Everyone knows that Families First Children’s Museum is a great place for kids to play and have fun, but did you also know that children learn important skills at they play? In the first of a series of blog posts about how children learn through play, Museum Manager Kashya Boretsky discusses how the museum helps improve literacy. She also offers ideas on activities to grow literacy skills while playing at the museum.
Literacy is hands down one of the most important skills we learn as children, and it comes in many different forms: reading, writing, listening, talking, etc. Although children who come to the museum may not be able to read or write yet and some may not even be verbal, they can still explore and improve their literary abilities at the museum.
One way in which children can do this, is through print recognition; at the museum, and in everyday life, there are words everywhere! We have signs, labels, and print all around the museum, from the food and shopping lists in our Go, Grow, Grocery store to the weekly craft instructions in the Art Studio to the dinosaur and fossil facts in the Dino Dig. Just by seeing words, children are learning and beginning to recognize the symbols. There are also books all around the different exhibits, each pertaining to that specific area. By seeing and flipping through these books, even if they can’t read yet, they are developing a budding interest in books and an eagerness to learn to read, this can be strengthened when they see other children or adults looking at books, as well!
Listening and talking are also important to early literacy! Although some children who come to the museum are still non-verbal, they can learn so much from being surrounded by other families. As your child is playing, they can listen to parents and other children talking and playing (sometimes even in another language!), this can in turn improve their vocabulary and eventually their speech. As children begin talking, they can quickly improve their spoken vocabulary and confidence in speaking by talking as they play. Whether they are exclaiming “I caught a fish”, making up a story while playing dress up, or checking up on their patients in the Doctor Kid Office, they are learning how to communicate through talking and listening.
Early literacy is not just about words and letters though, it’s also about fine motor skills, which can help with writing later on. Writing takes a lot of hand strength, control, and muscle memory that needs to be developed over time; this can be a big challenge for beginning writers. But the best way to train and prepare our hands for pencils is by playing! At the museum, your child can improve these muscles by digging with shovels in the Dino Dig, using the Busy Board in the hallway or the Baby Area, building with the wooden blocks and cars in the Construction Area, or cutting, painting, and drawing in the Art Studio!
You can help to further your child’s play and early literacy by trying on of these ideas the next time you’re in the Children’s Museum:
- Ask them questions as they’re playing!
- Read books with them!
- Check out the Little Free Library (take a book or bring a book)!
- Help them use tools like scissors or a paintbrush in the Art Studio!
- Sound out letters and words on a shopping list with them!
- Practice using silverware in the kitchen area!
- Take them to programs like Taletivities where we read a book and do an activity with it!
- Help them spell out their name with the alphabet blocks in the Construction Area!
- Encourage them to talk with other children!
Join us in the museum Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.!