Friday, June 26, 2009

Creating Sculptures with Packing Peanuts

A Creative Sculpture You Can Do at Home

A recent Studio drop-in activity, Zoo Art, invited participants to create an animal sculpture with biodegradable foam packing peanuts. Families with children of all ages had so much fun creating our Museum Zoo that we thought we would share the process so you can try it at home too!

You will know your packing peanuts are biodegradable if they dissolve when they get wet. The Styrofoam packing peanuts will not work for this activity. Save your packing peanuts from packages received in the mail. Our packing peanuts were ordered from a large mailing supply company to accommodate the number of visitors for this week long activity. When individual pieces are moistened on a damp sponge, the cornstarch is released, which causes the packing peanuts to stick together.

Children were asked to create an animal to join our zoo, a large sheet of paper designed with green, blue, yellow and white spaces for the animals. Some children wanted to create sculptures which resembled walls, rocks and food for the zoo. Such creative minds at work!

Many zoo type posters were displayed to inspire some ideas, including the poster Coming to Water by Bo Newell. You can support your child's creative endeavor by asking questions. "What parts of the animal are you making - tails, legs, fins?" Suggest what else your zoo may need - tire swings, pools, trees, etc. Not only does this activity support your child's creative endeavors, but working with solids in three dimensions is also the basis for understanding geometry. Children typically think only in two dimensions, so this activity helps them think spatially. "Even on a simple level, sculpting a zoo animal invites critical thinking about the animal's anatomy, environment and habits," states Marcia MacRae, our interdisciplinary arts specialist, who plans the free drop-in and pre-registered creativity programs in the Studio.

Check out our calendar for other planned Studio activities! View our summer newsletter for descriptions of these free activities with Museum membership or admission.

You too can be creative, learn and have fun with biodegradable peanuts.
One of our creative Play Facilitators made this sculpture. Can you name the famous statue he replicated?

Friday, June 19, 2009

School’s out …but Play Never Goes on Vacation!

(Parts of this post were originally published in the June 2009 issue of Positively Naperville)

Play, it is assumed, is a natural part of childhood. Yet most educators would agree that play is disappearing from children’s lives. How children learn is as important as what children learn—and what children learn and take away from play experiences is endless!

Recently you may have seen the NBC5 news feature, The Pleasure of Play. When interviewed, Dr. Barbara Bowman, professor at Erikson Institute, states that in an age of jam-packed to-do lists filled with scheduled events, it's important to mark out a chunk of time and simply put "PLAYTIME" on the calendar.

How about putting “PLAYTIME at DuPage Children’s Museum” on your calendar? Designed for children up to the age of ten, DCM offers more than 150 exhibits with virtually endless interactive, open-ended, fun experiences for everyone! From the exhibits within our seven neighborhoods to our free 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. DCM exhibits and programs empower children to set their own pace, transcending age and experience. New summer hours began June 1!

Looking for more reasons to play? Check out our Just for Grown Ups resource, Ten Reasons to Make Time for Play . Quoting experts and recent research, this paper supports the importance of play to a child's overall development and achievement.

Friday, June 12, 2009

An Accessible Evening the Entire Family can Enjoy

DCM is dedicated to being accessible to all children and adults and makes a special effort to accommodate our visitors with special needs. Our exhibits offer ways to work on language development, social skills and purposeful play.

The Third Thursday evenings from 5- 7 pm are a special time for all families, especially families of children with autism spectrum disorder,visual impairments and/or mobility impairments. Cindy Miller, our Community Access Coordinator, acknowledges that for some families, Third Thursday has been a bridge. "Once a child's or family's comfort level within the Museum increased, they started visiting the Museum at other times," she stated.

Here are some experiences you will find on Third Thursday evenings:

Visit our resource table for information on issues and services related to autism, visual impairments and/or mobility impairments. We are pleased to bring resources and information to our visitors such as upcoming community events, service providers, and support organizations in the community. Visitors can find recommendations for using our exhibits for therapeutic benefits. We also offer to parents wanting to connect with other parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, visual impairments and/or mobility impairments a discreet, voluntary ID system.

