Explore with Your Child: Adapting Museum Activities to Your Own Home!

This blog post was written by our Health and Wellness intern, Lilly Day. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University, and is pursuing a degree in Child Life.

When I first began my internship at Boston Children’s Museum, I loved exploring and learning about the exhibits. I was curious to know how children responded and engaged with each exhibit, and how children’s behavior changed between areas in the Museum. I decided to observe in four Museum exhibits; Peep’s World, Kid Power, KEVA, and the Japanese House. I chose these four because they differ greatly from each other in both environmental design and the type of activities included.

After completing my observations in exhibits around the Museum, I considered what these observations demonstrated about child engagement both within and outside of the Museum environment. Keep reading for suggestions on how to bring favorite Museum activities and lessons into your own home!

dowel structures

In the Japanese House, children are often quieter and more cautious than in the rest of the Museum. The Japanese House is an authentic silk merchant’s home from Kyoto, Japan that is approximately 100 years old. Children likely recognize that this is a special environment compared to the rest of the Museum and adjust their behavior accordingly. If you want to facilitate your child’s participation in an activity that requires quieter voices and calmer bodies, try talking and demonstrating to your child how special the activity is. For example, if you are looking for a more peaceful dinner time, try setting up your home like a “fancy” restaurant; this could mean simply adding real or fake flowers to the center of the table and playing quiet music in the background, or going all out and making pretend menus (with only a few options).

Kid Power has a series of stations designed to inspire children to be active and move their bodies; one such station is a seat attached to ropes that instructs children to “Use your power” and pull themselves up using the ropes. Some adults help their children pull the ropes and lift the child’s weight for them, while other adults instruct their children on how to pull the ropes instead of directly helping. The children who completed tasks independently often spent longer focused on each activity. When working to inspire persistence in your children, consider offering guidance rather direct help. Next time you’re at a playground and your child is asking for help crossing the balance beam, maybe hold your hand just a few inches away from theirs. That way you are there to catch them if they start to fall, but you are also demonstrating your confidence in them to make it across the beam independently!

Visitors spent longer in KEVA and Peep’s World than in the other exhibits I observed. Peep’s World is designed for young children and includes a cave to walk through, shadow play, the Imagination Playground, and a large water play area. KEVA consists of large platforms and bins of KEVA planks, as well as structures built out of KEVA planks displayed to inspire visitors’ own creations. Both are fairly open-ended; in other words, they allow lots of room for children to interpret how they want to manipulate and play with the materials provided. If looking to engage your child for an extended period of time, consider providing them with open-ended materials. But that doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy KEVA planks! Do you have extra plates, cups, napkins, and straws from your child’s last birthday party? Challenge your child to build something with the leftover materials – if you are excited about the project, they will be too! Or, borrow an idea directly from Peep’s World and paint with water. All you need is a cup for water, a paint brush, and a few rocks for your child to magically change the color of with their water brush!

To brainstorm more activities that your child may enjoy, take time during your next visit to observe their likes and dislikes; notice which exhibits keep them the most engaged and replicate these activities at home. But don’t worry if an activity doesn’t work out exactly as planned! Children explore and experiment to figure out how this world works, and they will often find completely unique ways to play. Embrace this, and wherever your child’s creativity takes you, I hope you enjoy the adventure!

Message in a Milk Bottle: Creating a Geometric Community Garden

This blog post was written by Health and Wellness intern, Lilly Day. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University pursuing a degree in Child Life.

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Each spring, the Health and Wellness Educator’s intern creates the Message in a Milk Bottle project, which centers on community building. This year, I had the wonderful privilege of designing and implementing this project. I wanted my project to represent spring and the exciting new possibilities that come with the season and to encourage children (and adults!) to contribute unique artwork; the combination of these ideas led to creating a Geometric Community Garden.

