A time for families and children to learn and play in a welcoming, accessible environment
Children with disabilities and their families have a new place for fun as the Minnesota Children’s Museum has introduced a new accessible play program this fall. The program gives families an opportunity to explore adaptive tools and other resources that the museum offers to the community. The museum fittingly named the program All Play First Fridays, because it is all about playing, and is open to all visitors. It presented on the first Friday evening of each month, 6-8 p.m.
Families can investigate the museum, which is located in downtown St. Paul, during All Play First Fridays. Kids have a blast discovering new and exciting concepts through fun, learning-focused play. The seven galleries are designed to provide a hands-on environment for children ages six months to 10 years old. In the galleries and exhibits, kids encounter an engrossing world that arouses their curiosity, increases their understanding and encourages the joy of learning.
”The All Play First Fridays program grew out of our desire to provide an enjoyable family learning experience that meets the needs of all family members whether or not they have a disability. We want families with a child with a disability to know that they are welcome here and that we have made our exhibits and programs accessible for their child,” said Ann Boekhoff, the museum’s director of education and exhibit development. We selected the first Friday evening of the month because it is a quieter time in the Museum, so all families can participate more easily in the playful experiences we offer The museum has taken great care to provide a comfortable environment for children with disabilities, especially during All Play First Fridays. They limit announcements on the loudspeakers, so children aren’t startled. A quiet room is set up in the Discovery Center where kids can go to relax on comfy pillows and play with soft blocks. Kids revel in fun activities including watching the live animal show, especially seeing and touching the snake. The children enjoy listening during story time too. These programs provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. Families are also invited to explore a variety of books with Braille type.
Kids especially love to get their hands dirty at the art program, Exploration Station. The multi-sensory activities encourage kids to explore and create their own art work. The children’s imaginations are sparked by messy projects like painting with colored ice cubes. The museum provides easy-to-grip paint brushes and other adaptive tools. At All Play First Fridays families can also learn about community organizations that provide services to children with disabilities. Upstream Arts provides short, interactive programs to showcase their unique approach of using the arts to develop social skills. Families have the opportunity to participate in small group theatrical interactions led by professional artists. The mission of Upstream Arts is to enhance the lives of youth and adults with disabilities by fostering creative communication and social independence through the power of arts education. For more information about Upstream Arts, check www.upstreamarts.org,
The Minnesota Children’s Museum won the 2008 Universal Design for Learning Award for its Accessible Play Initiative, a community partnership between the museum and organizations that serve kids with disabilities and their families in the metro area. All Play First Fridays is one program in the Accessible Play Initiative.
The museum is committed to continuing All Play First Fridays as an ongoing program each first Friday from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The Minnesota Children’s Museum is located at 10 West Seventh Street, 55102. For more information about All Play First Fridays at the Minnesota Children’s Museum, including entrance fees: www.mcm.org or call 651-225-6000.