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!