Spring Training: The Importance of Outdoor Play

SONY DSCThis month’s blog post is written by our Health and Wellness intern, Ashlee Burgess. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life. Ashlee loves baseball and the warm weather, and she would like to introduce you to the benefits of playing outside!

Playing outside removes the physical limitations of playing inside. When your child is outside he can run without worrying about bumping into the couch, can jump without feeling like he might slip on the hardwood floors, and can leap without being concerned about careening into the glass cabinet. Outside, your child can practice skills like throwing a ball, catching a Frisbee, and swinging a bat. He can also practice different gross-motor skills such as digging a hole, pushing a swing and pulling a wagon.

  1. Physical benefits of playing outside.

While playing outside, your child will be active and burning calories. Being physically active may help prevent obesity, and will decrease the likelihood of heart disease and hypertension. Continue reading

Sometimes you have to play detective

Sometimes you have to play detective 1bThe Museum has many different countries represented in its collections, and sometimes this means playing detective to figure out what a word or phrase on an object means.  Sometimes this is the key to figuring out what the object is, and sometimes it makes for an amusing anecdote in the description and nothing more.  For the last week or so I’ve been working in our European collections, where my Arabic isn’t very useful.  When I came across a snuffbox with a French phrase painted on the back, I asked Amanda, the Collections Assistant, who speaks French, for a translation.  The snuffbox in question had a man in a hat on one side and a rooster on the other.
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Talking to Children About Difficult Situations

talking about tragic eventsWhen tragic events happen in the world, especially in places that relate to you, it can often be difficult to cope with these events. Parents and anyone who works closely with children have to figure out what to tell their children. I wish there was no such thing as tragedy in the world – but unfortunately, bad things happen, and we need to be prepared for them.

Children in different developmental stages understand and react differently to traumatic events. Even if they were not directly impacted by the event, they are often still aware that something unusual happened as a result of media coverage, adults’ conversations, or even slight changes in their regular routines. Children may not be able to express their concerns verbally like adults do. Instead, they may exhibit their feelings through their behavior.  Play provides children with the opportunity to express their feelings, make sense of the world, and cope with stress. So when something difficult happens in the world, make sure that children have plenty of time to play.

The following are some tips to support your child in a difficult time:

• Limit exposure to news coverage of disturbing events.

Closely monitor what your child is seeing on TV and reading in magazines, newspapers and Websites. Turn off the TV if it is negatively affecting your family. Kids under 6 should see little or none of the TV coverage.

• Talk to your child and provide simple, accurate information.

Don’t over-share about the traumatic events, but explain in an age-appropriate way what happened. If your child asks questions that you don’t know how to answer, it’s perfectly appropriate to say, “I don’t know” or “What do you think?”

• Reassure your child, but don’t lie.

If your child is concerned about his safety, you can tell him, “We are doing our best to keep everyone safe.” However, don’t pretend that tragic events will never happen. Instead, tell your child that these events are very rare.

• Acknowledge her feelings.

“I can see it makes you sad to think about all the people who were hurt by this event. I’m sad too.” This helps clarify everyone’s feelings and reassure that those feelings are normal.

• Maintain regular routines and provide enough opportunity to play.

Make sure that regular routines, such as meal time and bed time, are adhered to as closely as possible so that your child feels secure. As mentioned above, play helps your child to express feelings and cope with stress, although you might not see the process directly.

• Take care of yourself too.

Stress is contagious within a family, and children are incredibly adept at picking up on your emotional and behavioral cues.  At the same time, it is important for children to know that they are not alone in what they are feeling.  So find those activities that help you to ease your own stress too – maybe it’s reading a book, doing art, doing yoga, exercising, playing a game – whatever helps you to ease your mind, do it.  And invite your child to join you.  There are few things more comforting than time together as a family.

Project Play: Research at Boston Children’s Museum

Lifter office

Boston Children’s Museum works closely with researchers from local universities to conduct studies into child development, cognition and more; and to translate the latest studies and findings for the general public in order to make a positive impact on parenting practices. We will periodically publish articles from these researchers about their work, their reflections and themselves. As part of our continuing series sharing details about research happening at Boston Children’s Museum, Karin Lifter, PhD from Northeastern University shares below some information about her research at the Museum:

Project Play at Northeastern University is dedicated to studying developments in play of young children who are developing typically, and young children who are developing with delays, such as language or movement delays, from 8 months to five years of age. You might have seen one or another of us recruiting children for our project outside PlaySpace on Friday nights.