Real life community gardens offer individuals small plots of land within a larger designated area to grow plants of their choosing. Community gardens bring people together and often create a space for gardening that would not otherwise be possible in urban areas across the world. While implementing the Geometric Gardens activity, I provided handouts explaining a real life community garden in images and with developmentally appropriate language, along with suggestions of what is in a community garden. The suggestions included flowers and vegetables, but I also included images of rocks, topiary (shrubbery sculptures), and buildings to encourage participants to think outside of the box. The materials I offered for creating gardens echoed the visuals I provided in that they were open-ended; participants started with a piece of cardstock to act as a base in their representation of a garden. Gemstones, wood squares and ovals, multicolored felt cut-outs in a variety of shapes, brightly colored packing peanuts, and fabric samples were just some of the materials offered.

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In order to involve community outside of the Museum walls, I facilitated the Geometric Gardens project at Franciscan Children’s, Shriners Hospitals for Children – Boston, and The Campus School at Boston College. Each of these organizations serves children and families with special medical and developmental needs. By bringing the Message in a Milk Bottle project to them each year, individuals at these organizations have the opportunity to participate in a Museum event, and the visitors at the Museum have the opportunity to see and appreciate the individual creative contributions of individuals from different backgrounds and life circumstances than themselves.

Throughout late March and early April, I personally implemented the project at Franciscans and Shriners, and brought materials to the teachers at The Campus School to work on the project with their students. The activity was open to visitors at the Museum during April Morningstar Access, as well as twice during April vacation week, the theme of which was “Tell me a Story”. Before opening the activity up to Museum visitors, I began to create the Geometric Community Garden with contributions from those at outside organizations. As visitors completed their projects, they were encouraged to choose where their gardens fit into the community garden and tape them up themselves. With the display directly next to the activity, visitors could draw inspiration from projects that were already completed and appreciate the stories represented in each geometric garden.

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Although I designed this project with the idea of encouraging creativity in children across Boston, I was still in awe of their creations and surprised by the unique ideas and depth of stories contributed by each participant. A child at Franciscans made an ice cream garden; a child at Shriners made a pepperoni pizza on a stick garden. A child from The Campus School created a football garden; a child at the Museum created a button to operate an airplane with. Participants ranged in age from approximately 2 years all the way to adulthood; one father helped his newly 2 year old daughter to stick down objects and then interpreted her work as creating a tractor, and proudly added the tractor to the community garden display. Children created 3D as well as 2D gardens, and adults asked questions about the gardens, interacting with their own children as well as other visitors while in the Museum. The range of storytelling weaved into the creation of this Geometric Community Garden project was inspiring, and an exciting representation of the uniqueness that each of us has to contribute to our communal story.

As an intern, this project enabled me to develop skills in planning, organizing, and facilitating a large scale activity that reached children and families across Boston. I was able to enhance my professional communication skills and learn from the story of each child’s garden. As a person, this project reminded me of the excitement in allowing creativity to flourish, the benefits of community and teaching community ideals to children, and the beauty of using open-ended materials to create something new.

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Message in a Milk Bottle Project: Building Community Connections

This blog post was written by Health and Wellness intern, Deanna Gouvia. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life.

Every year at Boston Children’s Museum, the Health and Wellness intern puts together a special community project called Message in a Milk Bottle. This year, I had the opportunity to design, coordinate, and facilitate the activity with visitors at Boston Children’s Museum as well as children and adults at Boston College Campus School, Franciscan Children’s, and Shriners Hospital for Children. I titled my activity “Building Community Connections” to emphasize the idea that we all have people who are important to us and whether we live near or far, or cannot always be together, we are still connected as one community and we can work together to create a collaborative piece of art.

The goals of this activity were to promote community engagement throughout local organizations, to encourage social and emotional development by thinking about social relationships and the importance of those people, and to enhance interactions between people of different ages, gender, cultures, abilities, and locations.

