algebra - understanding "patterns, mathematical situations and structures, quantitative relationships, and change" (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000)
  • Counting and estimation - understanding numbers, one-to-one correspondence
  • Geometry and spatial understanding - ability to visualize relationships of objects in space; understanding words like: up/down, more/less, around, top/bottom, etc.
  • Sorting and classifying - understand categorization of things with shared attributes, understand same/different
    Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 2000. Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: NCTM

How Can I Make the Most of My Visit to Math Connections?
As you explore the new Math Connections neighborhood, be sure to talk to your children about their experiences. Research affirms that even seemingly trivial instances of "math talk" can demonstrate improvement in preschoolers’ math skills. Don't know where to start? Talking about math is easier than you might think!

On your next visit to Math Connections, try to:
  • Use descriptive words related to quantity, size, space or number. You might try using the words: more/less, large/small, tall/short, wide/narrow, few/many.

  • Reference the signage found in each of the Math Connection areas. Each sign provides visitors with information on the exhibits and how to nurture children's connections to math as you play.

Source: Klibanoff, Raquel S.; Levine, Susan C.; Huttenlocher, Janellen; Vasilyeva, Marina; Hedges, Larry V. “Preschool children's mathematical knowledge: The effect of teacher "math talk." Developmental Psychology. January, 2006. Volume 42(1). 59-69.

Stay Tuned!
DuPage Children's Museum is enjoyed by visitors young and old! In a future post, we will discuss some ways to challenge school age children and nurture their development throughout the Museum's neighborhoods. We also will share some ways to extend the fun that happens at DCM to home.

Share your ideas on how you make the most of your visits to DCM! Join the conversation by clicking on the word “comments” below!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Conscious Choices: Environmental Elements - Math Young Explorers

The new mural in Math Young Explorers has taken shape! Its debut has created quite a discussion among staff regarding how aesthetic elements such as wall colors, murals and art pieces can help nurture children’s learning and development.

The Power of Color and Pattern
The new Math Young Explorers mural is the final installment in a series of three Lazure-inspired pieces found in each of the Young Explorers areas at DCM. Peter Crabbe, Associate Director of Exhibits, explains that DCM adapted these Lazure murals to the Museum’s environment. Crabbe states that they were chosen for the Young Explorers areas because of their softer edges and colors, which are believed to soothe young children, ease transitions and stimulate minds. He mentions, “We have a whimsical palette already and didn’t want to lose that. However, we wanted it a bit softer." Crabbe describes each of the murals as being visually stimulating, but not overwhelming to the senses.

Some research and reports describe other ways that color and pattern influence children's learning and development. The patterns also provide visual stimulation for infants, similar to that of a mobile above a child's crib. According to the report, Color in an Optimum Learning Environment, "Color in the learning environment provides an unthreatening environment that improves visual processing, reduces stress, and challenges brain development through visual stimulation/relationships and pattern seeking" (Daggett, Cobble and Gertel, 2008). The report also states that color and patterns can "rewire the brain" and make stronger connections while fostering visual thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Additionally, it says visual patterns can "establish visual focal points on wall and floor surfaces, imply static or dynamic movement, and convey a preferred emotional response."

Besides their ability to appease and rejuvenate infants and toddlers without overstimulation, the murals also directly relate to Young Explorers themes. For example, both the Creativity Connections Young Explorers and new Math Young Explorers murals integrate math and the arts by featuring appropriate shapes and patterns. The Build It Young Explorers mural relates more to structures, featuring lines and stripes.

Enhancing the Experience
You don't need to be an expert to enhance your child's experience with art! Here are a few ideas on how you can nurture your child's development while looking at the Lazure-inspired murals in Young Explorers:

  • Use directional words related to your child's experience. Is your child looking up to see the pattern block shapes in Math Young Explorers? Perhaps, while being held, your child is looking down at a circle within the Creativity Connections Young Explorers mural. By saying these directional words and using gestures, you are nurturing language development and spatial understanding.

  • Label or describe what you see. As your child looks at the mural, talk about it using words like: (shapes) square, triangle, (colors) red, blue, green, etc.

  • Observe your child’s reactions. The way each child responds to different colors and patterns is different. Have you ever noticed a change in your child’s temperament, mood, activity level or attention related to his/her environment?

Stay Tuned!
The murals in the Young Explorers areas aren't the only artworks that enrich the museum environment at DCM. Next week, the Museum's Interdisciplinary Art Specialist, Marcia MacRae, describes the process of choosing artwork for neighborhoods and exhibits, including Math Young Explorers.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Neighborhood Navigations: Build It Young Explorers - Play with Me!

Build It Young Explorers offers opportunities for even our youngest visitors to interact and experiment with gravity, motion and construction. The neighborhood provides multiple sensory experiences and unique materials (many of which are designed and built by Museum staff).

Pushing and Pulling, Rolling and Spinning—Introducing Scientific Concepts
Similar to the Build It and Make It Move neighborhoods in the Museum, many of the objects found in Build It Young Explorers can be pushed, pulled, rolled, or spun. The objects’ differences in size, shape or texture often create different effects and make children wonder –Why?

Older infants or toddlers often approach Baby Ramps and Rollers after following a ball that has rolled past them or watching a model (such as a parent, caregiver or older sibling) demonstrate the task involved. Your child might hunt for more round objects to place on the ramp and repeat the experiment to see how they roll down each ramp. What scientific concepts do you think this activity demonstrates?

While young children are not going to understand words like gravity, motion or physics, the use of simple science and math words, like up, down, over, under, fast, slow, big and small, heavy and light, will introduce them to these scientific concepts. Additionally, what are some other things you might do to engage your child during this experience?

