Mind Over Matter: The Boston Children’s Museum

Rummaging through a trunk of old clothes in the Grandparent’s Attic display, children are not just trying on clothes; they’re trying on the business of being adults. Play is learning at the Boston Children’s Museum (founded 1913), which revolutionized the American museum experience half a century ago by getting objects out of cases and into children’s hands.
In a multi-cultural city like Boston, the Museum helps provide keys to understanding diversity. Kids can explore race and identity through folk tales told by gifted storytellers. Cultural artifacts add authenticity to experiencing life in different times, places or civilizations.
Kids experience the world through play. They explore, they experiment – they grow. With “play” becoming a more highly scheduled activity than ever before, places like the Boston Children’s Museum give children the opportunity to socialize, create and participate in learning through hands-on exhibit experiences.
The 1960s saw the blossoming of the concept of Early Childhood Education. From its inception, the Boston Children’s Museum incorporated the various types of play — physical play, playing with manipulatives, and playing with art – into their exhibits. With few glass cases to protect precious objects from inquisitive hands, children could touch and experience and imagine themselves in many different situations.
In The Art Studio, kids get messy expressing their ideas. In the theater, costumed kids perform with ease in front of an audience, inventing scenes or even alternate plot lines for well-known stories. And in the Hall of Toys, spellbound children can peek into a world of fantasy, with dolls, dollhouses and miniatures providing a slice of alternate reality.
Children’s Museums help their visitors understand the phenomena of the world. With tools and toys kids learn about animals, vegetables and minerals and their relevance to their daily experiences. What do turtles eat? How do you fix a telephone? Why are there rainbows in bubbles?
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