Friday, December 18, 2009

Learn Through Play

What children take away from their play experiences is endless! Through rich and varied play experiences, children gain many learning benefits. In a Young Children article (September 2007), Dr. Alice Honig offers 10 ideas about what children learn through play. Let's explore one of her ideas and see how it relates to playing at the Museum and playing at home.

Play Enhances Dexterity and Grace (Honig, September 2007)
Play offers opportunity for practicing and learning eye-hand coordination. The ability to place an object inside or next to another object takes time and practice. Through manipulation of objects children enhance their hand dexterity. This child is using her small motor movements to manipulate the Magnatiles in our Math Connections neighborhood. Her movements will become more controlled over time.

Learning to control body movements in space is another important skill learned through play. When your child connects the beads in Math Young Explorers or uses the mallet to create sound on the Amadinda (large xylophone) in the Room for Rhythm room, she is developing confidence in her ability to control body movements in space.

To promote whole body gracefulness, visit the Multisensory Room and invite your children to move their bodies as they explore the lights, color, sounds and textures in the room; or attend one of our Tiny Great Performances, where children can sing or dance along with our performers.

At home, you can boost your child's early learning by spending some time outdoors. When children use their bodies in ways that encourage moving their legs and feet, such as riding a tricycle or playing a sport, they are enhancing the coordination of those muscles and developing control of their body movements.

Stay tuned! Next time we'll look at how play prompts children's reasoning of cause and effect, another power boost for children's early learning, as suggested by Dr. Honig.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Play to Learn

What many of us have known all along, that play is crucial to learning, has captured the attention of others , including doctors and scientists. Alice Sterling Honig, PhD, professor emerita of child development, Syracuse, New York, says, "Children gain powerful knowledge and useful social skills through play" (Play: Ten Power Boosts for Children's Early Learning, Young Children, September 2007). Dr. Honig suggests 10 ideas about what children learn through play. During the next few posts we will look at some of her ideas and offer some "Play at the Museum" and "Play at Home" tips that benefit children's learning.

In the meantime, explore the links provided in this post and be sure to visit our Web site and Family Resource Center, located on the second floor in our Museum. In both of these places you can find some of our favorite resources related to our current focus, Play to Learn.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Question, Predict, Try, Analyze, and Retry

The exhibits in AirWorks allow children to use the scientific method involving questioning, predicting, trying, analyzing and retrying. In the last post we looked at the first misconception children have about air - that is children didn't understand that wind is air that moves. They thought air to be magical and unpredictable. Because air is invisible, children may not think or ask questions about it. However, the exhibits in AirWorks provide the freedom to use misunderstandings about air as powerful starting points in constructing new and more accurate knowledge.

During the development phase of AirWorks, we also discovered other common misconceptions about air. Some children showed confusion about the interplay between objects in air. How do objects move in air? There was confusion about why air moves and what air pressure is. A common denominator with air play is that children were learning that air has power. This became a good starting point in developing experiences for children.

Play in the Museum
These children are using powerful air "wands" to move parts of a kinetic sculpture. Not only can they observe the movement, they can also discover that a strong air pressure makes a noise. They can feel the force of the air if they put their hands in front of the air wands.

How strong does the air flow have to be to get an object to float? This child is experimenting with light and heavy objects and making discoveries in our Wind Tunnel.

Research and Redevelopment Never Ends At DCM
Visit AirWorks to see our newly designed Wind Garden. Here children can observe and experiment with how size, shape, and surface impact how objects move in air. We're not done yet! We're still doing observations to see which types of materials have the greatest impact on children's inquiries.