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