Use these tips to challenge your child's ever-expanding mind and to support their cognitive development through play.
Your First or Second Grader
At this age, children are entering the concrete operational development stage, when they begin to utilize logical, concrete reasoning. While it is still difficult for children in this stage to think abstractly, they can solve problems in a logical way.
- Watch as your child builds their own wooden structure with hammers and nails. Invite them to tell you about what they made.
- Ask your child if they had unlimited resources, what would they add to their wooden structure?
- Search the exhibit for simple machines like levers, pulleys, and wheels and axles.
- Practice imitating rhythms on dueling drums, or use your body to create new dance moves that mimic the beat.
- Challenge each other as you create beats and try to “guess that song."
- Start a miniature rock band. Join forces playing different instruments together.
KaleidoZone or Community Gallery
- Talk with your child about what they notice when looking at the artwork. How does it make them feel?
- Discuss possibilities. What do they think happened before and after what they see in the picture?
- Encourage creativity. What would they name this artwork and why?
Your Third or Fourth Grader
Attention span typically increases with age, and children are more adept at completing tasks as mental and physical stamina improves. Enhance their ability to focus by asking them questions about their observations. This is a great time to encourage children to read text labels aloud with you.
- What illusions can you create with the mirrors? Can you “defy gravity” by standing on one leg? Make your head "disappear"?
- Take a look at the compass rose on the floor and put it into context. Is your home east or west of the Museum? Is the beach north or south of here? What about Grandma’s house or a parent’s office?
- Try a structural challenge in Block City. Build on an unconventional surface, using an unstable shape as your base. How can you overcome the challenge?
Feasts for Beasts
- Foster comparing and contrasting by examining animal’s eating habits. Look at the real and model teeth and mouths of different animals.
- Take a look at our live animals and discover what is part of their diet. How does it differ from your own as a large mammal?
- Witness animal bath time or attend a workshop dedicated to understanding animals. See our calendar for upcoming events.
- Make a movie together in the Animation Station. If you have toys in your pockets, add them as characters in the production.
- In the Newsroom, take the opportunity to discuss career opportunities and what sparks your child’s interests.
- In the Radio Room, invite your child to share a report of current events in their life. What is something exciting, fun, or important to them they can add to the broadcast? An achievement in school? A new place they’ve visited recently? A celebratory event such as a birthday?
Older children still want their parents as partners in play, even if it might seem as though they’re pushing you away. Turn a visit to the museum into a special day to bond, focusing on uninterrupted time together. Enjoy conversations that wander well beyond what you’re doing at the present moment.
- Build structures taller than yourselves, and for an added bonus, form it around another visitor.
- Go horizontal. Design the widest possible bridgespan that doesn’t collapse.
- Experiment with the concepts of foundation and structure as you work together to make modifications that improve your building's strength.
Broken? Fix it!
- In the Truth Booth, confess about a time when you broke something. Let your preteen in on the secret.
- Do any of these fixing-oriented jobs interest your child? Keep an eye out for potential careers.
- Broken objects are full of stories. What is something in your family’s history that was mended because it was important to someone? Who figured out the fix? Did they solve it on the first attempt?
Everyone is itching to reach 42” and access to the Climb-It. If your preteen is interested, invite them to go ahead and find a quiet spot in the interactive sculpture. Take a look at the other exhibit prompts above and see what interests your child most.
Volunteer opportunities for teens abound at the Museum! Many of our visitors love returning to the Museum as teenagers to teach and encourage young visitors. Fill out an application to become a “Green Teen” working on science-based programming with our STEM Initiatives Program Director, or assist throughout the galleries.
LICM has three traveling exhibits each year so you can continue to experience something new. These exhibits are geared towards different age groups throughout the year, and all families are welcome to explore. Modify an exhibit’s language to talk to a child of any age about what they’re seeing. Broaden their perspective and give them an understanding of something beyond their own reality.
Have a Little One?
For tips on exploring exhibits with children under three, see our Toddler Tips.