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Get Lucky and Build Your Brain

LuckyDid you know that physical activity helps children not only expend energy but also sends that energy to their brains? Here are some examples:

  • Rocking a baby does more than provide emotional comfort; it stimulates the vestibular region of the inner ear. This region is responsible for language development.
  • In a large-scale study of almost 12,000 Nebraska schoolchildren published in August in The Journal of Pediatrics, aerobic fitness was a significant predictor of academic performance; weight status was not.
  • A representative study, presented in May at the American College of Sports Medicine, found that fourth- and fifth-grade students who ran around and otherwise exercised vigorously for at least 10 minutes before a math test scored higher than children who had sat quietly before the exam.

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Imagine Science

DSC_0122b smScience is not about facts.  That may sound like an odd statement – after all, it is quite likely that the way you were taught science in school was ALL about facts.  That is sort of a shame, and it may be part of the reason that our education system is struggling in terms of teaching children science.  The truth is that science is about DOING.  And about wondering, and asking questions, and figuring things out.  While it is important that we learn about the things that other people have discovered, the real exciting stuff in science is the stuff we DON’T know.  And that is where we fall short in getting children excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) content and careers…we focus on what is already known, and testing them on how well they memorize it, rather than getting them excited about what they might discover in the future.

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How Do You Define Health?

healhy kidsOn Saturday, March 22, we will be celebrating our annual Healthy Kids Festival. In the event, the museum visitors will learn about health and healthcare through various fun activities. While I encourage everyone to come join this fun festival, I also want to take a moment to reflect on what we mean by “health” or “healthy.” The World Health Organization defined “health” in 1948 as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” But some people have different definitions, which often emphasize the ability to adapt to physical, mental, and social challenges.

Given those definitions, we can ask ourselves questions: When someone was born with a disability or illness, does it mean that the person is not healthy? If you are feeling sad, does it mean your mind is now unhealthy? But what if you never experience any difficulties in life? Is that healthy? I bet different people have various opinions and answers to those questions. I think it’s okay to have different definitions for everyone. Each one of us has a different body, different life experience, and different abilities. By figuring out what “health” means to you and your family, you can have clearer expectations of what you need to do to reach the status of “healthy” on your own terms. Continue reading

Creative Confidence – Idea 9 – Humility


Creative Confidence – Idea 9 – Humility

Having creative confidence is trusting and valuing each and every one of your ideas and taking creative risks.

In the Art Studio this is goal #1 – to instill creative confidence in every visitor that walks through the door – no matter what the project is, what medium we are exploring, or what collaborative project we are constructing.

We regularly post new ideas about how to instill creative confidence in children at home and in the classroom.

Idea 9 – Humility

“Humility involves knowing your limits, and having appreciation for the intentions, strengths and perspectives of others.”

Robert Dilts and Judith DeLozier, “The Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro-Linguistic Programming and NLP New Coding”:

“Humility can only come from those who actually have something about which to be humble. The humble are those who could crow, but chose to keep their beaks shut. Humility is also a close associate of gratitude, and it’s an attribute that simply oozes class.”

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Humility, self-esteem, and self-confidence.

“Humility is the foundation of this personal power which rests in the fact that we are not pretending to be anything or anyone we are not. It is a quiet power, an unshakable power. A peaceful power. An active power. No sheer external force can, or ever has, overcome the power of humility. Countless historical examples have proven this principle.”

John David Hoag, a Professional NLP Trainer, Coach and Therapist

Humility, self-confidence and self-esteem are all important character traits no matter your age. Where does humility fit into teaching or raising children when self- esteem and self-confidence are valued so highly in our society? What does humility have to do with creative confidence and creativity? Continue reading

Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

Sometimes You Just Get Lucky imageTrying to find information about objects that were added to collections a century ago is not always easy, especially when the object in question is more than a hundred years old.  But sometimes you get lucky and someone has already done the legwork for you, which is what happened in the first week of my Growdon Collections Internship at Boston Children’s Museum.

I was looking through the drawers in the main collections storage for an object for my first lesson in how to create records in the catalog.  I pulled open a drawer of Japanese artifacts and was immediately struck by grotesque faces staring back at me.  While I haven’t been able to find any examples of this particular design, the record I was updating was already in the database, and I was able to use a clue left in the original catalog record- kiseru- to find other examples of the objects on a Website about Japanese antiques.  Continue reading

Making Sense of Art


At the start of every month, the Boston Children’s Museum Art Studio unveils a new creative endeavor intended to get the gears turning in our young visitors’ minds. For the month of January, we explored the concept of sound, specifically through making different sorts of sound devices. While this is a great project for encouraging listening and auditory responses, our audile senses aren’t the only ones that we’re aiming to activate.


Any art activity can be a solid multisensory experience – for example, sight and touch also played very active roles in our January projects as visitors decorated and stylized their devices, or felt the sound vibrations as a mallet made contact with a drum. In celebrating the use of all five senses – hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch – there are countless activities that you can use to exercise your child’s creative mind. Here are a few full-sensory projects to try at home: Continue reading