Thursday, December 16, 2010

'Tis the Season for Celebrations!

What kinds of celebrations are you planning during this time of year? In any culture, it is the celebrations that connect us to each other. Typically, celebrations are woven into our family traditions and help us connect with important people in our lives in meaningful ways.

What's one thing you remember about a family celebration? Good, bad, funny or sad, most of our celebration memories revolve around the connections we have with our family and friends. In her book I Love you Rituals, author Becky A. Bailey, Ph.D. says that "celebrations can help remind us who we are as individuals and as a family." This is particularly important for children. After all, especially in these trying times, what matters most are the connections we have with family and friends.

Create a family tradition at DuPage Children's Museum by joining us for our ninth annual New Year's Eve family-friendly celebration, Bubble Bash. Participate together in this year's theme, Blast Off. The celebration begins at 9 am and ends with a countdown to noon with Naperville's mayor, George Pradel, to ring in 2011. You and your family can participate in celebratory hands-on activities, play time in all the exhibits, photo opportunities, refreshments and musical performances by Mr Singer and the Sharp Cookies. This is a reservation-only event. Tickets are available on-line. To see pictures from last year's celebration, click here. The book I Love you Ritual is available for viewing in our Family Resource Center or can be purchased by using our Shop and Grow Program.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Have you visited the Family Resource Center Lately?

With a very comfy chair and lots of parent and teacher resources, the Family Resource Center (FRC) might just be the place to visit next time you are in our Museum. Located on the second floor, this tucked-away area not only serves as a respite on busy Museum days, but also provides a lot to see and do - quietly.

Stories and Books
Grab a book and share some cuddle time with your child or enjoy one of our many story reading and story telling opportunities offered throughout the week. They all support your child's growing literacy skills! Check the calendar for the daily schedule of events.

Table Top Activities
While you're resting or looking at resources, your child may enjoy exploring the teddy bear and elephant counters. These counters provide endless exploration with sorting by color, counting and pretending. Other table top activities include stacking blocks, Large Leggos® and puzzles. As he develops his skills, the emerging artist in your child may want to draw a picture with crayons or chalk using the drawing resources available in the FRC.

Parent and Caregiver Resources
Finally, a welcome surprise for many of our visitors is the variety of books and resources for parents and caregivers available in the FRC. The books are for you to peruse while visiting the Museum. You will find a designated shelf of parent support books and topical focus books about art, math, science or play. A recent addition to our library, donated by Perseus Book Groups, The Secure Child by Stanley L Greenspan gives timely advice for helping children feel safe and secure in a changing world.

A sign outside the FRC indicates what the current focused topic is. Presently our focus is about the arts. Teachers and parents may want to look through the variety of art curriculum books. One of our many books, Discovering Great Artists, Hands-on Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga, offers 110 unique art activities for children to experience the styles and techniques of the great masters from the Renaissance to the present. If you would like your own copy of one of the suggested books, support the Museum by using our Shop and Grow Program on our website.

Enjoy some of our former posts about visual art, dramatic art and storytelling opportunities in the Museum.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Creativity Builds Thinking Skills

What is the child in this picture thinking? If I were to guess, he is brainstorming the best placement of his scissors for the size of ribbon he needs for his collage resting on the table. Perhaps the ribbon is too thick or not thick enough. In that case, he'll have to search the table for alternate supplies. Maybe his caregiver will make a suggestion and together they will collaborate on the best solution. Brainstorming, searching for alternatives and collaborating are some of the critical thinking skills we need in life to succeed.

Creativity is a confluence of traits, capacities and skills. While some of us may not consider ourselves to be creative in the sense of known artists and musicians, the characteristics of creativity touch on the decisions we make on a daily basis. Here's what some of those characteristics look like from a developmental standpoint:

Infants are nurtured through sights, sounds and gentle touches. They learn to respond to the sounds of the human voice and noises in their environment. Given a stimulating environment and an attentive caregiver, babies discover that they can create change by what they see, hear or touch. Place rattles of varying sounds and textures in a baby's reach and he will explore them in various ways - shaking them, tasting them or dropping them and then exploring them again. In life, creating change leads to innovative solutions!
Crawlers and walkers become more deliberate and purposeful in responding to people and objects. Sing a familiar song or nursery rhyme over and over again. Then sing it again, only this time stop before you get to the last word or phrase. You may hear your child finishing the song for you. Learning to anticipate what happens next contributes toward making good decisions.

