Children's Museums

Recently, I went with two colleagues to visit MY MUSEUM, the children’s museum in Monterey, California. One of our staff members, Jef, volunteers there, and he wanted to see how we might work with the museum to benefit children in our area. We arrived right behind a busload of children -- we were lucky to see the museum so completely in action. I think people sometimes mistake the word “museum” as a label for buildings that have glass cases full of dead things. Children’s museums couldn’t be farther from that description.

At Discount School Supply and Earlychildhood NEWS, we have had the opportunity to work with staff members from children’s museums in developing and evaluating products. They always have a wonderful perspective because they serve children across wide age, socio-economic and ability ranges, and those children are often accompanied by family members. The variety of experiences going on in any given day is incredibly varied. I remember being invited to the Boston Children’s Museum when its Playspace designed for children aged 0-3 was introduced. Now every member of the family is welcome at the children’s museum.

I have observed that there is often a missing link between preschools and children’s museums. Like preschools, children’s museums work hard to offer programs that combine fun with valuable educational experience. The museum can be a favorite destination for local preschools and a great weekend activity recommendation for families. In turn, museums benefit from working with preschools to create activities and exhibits that build on the classroom work at the school. That stronger partnership would help to build the link between the preschool and the community, it would introduce more patrons to the museum, and it would certainly enrich educational experiences for the children.

On our tour of MY MUSEUM, we saw children using our “Colorations” branded art products everywhere. Believe me, we loved that. We also loved the facilities offered in MY MUSEUM; we saw a guitar-playing crocodile on the little theatre stage – and we saw children being “gophers” and popping up through domed holes on the museum’s golf course exhibit (after all, we are just minutes away from Pebble Beach). We’re developing a program to work more closely with MY MUSEUM. We’ll let you know how it goes. (For information about museums in your area, visit the Association of Children’s Museum’s website at www.acom.org.). I’m Judy McGuinn, President of Discount School Supply.