I am absolutely thrilled to announce the opening of the new, completely redesigned PlaySpace, Boston Children’s Museum long-beloved exhibit space for 0-3-year-olds. After extensive research on early childhood development, input from early learning specialists, observations on how kids play, conversations with visitors, design, and construction, it is finally here!
The new PlaySpace is unique in size, scope, and vision, and allows young children, together with their caregivers, to engage in experiences that support children’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional development.
PlaySpace was first launched back in 1978 as an ongoing experiment in play and learning specifically for the Museum’s youngest visitors. The pioneering exhibit was met with huge success in Boston and beyond, launching a national focus on young children in museums and being replicated internationally at museums and other venues. Since then, PlaySpace has gone through several renovations, the most recent in 2000.
Given the uncertain times we live in, there is no shortage of challenges when it comes to raising healthy, well-developed children. A lack of unstructured playtime is becoming the norm as the days of our children become highly scheduled. Time spent playing freely is often put in an entirely separate category as time dedicated to learning, despite abundant research that shows that play and learning are, in actuality, one and the same.
What’s more, the proliferation of media and screen-time are having adverse effects on healthy development, delaying the achievement of important milestones. They are also likely the root cause behind why our country’s young children are more sedentary than they’ve ever been before — a recent New York Times article quoted from research stating that most school-age children in the United States sit for over eight hours each day, while children as young as 2 or 3 years can be sedentary for 90 percent or more of their waking hours.
The design of the newest generation of PlaySpace was informed by over 40 years of learning and research into how children develop, learn, and grow. The earliest years of a child’s life are absolutely critical for healthy development, as 90% of a child’s brain develops by age five, with the most growth occurring during the first three years. Each and every component of PlaySpace, including the giant cave, wobbly bridge, water table, noodle obstacle course, mirror box, light table, fish tanks, wind tunnel, green jeep, infant waterbed (etc., etc.!) was thoughtfully designed and placed to provide little ones with the tools to practice developing cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills while pushing their boundaries, deepening their relationships, and having fun.
PlaySpace has always been geared as much towards parents and caregivers as it has been towards their young children. A child’s time spent with nurturing adults is the single most important factor in their healthy development, and early, trusting relationships between children and their primary caregivers are strong predictors of children’s later learning and success. As their first teachers, the love and support that parents, grandparents, and other primary caregivers show their children is critical to the foundations of the child’s development. They can model curiosity, focus, their own modes of play, and social interactions, and are encouraged to do so within the space.
A huge note of gratitude and congratulations is owed to the team here at the Museum, who led this redesign and has been there every step of the way to ensure its success. I hope you soon have time to visit this remarkable new space and share in our excitement!