It's summer and we Minnesotans don't take these days for granted. Parks, splash pads, sprinklers in the front yard, watermelon at the lake. So why head to St. Paul for indoor play? Because the newly renovated museum is well-worth it.
1. Multi-age play.
The revamped museum has experiences for all ages. Adults can engage in sophisticated art projects, teens can record short stop-motion movies, tweens can lose themselves in a complex tinkering project, elementary kids can build forts, and toddlers have a lovely, large room with multi-sensory opportunities.
In Our World the seating is integrated into play opportunities - adults can sit to rest at the tables at a restaurant. Kids can take their order. Or adults can say they aren't hungry. The fire station was busy when we were there, and my 4-year-old and 7-year-old neighbor spent 20 minutes involved in a long play session with other kids. Open-ended play where adults take the back seat allows kids to create alongside other kids. It's different from school and other extracurriculars because the context is play and the kids are in control. As they get lost in play with each other they are motivated to include, collaborate and add to each other's stories.
In Creativity Jam kids and adults decorate the white walls with stickers to create a room with a unique view. The sum was greater than each of our small contributions; truly a community effort.
3. Learning through play.
Play is both a vehicle for learning and an end in itself. Often we (adults) just have to get out of our own - and our children's - way. Or we can engage more mindfully, aware of our forms of participation.
Your kids will run to the face painting area and their eyes will grow large as they take in the gigantic slide. As you take it in, 1. Do your best to let your child lead. Then, 2. Try to let yourself turn off your normal rules - home rules, adult rules, work rules. The folks at the museum have thought through safety, stroller parking, bathrooms, food, and yes, learning through play. You can let go and let your own fun fly. Run around! Make stuff that doesn't make any sense. Get on the floor. Pretend to be a firefighter. Be silly with your kids.
When you step back and think about it, there aren't many spaces where every age can play together and is provided the tools to explore their imagination together. Beat the summer heat and mosquitos - go ahead and dive in!