Young preschoolers are beginning to form mental pictures as they make sense of the sights and sounds of their world. Recreate some of their favorite story books by acting them out together. This helps build memory, a necessary component in school or work. At this age they may enjoy attending a performance or storytelling event.

When older preschoolers use their imagination with peers, they are learning to hone observation skills as they take their cues from another perspective. The older preschooler may enjoy creating simple performances with puppets and props. In addition, their growing interests in exploring clay and other art materials contribute towards learning to make choices and figuring out how to make things happen. Those thinking skills keep increasing in competency!
By the time your child enters school, he is looking at others' artwork and performance and developing an opinion - another higher level of thinking. Be sure and provide a space where your child can hang his artwork so others can look at and respond to it. You can model the importance of opinions by responding to creative examples in your home and community. What do you like or dislike about a painting or sculpture?

Older school-age children are ready to apply analytical thinking skills through discussions that offer their likes and dislikes about works of art, theater productions, stories, songs and poetry. At this age, they can share a judgment and, at the same time, take on the perspective of what another person may have been thinking. Your child may enjoy collecting music or poetry to share with others.
The pictures in this post were taken during one of our Higher Order Thinking Series™ Classes. These classes are offered to develop creativity and critical thinking skills through hands-on-art processes to build the creative mind. Children can discover more about themselves and their capabilities as they experiment with different art mediums such as paint, scissors and chalk. Click here for more information about our Creativity Classes. Consider attending one of our Tiny Great Performances™. For more information about the arts, read the report by the Task force on Children's Learning and the Arts, Young Children and the Arts: Making Creative Connections.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Instilling a Sense of Giving

Back when no curbside recycling existed, my sisters and I used to help our mother collect recycled materials to take to the volunteer-staffed recycling center. Although this experience started me on a philanthropic path, at the time I only knew it as a way of life. We looked at the adventure as fun!

Instilling a sense of giving can start early! Children three and under are primarily focused on themselves. A sense of giving is learned by watching grown-ups. When children observe adults share, listen or be kind to others, they learn compassion. "Giving" can mean your time or treasures. In this season of giving thanks and helping those less fortunate with food or gifts, you are modeling compassion! Even very young children can help shop, assemble and wrap donated items.

Support your philanthropic ideals via picture books, too, like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Box by Fred Rogers or the classic Stone Soup.

By the time children start school, they are ready to be more involved in their own philanthropic adventures, usually centering on their own interests. After hearing about our Champions campaign, two second graders donated the proceeds from their lemonade stand to the Museum. Children's charitable involvement contributes towards raising self-esteem, developing social skills, fostering an introduction to the greater world and encouraging kids to appreciate all that they have.

Make giving a family affair by encouraging your children's interests and working together. By allowing them input and decision-making, you will start them on the path of lifetime giving!

(This article first appeared in the November (2010) issue of Positively Naperville - PN Monthly. This month's featured column, Raise Your Play I.Q.® is written by Jayne Carpenter, M.S. - the Early Childhood Specialist for DuPage Children's Museum. She has degrees in Child Development and Applied and Family Child Studies. As an Early Childhood Specialist, Jayne has a diverse background with a variety of experience in museum, parent, teacher and child learning programs spanning 30 years. Contact her at the Museum or via email at

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Makes a Good Field Trip?

What was your favorite field trip when you were a child? What made it so memorable? Besides being thrilled to be out of the classroom, you probably got to interact with a fascinating guide, creative spaces or new materials in a way you had not experienced before. The interactions you had with your classmates may have helped make it memorable as well.