During March and April, I visited Shriners Hospital for Children and Franciscan Children’s to facilitate the activity. Materials were provided for Boston College Campus School staff to do the activity in their different classrooms. Each participant was asked to think of one or more people who were important to them and create a piece of art that represented those important people using a variety of craft materials that were accessible to people with different interests and abilities. The activity was then duplicated at Boston Children’s Museum during April’s Morningstar Access program and again during regular operating hours on April 22nd.


During the creation process some wonderful conversations and illustrations about community and important people took place. At Shriners, one child decorated a person as her favorite nurse who helped her throughout her medical experiences starting when she first went to Shriners. Another child at Boston Children’s Museum commented that her father was her important person because he “tucked her in and [they] did fun things together and [he] loved her”. At Franciscan, a family group of a mother, a teenage boy, and a toddler girl worked together to create their own family piece to contribute. At the Campus School, each classroom completed the activity to contribute their pieces to the overall display, which created a sense of community at the school.

There were people of different ages, abilities, and languages working together which really illustrated the idea of community connectedness despite differences. At the Museum I was very encouraged to see a great deal of inter-visitor interactions. Children and adults alike, were conversing about their important people, working together to find desired materials, and complimenting and commenting on each other’s art. I was also happy with the number of adults who participated, making their own important people, connecting their art with their children, and encouraging conversations about community and how we are all connected.

The art gathered from the local organizations as well as from the Museum were collected and installed on display in The Common at Boston Children’s Museum on April 22nd. Despite the distance between the children and adults in the hospitals and Campus School, and the visitors at Boston Children’s Museum, they were each able to contribute a piece of art that was important to them, to a greater collaborative piece of art that signified community, near or far, as represented by the people centering around the Earth. The display will remain until I complete my internship on May 4th.


Being responsible for this project from start to finish allowed me as an intern to develop skills I otherwise would not have. I had the opportunity to take on a strong leadership role as I coordinated with staff members at other organizations and facilitated the activity in the various settings. By completing this project I have also learned how much work, effort, time, and collaboration goes into putting together an activity of this scale. It is certainly an experience I am very proud to have had and one that will continue to influence my work as I continue on in the field of child life.

Healthy Food Fun at Fresh Fridays!

Do you like eating fresh fruits and vegetables?  If you do, that’s great, but don’t worry even if fruits and vegetables are not your or your child’s favorite. There are many ways to interact with fresh produce beyond just eating it!

Last Friday, July 7, 2017, Boston Children’s Museum hosted the opening event of Fresh Fridays, partnering with Boston Public Market and supported by Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare Foundation. Fresh Fridays came out of our collaborative wish to help children and families enjoy more fresh local produce and have a more enjoyable time with food. For the young children to be more interested in fruits and vegetables as well as healthy eating in general, we wanted to create a program in which everyone feels safe and can have fun together from a variety of angles beyond just preaching, “eat your vegetables”. Many experts suggest that having early, positive experiences around food as a family can help children develop more curiosity about food and the willingness to try new food. With this philosophy in mind, we developed a series of activities representing the ideas of “shopping together,” “cooking together,” and “eating together.’ Continue reading

How to Feed Picky Eaters?

Boston Children’s Museum’s Tasty Tuesday program happens every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. During Tasty Tuesday, children and their grown-ups can sit together, eat yummy, healthy snacks, and read a story! Although Tasty Tuesday is a casual, fun circle time for the very little ones, it’s packed with a lot of tips and hints that help foster healthy social emotional development of infants and toddlers. While the children are having fun, adults can also get helpful tip sheets. This month, we are talking about picky eating, which is very common among young children.

Join us in PlaySpace and share your own experience in helping children eat all their healthful food!

  1. Do not stress.

Yes, children should be eating a lot of different kinds of food. However, if meal time is stressful, children get less and less interested in eating. Even if your child does not eat what you serve, do not bribe or force your child to eat it. Just say, “Not a big deal,” and you can try again some other time. It might just take several attempts until your child gets familiar with the food. Continue reading

Message in a Milk Bottle: Every Fish Is Unique

This blog post was written by our Health and Wellness intern, Alexa Curtiss. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life.

