Exhibits | Play to Learn

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. At various times, play is a way to cope with life and to prepare for adulthood. Playing is a way to solve problems and to express feelings. In fact, play is the real work of childhood.”
—Fred Rogers, "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood"
baby touching the Play to Learn sign

The exhibit development staff at the Museum of Life and Science has used research, personal experience and input of both visitors and experts to design the Play to Learn space for young children. This 1,500-square-foot exhibit offers full body movement, fine motor skill development, creative play and experimentation for infants and children up to six years of age.

play to learn activities at a glance

  1. Building Blocks. Build a bridge or tower out of blocks and develop mathematical skills along the way. Or use your imagination and build a fairy house out of the blocks instead!
  2. Climbing Wall. Climb across mountains! By climbing this wall, children develop gross motor skills and confidence in their physical abilities.
  3. Animal Care Corner. Pretend you’re a veterinarian or a farmer as you play with the toy animals and tools in this area.
  4. Ball Tracks. Climb up a ladder and then send balls racing down a zigzagged track. Not only is this tons of fun, it is a great introduction to the concept of gravity for your preschooler.
  5. Paint with Water. Draw pictures or write your name by brushing water onto a blackboard – and then notice your message disappear as the water evaporates.
children playing with ball tracks children painting with water
Ball Tracks Painting with Water

The Play to Learn exhibit is an upgrade and refurbishment of the Museum’s popular Small Science area, which has been serving area families for nearly 20 years.

child looking at pink and blue beads in a bottle The Gentle Zone is a separate area of Play to Learn where infants and toddlers can safely play and learn. It features age-appropriate exploration activities and is filled with mirrors, textures, sounds, soft balls and blocks, sensory toys, and classic early learning games, as well as safe, low climbing structures.

a boy pretending to be a veteranarian plays with a stuffed horseThe 3-6-year-old section is divided into a kinetic area with a “treehouse” and ball and track interactives, a low climbing wall and a ski-jump small ball interactive. A creative section with painting with water and various types of building blocks will entice children to use their motor skills. Finally an imaginative play area invites kids to pretend to be vets, museum animal techs, ranchers, or farmers. This play area provides stuffed animals that can be "milked" (such as a cow or a goat), a horse and puppets in the shapes of hens and opossums. Using tools such as buckets to collect milk, brushes, ace bandages and a pretend refrigerator with pretend milk, eggs and veggies, children can collect from the animals or prepare them for feeding.
“If you look at what produces learning and memory and well-being, play is as fundamental as any other aspect of life, including sleep and dreams.’’
—Stuart Brown, President of the National Institute for Play

Photos © Studio Xanadeux