So what makes a good field trip? Good field trips connect to what children are learning. Authentic experiences that relate to and expand on previous knowledge can make powerful educational connections. For teachers, good planning must precede field trips. Teachers and caregivers should familiarize themselves with the site prior to booking a field trip. Parents want to know that their child will be safe and that the trip serves a planned educational purpose. If parents accompany their children on well-planned field trips, they can support their child's learning at home - and become the best advocates for future visits.

An increasing number of our volunteers under age 30 are reporting their memories of field trips at DCM. In particular, they recount experiences from our learning lab field trips. Our learning labs are memorable because they integrate what children are learning in school with their developmental interests and abilities. Teachers like them because they are well organized and align with the Illinois Learning Standards.

Do you have a favorite Museum field trip memory?. Post a comment with a group compiling those memories here. If you have a favorite field trip memory from DuPage Children's Museum, leave us a comment on our blog.

Consider booking a field trip with us soon!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Good Toy Choices

We will be hosting our third annual toy show and sale on Friday, November 12. With so many good toy choices both during the sale or any time in our Explorer Store, how do you choose? Here are a few suggestions to consider:

At any age, co
nsider puppets. When children play with puppets, they make them talk, encouraging the development of language skills and the expression of various emotions. Add a puppet stage (also available in our store and at the sale) and you've got a performance!

I like to keep these Magic Noodles (colored biodegradable peanuts and sticks) around when friends stop by with their children or grandchildren. Just add a damp paper towel and let the creativity take center stage. This activity helps children to think spatially, and the ideas are endless. Read about how we use biodegradable peanuts in the Studio here.

In consideration of
older children, we've added science kits to our collection of learning toys this year. Create your own mechanical moving robot or choose a kit where you can design a hovercraft or praxinoscope. School-age children are ready for figuring out how things work. Your child's increasing concentration and problem solving abilities are challenged when they explore the complexities of a science kit.

For more information about the toy show and sale, click here. Our Explorer Store is always open during Museum hours. You don't need to pay admission to visit the store. Consider a trip to our Explorer Store this holiday season.

Please enjoy additional tips
from a previous post to guide you as you make good toy choices!

See you at the sale on November 12th!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Take Time To Play!

Do you need a little play time? It turns out that play is vital for healthy functioning, even for animals. Gordon Burghardt, a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee and author of the book The Genesis of Animal Play - Testing the Limits has found that play is embedded in species' biology, including the brain. Repetitive play helps stimulate our memories and our flexible thinking. Play nurtures our cognitive and emotional skills. At any age, for any species, that's a lot of power in play!

Take time to play during daily routines.
Watching apes play during a recent trip to the zoo reminded me that even during the daily routines of sleeping and eating one can find time to play. During what appeared to be gorilla nap time, one gorilla decided it was time to play. He was doing flips and making ape noises while the three other gorillas were resting. When another gorilla came over to investigate what all the ruckus was about, he joined in the fun too! It looked like a game of hide-and-go-seek had started between the two playful apes. By the time I made it around their enclave, they were resting comfortably with the other gorillas.

Play requires time in order for ideas to take shape and flourish. Aspects of play may evolve and change, but the need for play remains constant. I keep a knobby, squishy ball at my desk. Although it's meant for infant/toddler sensory exploration, I bought it at the Museum's Explorer Store for back support since I spend endless hours on the computer. A surprise outcome, however, has been the use of it as a toy. I like to pick it up and toss it in the air a few times, especially when I need to think. Rest assured I'm back to work after a few minutes of play, but watch out; I may just toss it your way if you walk by my office.

Where do you play? The play environment has to provide a sense of safety and security for one to freely explore. After that, the play possibilities are endless. Play time is not a break from learning; it is learning in action! Play environments should provide tools for further investigation and exploration of things that interest us. During play children explore, probe, experiment, investigate and inquire. Their play is often characterized by concentration and unwillingness to be distracted (Kieff, J., & Casbergue, R. (2000) Playful Learning and Teaching. Boston: Allyn and Bacon).

Watch this little boy's exploration as he plays in our Room for Rhythm, located in Creativity Connections Neighborhood. His concentration and investigations show learning in action!

