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.

(Sources:; 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.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New FRC Focus Topic: Family Resource Center

The DuPage Children's Museum's Family Resource Center (FRC) is a comfortable room, located on the second floor, filled with resources and guidance related to child development and education topics. The FRC also offers Story & Music Time (specific times each week) and a Semi Private Nursing Station for visitors.

Over the next few months, the FRC will offer numerous books and resources related to the new Focus Topic:

Did you know? Children motivated in the arts develop attention skills and strategies for memory retrieval that also apply to other subject areas (Learning, Arts, and the Brain, 2008).

For ideas on how you can integrate the arts into your child's life, make sure to check out the several resources the FRC has to offer:
  • Books available to read during your visit to the museum related to the Focus Topic and to other child development and parenting topics.

  • Free Focus Sheets loaded with information regarding the current Focus Topic. Focus Sheets contain developmental information, ideas for play at home, and ideas for play at the museum.

  • Topic Notebooks contain recent research and articles related to the current Focus Topic and other child development and parenting topics.
For more information on DuPage Children's Museum's Family Resource Center or the current Focus Topic: Making Connections to Art, click here.

Stay Tuned!
We will discuss more about how the arts impact learning in future posts. Next time, we will return the focus to our youngest visitors and the Young Explorer areas of DuPage Children's Museum. We will discuss mouthing and its relevance to infant and toddler development. We will also discuss how DCM works to ensure that even the messiest kinds of exploration get cleaned up.

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.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Messages From Our Most Experienced Visitors

DuPage Children's Museum is committed to enhancing young children's lives. Watch and listen to some of our visitors share what they like most about DCM.

Do you enjoy visiting DCM, participating in museum programming and/or parent and professional learning opportunities? Maybe you enjoy reading the DCM blog?

If so, click here for more information on how you can make a donation. Any size gift is helpful!

Stay Tuned!

Next time, we will continue our blog's "Neighborhood Navigation" and introduce the Young Explorers areas at DuPage Children's Museum. As we take a closer look at these three areas (Build It Young Explorers, Creativity Connections Young Explorers, and Math Young Explorers) we will discuss the neighborhoods' purpose and the many activities they provide for our youngest visitors and their families.