The “Message in a Milk Bottle” program has become an annual spring tradition at Boston Children’s Museum, and allows the Museum’s Health and Wellness Educator intern to create and run a special themed activity for children of varying ages, abilities, and circumstances. This Spring it was my turn, and I was excited to be able to create a project that would not only involve children visiting the Museum, but that I would be able to take it out into the community and include pediatric patients at both Shriner’s and Franciscan’s hospitals, as well as students from the Campus School at Boston College. I titled my activity “Every Fish is Unique”.

For the first part of the project, children were asked to choose a paper fish cut out from a variety of pastel and bold hues. They were offered colorful strips if they wanted to “weave” the body and make fins, and then were able to further individualize their fish using crayons, markers, craft feathers, and sequins. As they worked we talked about how, just as every fish was special, different and unique – so too is every child. When they come together, they all make up one big community.

Having already visited and worked with the children at the hospitals and school earlier in the month, I brought their completed fish to the Museum on April 23rd, when I ran the activity for visitors. As I chatted with the children while they worked on creating their fish, I began to assemble the second part of the project. This was a huge 5’ x 9’ fish which I hung in the window of the Museum, to which I began affixing all the completed fish. This allowed me to visually demonstrate the second part of the message: showing how, by putting all the very different and special fish together, they created and contributed to a beautiful and unique community.

One very unexpected aspect of the project began to reveal itself as I began adding the individual fish to the larger one: the sun came streaming through the window and seemed to light up the fish, creating almost a rainbow effect, which to me signifies the beauty of diversity within a community! The big fish remained “swimming” along on display at the Museum through the end of April, continuing to spread the message of the value of diversity in community to all who viewed it.

Sleep Hygiene

This blog post is written by our Health and Wellness intern, Alexa Curtiss. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life.

From difficulty falling asleep at night, to troubles sleeping through the night, even to the emergence of nightmares. There are so many questions regarding a child’s sleep as they develop during the first few years. Because the topic of helping children sleep is so popular, I decided to write about a few suggestions that may help with various sleep troubles. Try out any of these suggestions for a few nights and see how it goes!

  1. Cool, dark, quiet rooms help children sleep.

Cool, dark, and quiet rooms can help children get optimal sleep. Being too warm can cause children to be uncomfortable and therefore cause tossing and turning. This is why a cooler room can help them get better sleep. Too much light in a room while a child is trying to sleep can cause the brain to become stimulated, as if it was daytime, meaning the child might have a hard time sleeping or getting restful sleep. The same goes for noise either in the room or around the room the child is trying to sleep in. A white noise machine can be helpful if there is unavoidable noise outside or nearby. You can set a white noise machine to run quietly to mask some of the extraneous noise. While white noise machines can be very useful, young children’s ears are very vulnerable, so it is recommended to use machines that specify on the product information that they do not exceed 50 dBA (decibels) and to keep the device at least seven feet from the child.

  1. Routines before bedtime.

If your child is having a hard time settling down at bedtime, you can try creating a nightly routine of several things you do in a certain order before bedtime. Having a routine like this can help signal to your child and their brain that it is time to start winding down. An example of a routine could be: bath time, pajamas, brush teeth, read a book, sing a song, lights off, two minutes of rubbing the child’s back while they lay in bed.

  1. Nightmares.

If your child starts having nightmares, first, it is important to know that it is common for children to start to have occasional nightmares especially as they start to have a real sense of imagination but are not yet capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. There are many ways to help your child following a nightmare. One example for helping your child is going into their room if they call out for you. Stay long enough to help them calm down, provide them with a comfort item (favorite stuffed animal, blanket, etc.), and then slowly leave the room. In some cases, it can be helpful to speak to your child about a time in which they feel comfortable with you coming back to check on them, for example, agreeing to come back to check on them in an hour (quietly, so if they are asleep, they are not woken), as this can give them a greater sense of security.

Bring your snacks to Tasty Tuesdays and share your strategies of helping your child get a better sleep!