To order one of the books suggested in this post, click here for on-line ordering through our website. Read a synopsis of Gordon Burghardt's research here. Watch various animals at play and read a more detailed article in the October issue of The Scientist here.

Be sure and take time to play!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Grandparent Play

While we value grandparents everyday at DuPage Children's Museum, we celebrate their unique bond with their grandchildren during the month of October. Bonnie Strong, a grandmother visiting from Ohio in honor of her grandchild's 3rd birthday, commented that DCM is a great place for wonderful memories!

Do you remember the bond you had with your grandparent? It's as if time stopped and the world revolved around the two of you when you explored and played together. Grandparents typically have more time to share in the excitement of their grandchild's new discoveries. While all adults can be important in a child's life, grandparents often fill the role of friend, play partner, role model, caregiver, family historian, mentor and a source of unconditional love.

Being a grandparent offers many benefits too! According to an article from Forever Families, the grandparent role provides a chance to participate in a child's growth and development without the level of responsibility that parents have. An added bonus can be a sense of vitality for grandparents who explore and play with someone in a younger stage of life!

(Parts of this post are from Raise Your Play I.Q., a column in the October 2009 Positively Naperville Newspaper, by Jayne Carpenter, Early Childhood Specialist for DCM)

Friday, October 15, 2010

How Do You Decide Who Gets Your Vote?

How do you prepare yourself to vote? Do you gather all the facts before you make the final decision? Do you discuss your decision with a trusted friend or family member? Have you ever second guessed your decision? Although we don't earn the privilege of voting until we are 18, most children are well aware of elections and voting from an early age, given all the yard signs, phone calls and TV ads they see in their world.

Children visiting the Museum from October 8 - 12 had a unique opportunity to learn about the voting process by casting a ballot for their favorite pumpkin. Expanding upon children's natural curiosity and delight in pumpkin decorations, DCM became the voting place for "The Great Pumpkin Decorating Contest." The submissions were hosted by Brickkicker Home Inspection Company and decorated by area realtors.

A good way to introduce the voting process is to find opportunities for children to practice voting. With younger children, the fewer the choices, the better. Hamburgers or tacos for dinner? Let's take a vote! For older children, the number or the complexity of choices can be increased. You can hold family elections on a variety of topics - where to go on vacation, what movie to watch and so on.

In any election, our own choices may not be the winning ones. When you are practicing voting with your children, make sure you explain how voting works. There's no changing your mind once the ballot is cast! Casting your vote should be a secret. You don't have to share it with anyone. You do have to honor the decision, though!

Voting for a favorite pumpkin was done by placing a ticket in the labeled box, corresponding to the pumpkin of your choice. So what's your favorite pumpkin? You have to make a decision!

And the winner is...

...pumpkin # 17, Purple Cinderella. First runner up is #8, Nemo and second runner up is #3, M & M. The pumpkins have been given to the Nurses' Station at the Pediatric Center at Edward Hospital to be presented to patients when they are discharged to go home!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Displaying Children's Art Reaps Powerful Rewards!

The best art openings in town are at DuPage Children's Museum's Good Show Gallery, a special venue for displaying children's works. The artists arrive, some in fancy dress, some straight from hockey practice, all excited to show their families the works they created in a DCM workshop. Pointing out their thoughtful creations to parents and recognizing their artistic efforts hung behind glass in an official art gallery generates tremendous pride. At one artists' reception a father shared that his daughter reminded him of the exhibit opening celebration every single day after she participated in the workshop. That morning she bounded into his room to wake him with, "Don't forget! It's tonight!"
Showcasing children's creative effort has far-reaching results. Beyond encouraging thoughtfulness in the work, gallery showings offer the opportunity to document children's increasing skills and problem-solving abilities. Our Good Show Gallery's mission is to support DCM's Scribbleosophy©, a document honoring the developmental stages in children's growing creative abilities. Displaying the work of entire classes demonstrates to parents the fact that everyone, from gifted Monet to the average doodler, goes through the same stages at roughly the same age. (While not documented, it is likely that even Rembrandt's figures looked like tadpoles at the age of 3!).

