Monday, December 31, 2012


Wishing you an abundantly joyful and PLAYful new year!

Challenge: Identify where in the Museum you can find each of these images!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

PlayWatch: Block Builders

Story shared by MuseumCorps Educator Megan Beauregard

Two boys, ages 7 and 8, had just met each other in ThinkSpace and were building together with the unit blocks. They started out with a standard “building,” stacking blocks to build arches and paths. I observed and soon asked if I could help, which mostly entailed holding blocks in place for them.

The conversation I had with the boys as they built was very detailed and took many imaginative turns. When I asked one boy what was going to happen next, he told me step by step and prompted me to hold blocks as he did so. “Now, this is going to be the elevator. It works by pulling this lever and moving into this room...” They told me about halfway through that this was the Children's Museum.

This Museum was no easy task, either. Throughout their play, other children would come to the blocks and knock their masterpiece over. The boys waited patiently. Once the children left, they would go right back to rebuilding the Museum, bigger and better than the last one.

Within 20 minutes or so, the two boys had successfully made Providence Children’s Museum – with a face-lift! For the Museum now had 10 floors, an elevator, a slide, a secret passage and a swimming pool.

The final product used every single unit block, and this picture was taken right before a curious toddler knocked down the structure. The boys were okay with this, and they thanked me for the help before they went to explore the rest of ThinkSpace. This was a great way to break in one of the components of this new and exciting space!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

PlayWatch: ThinkSpace Stories

These observations of kids’ creative play and focused spatial thinking in ThinkSpace were shared by Museum staff and AmeriCorps members.

Soma Cube
  • Two brothers, ages 11 and 6, played with the Soma cube while their mother observed and told them to “think spatially.”  After the boys found a solution, their mom challenged them to find another one. 
  • A grandmother and a 4-year-old had a great time figuring out the cube: “It took patience but it was so rewarding!”

Mystery Mazes
  • A 6-year-old girl reported that she finished maze boxes 5, 6, 7 and 8 on her last visit and now wanted to do 1, 2, 3 and 4.  She was already on 3 and had lots of erasure marks on her paper from drawing diagrams of the mazes!
  • The mazes were a hit with an 8-year-old boy who really loves drawing; he made good use of the answer keys, comparing them to his diagram and trying again.
  • Devising a creative new challenge, a 7-year-old boy stacked two maze boxes end to end so he could get a ball to travel through both.

Shape Talk
  • A father and daughter took turns being the speaker and listener, laughing and cheering when they got their patterns to match. 
  • Another family – mom, dad and 10-year-old daughter – also traded roles.  The girl built a complex stacked structure and successfully described it so that her dad was able to replicate it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Helping Kids Deal with Disaster

Our hearts go out to the families of Newtown, CT.  And as we hold our own little ones a bit closer, we wonder how to talk with them about something so dreadful and so inexplicable.  A number of organizations have shared good resources for parents and caregivers facing this daunting task. 

BrightStars, an organization that provides quality rating and improvement systems for Rhode Island's childcare and early learning programs, passed on this advice from behavioral consultant Haven Miles:
Instead of talking about details with very young children, use simple language and simple ideas.
  • A really terrible thing happened.
  • Sometimes adults do terrible things.
  • Terrible things almost never happen.
  • We will be sure that you are safe.
Some more resources:
– Janice O'Donnell, Executive Director

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Few of Our Favorite Things

Some of our favorite Shape Space activities were kept for ThinkSpace – all of them great spatial thinking tools:

Unit blocks are basic wooden blocks that kids of all ages and grown-ups love to play with. There’s a lot of research that shows their value. They’re completely open-ended. There’s an element of pretend or dramatic play.

Jovo® shapes snap together to make different polyhedra – triangles make a pyramid and squares make a cube. They’re a fantastic manipulative that demonstrates the relationship between the 2-D and 3-D worlds. Kids (and adults!) love to put their creations up on the show-off shelf to share what they've built.

Magna-Tiles® are magnetic and allow little kids to do something similar to Jovos with an easier mechanism for them. They also explore in different ways, stacking or lining them up.

The Shape Talk game prompts visitors to use spatial language, to think about and articulate spatial relations – where something goes in relation to something else.  There’s evidence that spatial language is incredibly important for spatial thinking. Spatial language is not just shape names but it’s also about location – above, below, between. It’s about movement – across, navigate, pathway. It’s about size – big, expand, high, little, long. It’s about orientation – around, down, horizontal. It’s about how things are curved or straight. It’s about congruence – whether something is alike or different or identical or similar. It’s about construction – creating, developing, making, placing. It’s about rotation – flipping, rotating, spinning, twisting. And it’s about transformation – distorting, squishing, transforming.

We’ve already observed a lot of visitors using spatial language and have seen a difference in how Shape Talk is being played in its new formation, and in how the other activities are being used. We look forward to seeing more great spatial play!