While parents explore the community and informational resources, children can explore the contents of our sensory box, filled with items for visual, auditory and tactile stimulation. This sensory box is available during other visits, if requested, for extra support with visual, auditory or tactile play.

Regular Third Thursday volunteers are Casey, the therapy dog, and his owner Janet. A new development for Third Thursday is the addition of a volunteer with experience in supporting families of children with special needs to staff the Resource Table. "We are very excited about our new volunteer joining us because with her education and experience, she is yet another great resource available to our Third Thursday visitors," commented Cindy Miller.

Use our visual communication systems. Visitors can learn about our Photo Book, which is a visual communication system of Museum exhibits and environment. The Photo Book assists parent and child with structuring their visit and can help ease transitions from one activity to another. They can also borrow specific picture schedules (compliments of Illinois Autism/PDD Training and Technical Assistance Project), which are visual aides to support a child's communication skills during play in the exhibits. Children can also complete an art project in our art studio with an accompanying visual system.

Browse our Explorer Store. The staff would be happy to assist you with suggested toys for children with specific needs. For instance, toys that stimulate visual interest, sensory experiences, patterns, visual tracking or toys with cause and effect features may benefit children on the autism spectrum. A family with a child with a visual impairment may want to look for toys that use touch, sound and texture. Toys that encourage body movement and use available motor skills can be useful for children with mobility impairment.

Get to know well-trained staff. Staff is trained to recognize when a family may benefit from using some of our adaptive equipment, sensory items, visual communication systems or Photo Book. Staff may offer materials by asking the adult family member, "Do you think your child might be helped by using sensory items," or "Does your child use a visual system at school?" "We see the benefits from offering these opportunities," stated Sue Kessler, one of our Play Coordinators. A recent synopsis by Sue for our staff summarized a rewarding experience for both the staff member and the visitor:

One of our Play Facilitators, Rachel, pulled out the sensory box for a young lady in a wheel chair in the Good Show Gallery. Rachel started to show her the items to see if one could help both the young lady and her two teachers. When Rachel clapped the sand blocks together, the girl in the wheelchair started to smile. The teachers were pleased and mentioned that a smile was rarely observed for this child. Later, Rachel, the two teachers and the girl in the wheelchair played together in our Make it Move neighborhood with similar results. The teachers mentioned that they were going to make sand blocks for the girl when they returned to school.

Mark your calendars. Even though our summer hours have changed, our commitment to Third Thursdays stays the same. We will have weekday evening hours during summer only on June 18, July 16 and August 20. For further information about Third Thursday, please contact Cindy Miller, Community Access Coordinator (

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Making Connections to the Arts

Did you know?
The arts can make you smart! Recent research demonstrates a correlation between the arts and higher academic performance. In the report, “Learning, Arts and the Brain,” seven universities presented several studies discussing how visual arts, music, and dance training and skill impact learning (The DanaFoundation, 2008).

The focus for the Family Resource Center (FRC) for June, July and August is Making Connections to the Arts. To find ways to nurture your child's connections to the arts, 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. View our summer calendar for information about free drop-in storytelling and music programs in the FRC.

Explore Art in our Studio
Studio Drop-Ins –Activities in the Art Studio are FREE to DCM members and with admission. No pre-registration is required. Activities are on-going during each drop-in session and will explore alternating math-, science- and art-related discovery projects that support a different learning theme each month. Some sessions provide the opportunity to take something home with you. All sessions allow you and your child the opportunity to explore and experiment with a variety of materials.

Thematic approach for June – Fins, Furs and Feathers
June 7 - 13 Got You Covered, Science Discovery - Make a collage with furry, feathery and textured fabrics to create an animal illustrations.

June 14 - 20 DCM Zoo, Art Discovery - Sculpt 3-dimmensional animals and help the DCM zoo grow.

June 21- 27 Fish Scales, Math Discovery - Improvise with oil pastels and watercolors to create patterns with die-cut rhombi. Take them home or add them to an enormous tessellated fish.