While it's cookies and juice at DCM's Good Show Gallery openings, rather than wine and cheese that are provided in Chicago's art district, be assured, the excitement and pride of every artist is a work of art.

This week's post is written by Marcia MacRae, DCM's Interdisciplinary Arts Specialist. For more information about the Good Show Gallery, contact Marcia at

Monday, September 27, 2010

Educators Making Sense of Number

We hosted our 3rd annual Educators' Open House this week. About 80 educators visited with Museum staff, toured our exhibits, and explored activities associated with our Learning Lab School Programs. In addition, participants received 1.5 CEU or CPDU credits by listening to an engaging and informative presentation by Angela Andrews, Associate Professor of Math Education from National Louis University. Her topic, Making Number Make Sense, reminded us that in order to develop math understanding, we have to help children and adults understand that math is "comprehend-able not magical!"

"Never miss an opportunity to count with children," Angela told us. "Research has shown that the higher they count, the more they comprehend number." From the beginning and through kindergarten, parents, teachers and caregivers should be counting forward with children. Surprisingly, in the Pre-K years it doesn't matter if numbers are mixed-up or skipped as children are counting forward. What's important is that they keep counting forward, as high as they can go. This helps to develop the mental number line children will need for higher level math thinking. When should we start counting backwards with children? How should children write numbers? When do they start learning their math facts? Learn these answers and more when you view excerpts from Angela's presentation, available on our website soon!

If you would like more teacher workshops related to art, math or science, then DuPage Children's Museum can help! As part of a cadre of experts in integrating developmentally appropriate art, math and science activities, Early Childhood Specialist Jayne Carpenter; Interdisciplinary Arts Specialist Marcia MacRae; Chris Barry, School Programs Manager; and expert play and school facilitators have traveled all over Kane, Cook, Will and DuPage Counties to conduct hands-on workshops for caregivers and teachers of children, infants through 4th grade. These workshops can be brought to your site or hosted here at the Museum. For more information about our workshops, please contact Margaret Hanly, Associate Director of Programs ( or Jayne Carpenter (

Friday, September 24, 2010

Science Learning through a Child's Eyes

Scientists use their curiosity about a particular problem to observe, test, verify and make discoveries. How does this curiosity develop? Apparently right from the start! Lise Elliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain, notes that "psychologists have tracked babies' eye movements to gauge whether they understand such properties as gravity, speed, and momentum. Remarkably, they have found that they do!"

Babies explore through their senses. They look, touch, smell, taste and hear just about anything within their reach. You can learn a lot about your child's natural curiosity by observing his/her play and supporting it. A safe environment with objects of varying textures and sounds provides a beginning science exploration for infants. Their favorite object to look at is you! So spend lots of face-to-face time with them!

Older babies and toddlers continue to explore with their senses but now can explore using their increasing motor abilities. Given time to freely explore their environment, toddlers will begin to sort and classify objects. Provide containers of varying sizes and some everyday objects such as balls, large buttons, pom poms, ribbons, lids and bells. These types of open-ended materials foster cause and effect exploration that is basic physics.

Preschoolers tend to center on only one property of an object. For instance, exploring rocks may be about size or shape or color, but rarely about all three attributes. The preschooler's developing language allows him to share ideas and approach problems cooperatively. You can support the preschooler's curiosity by providing short explanations that extend learning opportunities. Try adding a challenge at the end of your explanation. "That rock is shiny when you shine the light on it. Let's try another rock to see if that one shines too."

The early school-age child prefers to solve problems alone or with her peers. The budding scientist is still curious and is more capable of experimentation and increasingly challenging problems. The rock exploration may now be about exploring weight or adding incline planes for experimentation about inertia and momentum as the rocks slide down.

