If you haven't read "It's Science: Reading the same books to your child over and over makes them smarter," give it a read. It's written by Ashley Norris, a former preschool teacher and now a faculty member at East Carolina University in the Birth-Kindergarten Education program.
Upon reading the article, it got me thinking about the importance of repetition. We, as parents, have this desire to give our children a plethora of experiences. Consider for a moment that instead of running ragged all summer trying to get as much in as possible, that you do half as much... but more of it.
A few months after opening our doors at our new location, way back in 2009, I started finding myself in conversations that continue to this day. They often play out like this:
Visitor: "Hey Adam, we're here again!"
Me: "It's great to see you."
Visitor: "Yeah, we asked her where she wanted to go and she said the Kite Museum."
Me: "I'm glad she has fun here!"
Visitor: "We suggested about six other places because we were just here a week ago, but she wanted to come here."
Me: "Well, you know, children like repetition right?"
Then, I go into why children like repetition. There is a mastery in play that children aspire to. Think about a child who has blocks at home. Do they play with those blocks once and then they are done? Not usually. If that were the case, why buy blocks, right? No, children will build and be creative with new ideas and new designs.
The same is true at the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn.
A child may come to the museum and pretend shop in the grocery store, mimicking what they see you do at the supermarket. The next few visits to the museum, they might do the same thing, but on one of those visits, they discover something new. The thought crosses their mind, "What if I take the food over to the kitchen across from the grocery store?"
Now they have their cart in the kitchen, putting food in cabinets and pretending to cook food. "But wait, there is a picnic table, what if we had a picnic?" And... the experience changes every time with different children in the market.
This is true no matter what the exhibit. As children grow older and with each regular visit to the museum, you'll notice subtle changes in how they play.
Just as the article by Ashley Norris states, ask questions! Each exhibit has a "Talk About it!" sign. Inside the signs are ideas of questions to get you started. If you are in the market exhibit, you might ask:
- What vegetables do you want to buy?
- Can you find a food that is green?
- For older children, "How much do you think this costs at the store?
Open-ended questions get children thinking. Go beyond the yes or no questions and get them thinking about the "why" of what they are doing.
Instead of: "Are you having fun?"
Try: "Tell me what you are doing."
Instead of: "Do you like the museum?"
Try: "What was your favorite thing to do today? What did you like best about it?"
By asking these types of open-ended questions, you'll be opening up a whole new dialogue with your children and they'll let you into their world.
Maria Montessori once said: "It is exactly in the repetition of the exercises that the education of the senses exists; not that the child shall know colors, forms or qualities, but that he refine his senses through an exercise of attention, comparison and judgment."
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Adam Woodworth is the Executive Director of the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn.