Making Manga & Memories at the Museum

A large part of Boston Children’s Museum’s audience includes elementary school students on a field trip.  Every day, these students explore the exhibits and take part in hands-on activities, including several educational programs.  One such program is an in-depth tour of the Museum’s Japanese House.

Many incoming students have studied Japan in their social studies classes, where they’ve shared their knowledge of the country’s culture.  Studying about Japanese culture can include the various art forms created in the country…including cartoons!  Japanese cartoons are often known under the name, “anime.” Growing up in the 1990s, I was introduced to Japanese culture through the anime adaptation of the Nintendo video game series, Pokémon.  When I teach school groups, I tend to bring up clues in the Japanese House regarding Pokémon.  For example, did you know the Pokémon Meowth is based on a traditional Japanese charm known as Maneki-Neko? If you study the picture, you’ll see he shares a lot of cool quirks with the famous “Beckoning Cat!”


Pokémon has become a timeless phenomenon, with fans of all different ages. When I mention Meowth’s design, the audience I am teaching gets excited to learn more about Japanese popular culture. Some students will even bring their love of anime, sharing popular titles like InuYasha, Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon. Thanks to digital streaming services, adults can access their favorite anime from both past and present—and kids who love anime will often bring up how their caregivers are the ones who introduced them to their favorite series!

But there is another alternative to enjoying Japanese cartoons. Manga—or “mischievous pictures,” as it’s translated in English—is one of the most popular forms of comic books amongst children and adults.  Bookstores and libraries host plenty of manga for readers, and even carry guidebooks on creating your own characters and stories.  Online, websites like YouTube and Pinterest offer free lessons for artists to practice drawing manga.  At Boston Children’s Museum, one of the programs I offer within my curriculum is manga illustration.  When I introduce this activity, older children get really excited, mentioning their love for manga and how often they practice this art form at home.  Sometimes, I don’t even need to give any instructions—I just let the visitors get creative with what they enjoy doing!

When I offer manga illustration at the Museum, young artists get to learn about contemporary Japanese art and pop culture.  As visitors engage with these topics, they are also sharing their stories of their love of manga and anime outside of the museum.  To me, teaching manga isn’t simply nostalgic. It’s a way to let our visitors share their own knowledge, wisdom, and appreciation of Japanese culture, in both the classroom and beyond.

Happy Healthy Helpful Halloween

It’s October and that means Halloween – costumes, candy, pumpkins, parties. It can be an exciting time for families to play together and be creative. It can also be stressful, balancing expectations, deciding on costumes, and maintaining a healthy diet. Two previous posts on the Power of Play blog offer thoughtful tips for navigating the Halloween season and are worth a first read, or a second look.

Happy Healthy Halloween by Saki Iwamoto suggests ways to turn Halloween challenges into fun learning opportunities.

Note: In 2017, we will celebrate Halloween in simple ways at Boston Children’s Museum, starting with a Monster Mash KidsJam dance party on Friday October 27, and continuing with activities such as mask making and pumpkin explorations through October 31.

Indigenous Halloween Costumes: Empowering or Problematic written by Sara Tess Neumann and Meghan Evans tackles the complicated topic of costumes and cultural respect.

Note: The Native Voices traveling exhibit referred to in this post is no longer at Boston Children’s Museum.

Happy Halloween!

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!

Wheelock Student Observations at Boston Children’s Museum: Random vs Structured Play

rw01This post is part of our series of articles by Wheelock College students documenting their observations of the many different kinds of learning and adult-child interactions taking place at Boston Children’s Museum every day.  This post was written by Wheelock Student Researchers Priyanka Deb, Julia Kelsey, Shannon Hennessy, and Liz Randall.

We were able to observe and interact with many children and families who visited the Raceways exhibit at Boston Children’s Museum. Here we documented how children interacted with both the materials and people in the exhibit. This gave us a better understanding of how children play in this particular social setting. The questions we considered during our visits were:

  • What is the difference between the first time visitor and the frequent visitor?
  • Some children play randomly with the balls and tracks. Some children plan their play. What is the difference and how do they play differently?

Continue reading


GregoryObjects tell stories. Unfortunately, they cannot tell them on their own, they have to be written down or shared by the people who know the objects best—their owners. In the collections world, we call this “provenance.” This is the backstory on where an object comes from, who owned it, who loved it, basically all the juicy details that cannot be seen on the surface of the object but that imbue it with meaning.

While many of the objects in our collection have been separated from their stories, some have not. One of these storied objects is “Gregory Bear.” Gregory was a gift to the Museum in 2010 from Ursula Marrero. He entered the collection with an adventure story beyond compare. Continue reading

Brain Building and Hugging

bethbbipbuttonMaybe you saw our signs last week asking, “Are you a brain builder?” or maybe you saw the little yellow feet that tracked a path from PlaySpace into Peep into Countdown to Kindergarten? Or maybe, a Boston Children’s Museum staffer handed you a button to wear after they observed you having a meaningful moment with your child.

Last week was officially the Week of the Young Child and we planned a Brain Building in Progress campaign to help raise awareness of the importance of the first few years of a child’s development to their future success – and our region’s future workforce and prosperity. And then some bombs went off. We spent the week providing a safe haven for young children and their families as our Boston community dealt with the anxiety and fear that hung over our city.  Brain building didn’t really matter. Hugging mattered. Continue reading

Family Fest Preview: Collaborate in Paper World

FF final logoOn April 6th, Boston Children’s Museum will celebrate 100 years of collaborating with families by holding our Centennial Family Fest, a day in which we will celebrate families, the Museum, and all that we do together.  From 10:30 – 4:30 in the Art Studio that day we will highlight families collaborating together through an interactive installation called “Paper World” that will be created by you, our visitors. Come create something (anything at all!) to add to our imaginary world. It can be very small, very large or anywhere in between…we will be cutting paper, using tape and adding each creation to our world! What will you add? What do you think our world needs? Where will you add it? Continue reading