The focus in our Family Resource Center was changed during our shutdown to offer resources related to the topic Making Connections to Science. You can find more information about supporting your child's science explorations both in the FRC and on our website through the end of November. Educating grown-ups about how children learn is a focus of the Museum; it is very important in supporting children's learning both here in the Museum and at home. Because part of our mission is to integrate art, math and science through play, we have chosen to highlight these focus areas in our FRC and on our website to better support the adult's role in the adult-child learning partnership. If you would like more information about science resources offered through the Museum, please contact Jayne Carpenter, Early Childhood Specialist (

For further reading about exploring science through play you may want to view these previous posts:

Exploring the Science of Air
Question, Predict, Try, Analyze and Retry
Explore Shadow Science
Finding Science in Play

Monday, September 13, 2010

What's New at DuPage Children's Museum?

We are pleased to welcome our visitors back! After a two-week refresh and cleaning of the Museum, we are open! A Play Facilitator was overheard saying, "Boy, does this place smell clean!" Cleaning and sanitizing takes priority all year round but especially during our annual shutdown. You can read more about our daily and yearly cleaning procedures here and in a 2008 article in Hand to Hand Journal for the Association of Children's Museums (ACM).

A major change during our shutdown was the refreshing of our Interact with Art Gallery, The Play's the Thing, now called The Play's the Thing: Act II. The main purpose of our gallery is to help our young visitors and their adult partners realize that there are many creative ways to interpret the world and that their own interpretations have validity. Like its predecessor, The Play's the Thing: Act II offers opportunities for pretend play, performance, puppetry and set design. Pretend play is a wonderful way to facilitate development of imagination. When children role-play, they often practice taking on the perspective of others.

You will notice that the Main Stage was moved to the other side of the exhibit. A plain back-drop was added so children can manipulate their own props with Velcro®. You will also see a Play Note that prompts the visitor with a performance idea.

The Tower has been transformed into a Rocket, which, along with the Space Station, Space Mural and Saturn Bench, children can use to expand their performance ideas into outer space. For more information about The Play's the Thing: Act II read an article in the Daily Herald newspaper here.

Stay tuned! The Family Resource Center's focus is Stepping into Science. In our next post we'll look at some of those resources and the exploration of science through play.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Creative Thinking Inspires Children's Engineering Abilities

The simplest materials often stimulate the most creative thinking! This summer Line Sculptures filled DCM's Studio for an entire week with colorful abstract designs, representational pictures and inspirational feats of engineering. "Inspirational" materials included paper strips of varying widths, scissors, glue sticks and small rectangular papers on which to work. A few hints on how to shape paper with accordion folds, spiral, curls and pop-up designs were all that excited visitors needed to get going.*

Children of all ages and abilities bring their unique level of skills and vision when basic materials are provided for open-ended activities. The smaller bases offered for our Line Sculptures encouraged preschoolers, who like to work flat, build up into the third dimension. Older children created engineering playgrounds, buildings and gardens, figuring out how to put wider strips at the bottom to support decorative elements on top. Designs and creativity are boundless when you keep it simple!

*One tip: Strips of wrapping paper bring fun sparks of pattern to designs.

This week's post is written by Marcia Z. MacRae, Interdisciplinary Arts Specialist for DuPage Children's Museum.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Clean and Refresh

Our annual shutdown for refreshing exhibits is currently underway. Staff and volunteers are working diligently to clean, paint and (sometimes) refurbish every area, including exhibits and behind the scenes.

Our Interact with Art Gallery: The Play's the Thing will have some changes as it evolves into Act II. The curtain opens September 13th. In the meantime, read about some of the changes here.

Our deep-cleaning procedures start with baseboards and furniture. Add some smiles and we're on our way to completing these projects.

A fresh coat of paint is more fun to apply when you have a painting partner at your side.

Although cleaning and painting can be exhausting work, we manage to find time to still play!
Ben, the Mighty Power Washer

Monday, August 23, 2010

Art Explorers

As summertime is winding down, so too are our summer preschool camp programs. Our final camp of the summer gave children the opportunity to explore art in a variety of mediums. Whether children are reveling in the wet, bright-colored "squishiness" of tempera paint, creating a vista of lines and curves or thoughtfully poking or smoothing a mound of dough, they are developing artistic expression.