Here are some ideas:

  • Enjoy wondering with your child! Ask questions that begin with "Why?" or "How do you think we could?" You may not know the answers, but by sharing your thoughts with your child you model language and problem solving skills.
  • Try something different. If you notice your child placing several small balls on the ramp to see what will happen next, hand him or her a larger ball and see what happens. Does your child push the ball aside or attempt to place it down the ramp (even if it doesn't fit)? Another challenge is to hand a third ball to your child while he or she is already holding one in each hand. Does your child drop a ball to pick the new one up or does the child put the other two down first and then return to get the third?

Source: "Starting Children on Science." Early Years are Learning Years. National Association for Education of Young Children.

Enhancing every area of a child's development
An infant crawls through the tunnel in Build It Young Explorers and stops to look at his mother, who is seated at the opposite end watching. The mother says, “Are you inside the tunnel?” The child smiles at her and then looks down. It seems as if he is looking at the bumpy mat he needs to cross to get to his mother. “You can do it,” she says to the young boy. He quickly crawls up and over the bumpy mat to get to his mother. As he reaches her knees, she says, “You made it! You went over!”

When asked why she sat at the end of the tunnel and spoke to her son as he navigated his way through, the mother said she did this “just to let him know I was there.” Simple interactions like this can help children understand how to put their ideas into action to accomplish a goal; practice crawling, balance and coordination; and/or build self-confidence. Parents and caregivers that are active participants in their child’s play further nurture the development of not only cognitive skills, but also problem solving, social and emotional, gross motor and language and communication skills as well.

How Learning Comes in to Play—At-Home!
Encouraging, modeling and wondering can happen at home. Here are a few materials you can use to simulate experiences in Build It Young Explorers:

  • Blocks: Infants and toddlers enjoy building (and of course knocking down) stacks and towers using soft blocks, small wooden blocks, duplos or interlocking blocks. Use simple math and science words like tall or short.
  • Balls: According to the article, "What is Age-Appropriate Play for Young Children?" from the Illinois Early Learning Project, "Once a baby begins to crawl, toys that can be pushed or rolled and chased across the floor encourage physical activity and interaction with other people." Experiment using boxes, blocks or paper towel tubes to create ramps of all kinds. Introduce concepts related to motion and gravity by using words like fast, slow, up, down, over, under and through.

  • Scarves: Infants and toddlers seem almost entranced by an object's movement. Their eyes follow the objects, often motivating them to try to move, reach and grasp. Scarves move in many ways and are a great sensory tool because often you can see through them, creating a visual and tactile experience. Play peek-a-boo; drop the scarf above your child and ask, "Where is it going to go?" or try playing with the scarf outside on a windy day.

Source: Illinois Early Learning Project. http://illinoisearlylearning.org/faqs/playage.htm

Want More Information? Check this Out:
The Partners in Play cards found in each of the three Young Explorers areas of the Museum provide parents and caregivers with child development information and suggestions on how to engage infants and toddlers in play.

Stay Tuned!
Math Young Explorers is back and with a new look! In a future post, we will chat about the impact that environmental design and aesthetics can have on children’s play and development.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Playing IS Learning: Young Explorers - Mouthing and Sensory Exploration

At one point in children's development it can seem as if they need to put everything in their mouths - Building blocks, puzzle pieces, the occasional board book. Many wonder, often with valid concerns for infants' and toddlers’ health and safety:

Why must young children put things in their mouths?

To begin to understand an infant's or toddler’s world, we have to think about how many ways we as adults use our own senses to expand our knowledge. Here are a few examples:

-We gain information from watching television or reading the newspaper.
-We listen to others as partners in communication.
-We might taste several different wines or feel different qualities of bed linens to better distinguish the difference between their tastes or textures.
-We might even learn that by listening to certain types of music, we feel more relaxed.

Infants and toddlers depend on their senses and the skills and abilities they are born with (looking, listening, grasping, sucking and mouthing) to learn. In fact, the pioneer of child development Jean Piaget, recognizing how infants and toddlers rely on all of their senses to help them understand the world around them, named the first twenty-four months of life the sensorimotor stage (
Civitas, Understanding Children).

Why is mouthing important?
can be described as children's exploration of objects (or hands or feet) using their mouths. Mouthing is an important way to help infants and toddlers better understand their sense of touch and learn more about objects in their environment--especially those that are new to them. It gives them an introduction to texture, size and function. Children also use mouthing as a feeding behavior, and a comforting and soothing tool (Ruff, et al., 1992).

DCM: Keeping Your Infant or Toddler Safe and Healthy
Because young children will explore using all of their senses, DCM follows the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and local health department’s recommendations for cleaning and sanitization of props and surfaces. Daily and weekly cleaning schedules ensure exhibit components are disinfected.

The following are other things visitors can do to help keep DCM safe and clean:
· Mesh bags and toy returns found throughout the Museum can be used to deposit any toys
that have been mouthed (Carpenter, 2008).
· Visitors may use disinfectant wipes found in the three Young Explorers areas to wipe up
areas affected.
· Remember that hand washing is the best way to fend off any germs (especially before
· Please watch what your infant or toddler mouths. Most toys in the Young
Explorers areas of the Museum are
not choke hazards. However, many other exhibits have pieces that may be. Always supervise your infant or toddler.

http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/p/sensorimotor.htm; Piaget, J. (1936). Origins of intelligence in the child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Carpenter, J. (2008). "How Clean is Clean?" Hand to Hand-Association of Children's Museums.)

Stay Tuned!
Build It Young Explorers provides infants and toddlers with the opportunity to experiment with their effect on the world while being introduced to the properties of gravity, motion and construction. Next time, we will take a closer look at the materials in BIYE and offer some at-home Build It activity ideas for families with infants and toddlers.