Friday, May 9, 2008

Neighborhood Navigations - For Our Youngest Visitors: Young Explorers

How old should children be before visiting DuPage Children’s Museum?
Many staff and visitors have asked this question over the years. With a range of opportunities to nurture children's development and multiple open-ended opportunities for learning, DuPage Children's Museum has it all! But what can an infant possibly do at DuPage Children’s Museum? The answer is—a lot!

According to the
article, "Why Begin with Infants?" from Zero-to-Three, "the early years of life are a period in which the foundation for future learning is being laid." During infancy the brain is developing at a faster pace than at any other time in a human’s development. An infant's brain is a complex web of visual, motor, language and social-emotional connections that are essential for later learning. However, the further development of this complex web depends on how and how much the brain is used
(Source: Understanding Children, Civitas).

Promoting brain development and beginning with experiences that help even the youngest infants begin to understand themselves as “agents of change,” DuPage Children’s Museum has three Young Explorers areas specifically designed for children under two years old. Here infants and toddlers can explore exhibits that are designed to consider their intellectual interests and physical capabilities and that also promote brain development. These areas are a great place to learn, utilizing comfortable interaction with the most important adults in their lives.

The three Young Explorers areas include:

· Build It Young Explorers
Here young children can experiment with their effect on the world while exploring the properties of gravity, motion and construction as in the surrounding exhibits: Make It Move and Build It.

Creativity Connections Young Explorers
This area encourages young children's experimentation with color, light, shadow, texture and sound similar to the exhibits in Creativity Connections.

· Math Young Explorers
This area offers young children the opportunity to explore mathematical concepts such as sorting, patterning and matching without numbers. There are blocks, beads, balls, and shapes similar to those in the Math Connections neighborhood.

Playing with Infants and Toddlers - Interaction is key!
Quality interaction with young children strongly influences brain development. Therefore, whether you are visiting the Museum or spending time at home with your child, make sure to:
· Give your child lots of attention and positive reinforcement. This will help the child feel more confident, relaxed, happy and ready to learn.
· Provide consistent responses. By doing so, you communicate to your children that the world around them is trustworthy and that they can depend on you. Especially pay attention to any signs of overstimulation (tuning out or frustration).
· Have fun! Jump right in with playful actions or expressions (tickles, smiles, songs) and provide simple, novel objects or environments to explore.
· Talk to your child. Listening to your voice not only is comforting, but also helps your child learn about sounds and language.
· Introduce your child to peers. Toddlers are naturally curious and seek out opportunities to learn more about the world around them. Provide opportunities to let your child observe and interact with adults and children. Slightly older children can demonstrate new ways to use or interact with materials.
Understanding Children, Civitas).

In addition to the Young Explorers areas, most other areas of the Museum are designed to be open-ended as well. This means that as a child matures, he can experience each of the exhibits and neighborhoods in new and different ways. For example, in WaterWays: Water Flows, water tables have varying ramps for accessibility and even the youngest children can splash and play while sitting on parents’ laps. Then as the children get older they can use water table floor ramps to stand and play more independently.

Finally, the Museum also offers specifically planned, pre-registered programs focusing on hands-on activities for children as young as 15-18 months old (Start in Art, Start in Science, My First Mess, etc.). Click
here for the calendar of upcoming classes offered at DuPage Children’s Museum and/or call (630) 637-8000 to register.

So, to answer the question… A trip to DCM is an easy, supported outing with your baby or toddler.

Stay Tuned:
Young children learn through sensory exploration--including the exploration they do with their mouths. In an upcoming post we will discuss mouthing, why they do it and how DCM works to ensure that this and other kinds of messy exploration gets cleaned up properly.
Next time, we will preview the Family Resource Center's new Focus Topic: Making Connections to Art.

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