The Preschool Summer Camp children may not know who Jean Dubuffet is; they did, however, explore his sculpture style when we created Styrofoam peanut sculptures as we looked at images of his work. Small pieces of tissue paper, wrapped around the bottom of a dowel rod and glued on a piece of paper, gave us the same sense of color that we saw in Water Lilies by Claude Monet. And a favorite Eric Carle book, Red Fox, inspired some ideas for creating art from recycled wallpaper pieces, Eric Carle style.

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). Based on the explorations and discoveries during Art Explorers week, we would have to agree!

This week's montage of pictures shows children exploring art activities in our camp room as well as enjoying Museum exhibits with fellow campers. A BIG THANK YOU to Sue Kessler, one of our camp facilitators, for putting this montage (and some of our others) together with thought-provoking music.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great Big and Teeny Tiny

Measurement is the main way most of us use math in the everyday world. From great big to tiny, measurement begins with noticing differences in size. Although preschool children may not verbalize measurement, they are thinking about it - from how tall they are to comparing how long their teddy bear is next to their friend's bear. During last week's Preschool Summer Camp we used the creative arts to explore size differences. We painted with teeny tiny brushes (and tiny fingers) and large brushes (and large hands). We compared space by using small and large paper. After reading the book Where's My Teddy, a delightful story about a mix-up of two teddy bears, one belonging to a small boy and one to a large bear, we decorated small and large teddy bears. We took small pieces of biodegradable Styrofoam pieces and created large sculptures. A large box filled with shoes, from baby shoes to clown shoes, not only provided for fun make-believe, but also generated conversations about size comparisons.

Using the exhibits in Water Ways and Math Connections, we explored quantity, size and balance. You too can facilitate learning by using early math vocabulary such as small/large or more/less/fewer when playing in these exhibits with your preschooler.

Explore measurement at home by offering varying sizes of paper. Pennant-shape paper allows children to draw naturally and encourages them to create tiny and large designs. Puzzles are another great way to explore size differences. Read more about puzzle play here.

Enjoy this week's montage of pictures. We sure had a fabulous time exploring measurement!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Let's Pretend

During last week's Preschool Summer Camp, the focus was pretend. Pretending is a great way to encourage and motivate children's learning. One of the many benefits of pretending is that it gives children many opportunities to practice using their memory.

We started the week by cultivating our storytelling techniques with volunteer storyteller Joanne Chase. On Monday we created stories with story blocks and then created our own story blocks and story boards. On Tuesday we made up stories with puppets and made puppets to take home. On Wednesday we reenacted the story Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. We used our imaginations in the exhibit neighborhoods, too: on the Main Stage, in the U-Drive and in the Cat'sTower, which are located in our Interact with Art Gallery, The Play's the Thing. By the end of the week we were making costumes and creating sets. A visit from performers of Cirque Shanghai surprised and delighted us as we watched in amazement with other Museum visitors.

For more information about pretend play, we recommend two of our favorite staff resource books at DCM. Both books can be ordered through DCM's Shop and Grow Program.

Einstein Never Used Flashcards
by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta M. Golinkoff and Diane E. Ayer

Awakening Children's Mind
s: How Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference by Laura E. Berk

Friday, August 6, 2010

Color, Light and Shadow

An awareness of how we see color involves a gradually constructed and complex network of insights. In addition, though shadows and light are aspects of our physical world, they aren't objects that can be picked up and handled. Last week, DCM's Preschool Summer Camp built on children's inherent interest with color, light and shadows, including complexities such as shade, tint, brightness and intensity.

Camp week was spent exploring the exhibits, reading some great books and participating in focused activities about color, light and shadow. One of our favorite activities was creating colored mouse paw prints after we read the book Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh. Another favorite was exploring light and color with flashlights and cellophane covers. By the end of the week we were ready to investigate shadows when we made shadow puppets to project on the wall with light and imagined what our shadow would look like by creating life-size images of ourselves.

You can learn more about the science of color, light and shadows and supporting children's play and learning in previous posts about the Museum's neighborhood, Creativity Connections, and revamped exhibit, Shadow Playground.

