One of the best gifts we received shortly after having my son, 8 years ago, was an annual membership to the Minnesota Children's Museum. Even though we live far, far away from St. Paul {we're in St. Michael, folks, it's a haul!} visiting the museum has been an important part of my kids' early childhood. 

With the world and academia asking for more and more of our kids at an early age, this early childhood play is an important thing. I truly believe the smartest, most well rounded people in are world started their life with lots of opportunity to play rather than a focus on Baby Einstein and flashcards. Research has shown that developmentally kids need play and not only do they need it but that there is learning through play. It saddens me personally to see play nearly all but eliminated by the time most kids get to kindergarten and first grade in public schools.

The Minnesota Children's Museum is passionate about sparking children's learning through play and the entire experience at the museum is aimed at allowing children to play, at their own level and ability and the takeaways are immense. From watching your child as a tot simply splash in the water room to figuring out the physics of the water and balls and tubes in that same room just a few years later. To driving the bus on mom's lap to looking through the bus window and seeing and placing scenes in St. Paul.

A family membership at the Children's Museum starts at just $99 and with admission costing $9.95/person, a family of five that visits the museum just two times in a year has paid for it. That said, for some families $99 annually is out of reach and there are miscellaneous programs and specials for families to take advantage of to still enjoy the amenities of the museum at a lower price through their Play for All program including Target 3rd Sundays, scholarships and free admissions for low income families. 

In 2010, the museum decided that in addition to inviting children and families to play and learn at the museum that it was important for children and families to experience this with tools from the museum outside of the museum and Smart Play Spots were born. The first three were a partnership with Dakota County, Hennepin County and St. Paul Public Libraries and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, today there are almost 20 Smart Play Spots throughout Minnesota.

From the Museum: Smart Play Spots encourage children's literacy development through hands-on, multi-sensory activities that include dramatic play, story telling, and playing with letters and sounds. Clear messages also inspire adults with ideas and information on how to promote a love of reading and build pre-literacy skills in young children.

These spots are located within public places and are free to all, inviting children and families to play and in turn, learn from that play.

Does your family visit the Minnesota Children's Museum? Have you stopped in at a Smart Play Spot? How do you feel about play and learning?

Smart Play spot locations:

St. Paul Public Library -Sun Ray Library, St. Paul 

Hennepin County Library -Hopkins Library, Hopkins 

Dakota County Library -Wescott Library, Eagan 

Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, Minneapolis 

Hennepin County Library -North Regional Library, Minneapolis 

Grand Rapids Area Library, Grand Rapids 

St. Paul Public Library -Rondo Community Outreach Library, St. Paul 

Willmar Public Library, Willmar 

Ramsey County Library -Maplewood, Maplewood 

Rochester Public Library, Rochester 

Owatonna Public Library, Owatonna 

Scott County Library -Shakopee Branch, Shakopee 

Great River Regional Library –St. Cloud, St. Cloud 

White Earth Child Care/Early Childhood Program, White Earth Nation 

Anoka County Library -Mississippi Branch, Fridley 

Washington County Public Library –R.H. Stafford Branch, Woodbury

Hennepin County Library -Augsburg Park Library, Richfield 

Brainerd Public Library –Brainerd –Spring 2014

Baby Space – Little Earth of United Tribes, Minneapolis -Spring 2014




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