Behind the Scenes of Happy Noon Year

hny4Every year, Boston Children’s Museum celebrates the New Year with a special event called Happy NOON Year. For many of our visitors, it is challenging to stay up and ring in the New Year. To help be inclusive in this celebration, we invite families to celebrate with us and count down to the noon hour on December 31st. One of the traditions of this event is to drop a Museum staff-made ball during the countdown. My colleague Steve and I agreed to take charge of its creation this year, and our mission was to make the best, greatest Happy Noon Year ball ever with our master plan of decorating a 4-foot tall clear beach ball! Continue reading

Why is Inclusion and Accessibility Important?

accessOne of my job responsibilities at the Museum is to ensure accessibility for all visitors, regardless of their medical conditions or abilities. We work toward this goal in a number of ways at Boston Children’s Museum, most notably through our Morningstar Access program in which visitors with any special needs or medical needs can have a quieter, safer visit to the Museum during set hours. Although this program is often highlighted and is great for those whose main concern is the crowds that visit the Museum at peak times, we put every effort into making the Museum environment, exhibits, and programs more accessible for everyone at all times. If certain needs are not addressed by design, then with advance notice, reasonable accommodations can always be made anytime the museum is open.

When we talk about accessibility and why it’s important, one of the common arguments is that accessibility isn’t just for people with disabilities. Everyone benefits from easier and various ways to access information, materials, and/or environments  But let me try to add a different spin on why I think accessibility is important. Continue reading

Encouraging Kindness

milk bottle 2bThis month’s blog post is written by Boston Children’s Museum’s Health and Wellness intern, Marissa Veilleux. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life. Marissa is helping provide various health programs in the Museum, and she is passionate about helping our visitors learn about caring about themselves and others.

This semester I had the opportunity to design and run this year’s “Message in a Milk Bottle” project entitled Be Kind, Spread Love. I traveled to local area hospitals and schools where we created heart-shaped suncatchers and discussed love and kindness, and then transported these beautiful suncatchers to Boston Children’s Museum and hung in a window for all to see.
Visitors then had the opportunity to create their own suncatchers and add to them to this display, creating a united window of suncatcher hearts.

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But kindness cannot be taught in one day. There are many opportunities in your day to day life where you can teach kindness to your child, especially by modeling it for them every day.

Children are constantly told to be nice to others. But what does that really mean? Here are four ways to teach your child kindness during your daily tasks.

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Let’s work together.

Ask children for help with projects, like cooking in the kitchen. Ask them what they would like to do to help. When taking a walk, suggest that they pick flowers to give to someone to brighten their day. This can be used as an opportunity to talk about kindness. You can work as a team to do things like cleaning up toys. You can say, “You pick up three and I will pick up three”. Follow that with, “You picked up your toy. Thank you. That was helpful.”

Use your manners.

Walk the walk, and talk the talk. Model good behavior by saying please and thank you or no thank you to the cashier at the grocery store or to a server at a restaurant. Children learn through others. You can praise your child’s kindness by describing your child’s action and stating how their contribution benefited others. For example, “Thank you for giving your sister a toy. That was thoughtful.”

Use kind words and smile.

It is important for your children to learn to compliment people by using kind words. You can say things to your own child like, “I love the red blocks you used to make that house.” as a way of giving them an example of a compliment that they might share with their friends. You can also ask your child what they like about something. For example, “What is your favorite part of this picture you colored? My favorite part is the blue clouds.” This will teach your child a nice way of paying compliments. Smile and laugh with your child. Happiness and kindness is contagious.

It’s not just about being kind to people.

Teach respect for the earth by discussing environmental kindness, such as throwing trash in the garbage and not littering. Have your child collect cans from home and bring them to recycle at your local supermarket. Being kind to our environment in turn teaches your children to be kind to others too.

Join us for Tasty Tuesday on 1st and 3rd Tuesdays with your snacks and share your ideas of how we can help children learn kindness!