There's still time to sign up for one of our Preschool Summer Camps:

Great Big and Tiny: August 9-13
Art Explorers: August 16 - 20

Enjoy this week's montage of pictures from Color, Light and Shadow Camp.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cool Chemical Concoctions

Bubble, fizz, ooze! These were some of the results last week at our Cool Chemical Concoction Mini-Camp for 7-9 year old children. At one of the four mini-camps for younger school-age children held this summer, children experimented with common household "chemicals" to learn about the power of CO2 gas, how yeast makes dough rise, how to grow crystals, how to make several different cool slimes and much more!

You don't need to be a scientist to explore science! Because of children's natural curiosity, it's easy to get them interested in science. Visit your local library and look up books about kitchen chemistry. Some of our favorites include Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb, Kitchen Chemistry: A Book of Science Experiments by Evan Moor and Kid Chemistry by Sandra Ford Grove. You can find these books on-line through our Shop 'n' Grow Program.

So - discover what's inside your cabinets for experiments. Don't forget to stand back when you drop the Mint Mentos® into the Diet Coke.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What Do You Know About Air?

During the research for the Museum's AirWorks neighborhood adults and children were interviewed with the statement, tell us what you know about air. Both children and adults talked about feeling air on themselves such as the force of the air when they placed their hands outside of a moving car. Most of us, in fact, understand that air is all around us, that air blows objects around and that we can feel air when it moves.

You don't need to understand air in order to experiment with it. Read more about exploring the science of air by checking out a previous post here . To read more about what adults and children say about air, read a previous post here. You can find tips for playing in our AirWorks neighborhood here.

This past week, preschool children in our Up in the Air Summer Camp explored air both in the camp and in the Museum exhibits. Enjoy this week's montage of pictures! The hot air balloons at the end of the slide show are pictures taken by one of the teachers a few years ago. Her images were displayed on the wall during one of our "Up in the Air" explorations.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Play with Water and Bubbles!

In everyday life water spouts from faucets, drains from tubs and rains from above. And inevitably, if you are a child it spills! During last week's Preschool Summer Camp children redirected, captured, and controlled water. With multiple approaches and myriad of solutions to any challenge, playing with water and bubbles is discovery learning at its best.

For information about the science behind playing with water and bubbles, click here.

Here's some of the learning and fun we had in the Water and Bubbles Preschool Camp last week.

For information about our Preschool Summer Camps, click here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Invasion of the Insects!

Anderson Pest Solutions brought their Insect Zoo for our visitors to investigate last week. "The Insect Zoo has developed quite a following with our visitors, having first visited in November of 2009," stated Margaret Hanly, Associate Director of Programs for DCM. "We had 305 adults and children at last week's event," she added. Both children and their parents and caregivers showed a variety of emotions from curiosity to disdain, for these fascinating bugs. And what better way to learn about them: up close and personal and from the pest experts themselves!

How do you feel about bugs? Most of us are either squeamish or enthralled (sometimes both at the same time!). At around age 3, children begin to center their play on make-believe. Playtime consists of imaginary scenarios, mixing what they know with elements of make-believe. During this time, an ant on the sidewalk could be an alien monster. Fears may develop as children go back and forth between figuring out what is real and what is imagined. A natural response of parents is to talk their children out of their fear of the bug. Children, however, respond by cranking up their imagination. Now that little ant might rise up and eat them!

The best way to confront fears is to find ways to play with nonthreatening versions of them. Adults and children alike were able to look at, touch and hear about some very interesting bugs. Fun questions being asked or answers being told were overheard. Do insects have teeth? What do they eat? Where do they live? How do bugs talk to each other? We found out that the hissing cockroach in the picture above lives far away from here, in Madagascar, and communicates by forcing air through breathing tubes that produce hissing sounds. Will the hissing cockroach eat us? No way! He eats only vegetation, mostly decaying fruit.

Children investigated bugs further by looking at books and trying on insect costumes.

Next bug invasion is Tuesday, August 24th. Check the Museum calendar for further information.