The Boston Children’s Museum on Fort Point Channel is teeming with children and parents during school vacation week. So it’s a good time for Jeri Robinson, vice president for education and family learning, to lead me on a guided tour of some of the museum’s early learning spaces. On the way, we pass children scrambling up and down the multi-story climbing maze. We pass children and parents sitting on colorful “musical” chairs that each emit a different sound and together can create a symphony. We pass children checking out the blocks and Bobcat in the Construction Zone, all in what is essentially a giant indoor playground for children of all ages. Prompts on the walls and parent tip sheets provide ideas for adults to engage children.
“Our critical message is there’s a lot of learning in play,” Robinson says. “In everything we do, we have a hidden or overt learning activity. Play has gotten a bad rap that it’s a waste of time. It’s not.”
In fact, research tells us that play is how young children learn. Science tells us that the kind of language-rich, playful adult-child interactions that the museum encourages enhance the actual wiring of the young brain.
In 1978, when the museum was housed in a Jamaica Plain mansion, Robinson established the nation’s first play space for infants and toddlers in a children’s museum. In 1998, she co-founded Countdown to Kindergarten, a partnership with the Boston Public Schools. Originally conceived to help parents navigate the logistics of entering the public school system, today it focuses on the early learning that will help children enter kindergarten ready to succeed. (more…)