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New Playscape Helps Parents and Children Reach Developmental Milestones in a Fun and Engaging Way

September 2013

From the second your child is born, he is learning something new every day that is critical for development. Researchers and psychologists believe children learn significantly earlier than previously believed. For example, infants as young as three months show evidence of being able to accurately identify concepts that are basic to literacy in science, math and language. Research conducted at Harvard University even revealed that babies less than one year old demonstrate the ability to differentiate between good and bad intentions. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis partnered in this National Science Foundation funded research along with MIT and the Boston Museum of Science.

The museum is putting the latest research to good use in the new and completely redesigned Playscape. "When Playscape opens August 31st, it will provide a new research-based interactive setting to address some of the most critical skills for infancy through five years of age," said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO, The Children's Museum. "We have listened to parents and researchers and responded with elements to help children develop these cognitive and social skills."

"Every time you engage your baby in play, such as singing, talking, and reading together, you're stimulating neural connections, building skills, and creating a strong parent-child relationship," said Cathy Southerland, Director of Early Childhood Education, The Children's Museum.

This new child-sized environment is both Reggio- and Montessori-inspired and will provide something for each developmental stage of the littlest visitors. Babyscape is a special area for younger infants, crawlers, and toddlers and centers around a "nest" - a protected area for parents to place babies on thick mats for tummy time along with mirrors and age-appropriate toys. Crawlers and cruisers will be encouraged to play with balls and a variety of textures. Toddlers can play on a low-incline slide, try on animal costumes, crawl through a log, and push a button to watch pretend butterflies fly.

Aspiring Beethovens and Picassos will discover materials for creativity in another area. It includes a Music Studio in which little ones can play with sounds and experiment with musical instruments (drums, shakers, bells, rhythm sticks, xylophone, and a glockenspiel). There is also an Art Studio fostering creative thinking with a wide variety of materials (paint, crayons, and clay).

One of the most valuable lessons your children can learn early and carry with them throughout life is that for every action there's a reaction. The inventive space is all about cause and effect and will focus on creative play with objects such as wheels, blocks, balls, and simple machines.

"Play is a critical component of invention. Encouraging your child to wonder, ask a question, form a hypothesis and test it playfully will foster science inquiry and basic math skills," said Dr.David Wolf, former astronaut and the museum's Extraordinary Scientist-in-Residence.

Children can connect with their grownups and nature as they explore a pond, creek and sandbox in another portion of the exhibit. A unique climber encourages gross motor skill development and invites children to pretend swim or climb through a series of lily pad platforms to the "surface." Upon reaching the top, kids discover sailboats for make-believe play. Realistic-looking fish, turtles, frogs, and birds add to the immersive feel along with a soundscape. At the creek children can walk behind a waterfall, launch a fish and follow it downstream, or try catching fish with nets.

Play With Me! Toy Boxes are geared to help adults who have young infants and older children. It will enable parents to play with their baby while watching older kids. And those wondering what to do with those toys that Junior sticks in his mouth and drools all over will find new "Dirty toy" boxes in which to deposit them for cleaning (the toys – not your child).

Nursing moms are sure to appreciate amenities available in the Mothers' Rooms. Inside each of the private cubicles will be a comfortable glider, shelves and hooks for bags, chair for younger child, flat screen monitor with messages from PNC and St. Vincent, adjustable lighting, and electrical outlet for breast pumps. Outside the cubicles, families have a diaper-changing station, sink, hand sanitizer, outlet for bottle-warmer, hot water at the sink for mixing formula, and soap dispenser.

And finally help to eliminate the potty dance run… there are TWO family restrooms inside the exhibit – helping those who are potty training to get there quickly. In addition to a kid-sized and an adult-sized sink, each restroom has big and little manual-flush toilets. As a mom whose toddler practically somersaulted into the toilet basin to figure out what made the loud whoosh, this is one more little thing that could make a huge difference.

Tags: Around Town, In This Issue, Local

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