Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fun for the Whole Family

This article, by Museum Executive Director Janice O'Donnell, was also posted on Kidoinfo.

Adults are an important part of the Children’s Museum audience.  By sheer numbers, nearly half of all our visitors are adults.

We want adults to want to come to the Museum and to enjoy themselves here.  When the grown-ups are relaxed and engaged, kids are able to explore whatever interests them for as long as they want.  So, our answer to the question “What are grown-ups supposed to do here?” is “Have fun!”

Look through your child’s eyes.  It’s fascinating to find out what she’s drawn to, what she’s learning, what she knows how to do.  You can learn a lot about your child by carefully observing her.  Does she do the same activity over and over until she has it mastered?  What perseverance!  Does he charm adults and connect with other kids?  Great social skills!  Does she silently watch what other kids do and then try it herself?  Good learning strategy!  Even if putting the scarves through the air tubes again isn’t that interesting, your kid sure is.

Follow your children’s lead.  Let go of any agenda and follow their whims.  It’s less important to get to every exhibit than to share a good experience.  It looks like he might stay in The Climber for the rest of the day?  Fine – you can enjoy some leisurely time in the garden.

Credit: John C. Meyers
Join in the fun.  It’s not only okay for grown-ups to play, it’s good for you and an important way to interact with your children.  So play!  Climb up on the packet ship and obey your captain’s order to raise the sail.  When the kids are intent on engineering a series of dams and streams, roll up your sleeves and get involved – just don’t take over!

Have some fun of your own.  Your child is building an elaborate block structure.  Sit down and build one yourself.  Share building strategies.  Or get engrossed in something you like to do while your child is busy doing her own thing nearby.  We love to see adults happily creating kaleidoscopic designs while the kids are off playing with the trucks and rocks

We’re glad to see adults enjoying their Museum visit because they’re more likely to come back, but much more significantly, we love that they are doing something really important for their families.  Parents are learning about their kids and kids are feeling paid attention to and cared for.  Together, they’re creating happy family memories.  The American Academy of Pediatrics says play strengthens parent-child relationships, offering “opportunities for parents to fully engage with their children.”  On your next Museum visit – have some fun!

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