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!

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