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Guest Blog By: Jaime Johnson, Sr. Marketing Manager, DuPage Children’s Museum
Is the Museum a good place to take a baby or should they be older to enjoy it? What kinds of things can a six-month-old do at the Museum? These are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive at the Museum. While I’m likely to be the person who responds to those questions on DCM’s social media, I always defer to our Specialists for the answers. Recently, I was able to experience the Museum with a seven-month-old and see first-hand that the Museum truly is an amazing place for even the youngest explorers.
My niece, Winnie, is 7 months old. My brother and sister-in-law, Jeff and Alta, are first-time parents and live out of state. I’m a first-time Aunt, and my mom is a first-time grandma. So many firsts. While they were visiting, I suggested that we should all take Winnie to the Museum for a playdate. The idea was met with a lot of excitement because we all thought Winnie would love it.
In the few days that Winnie had been at my house, it was clear that she was investigating everything – curious about the world all around her. Everything that was presented to her, whether that was a new piece of food, a toy, a spoon, a necklace, a dog, anything really, was “probed.” Winnie would extend her tiny little pointer finger and probe everything in question. It was as if she were committing these new artifacts to memory and cataloging all of the new things in her ever-growing world. It’s soooo darn cute.
I knew the Museum was going to be an amazing place for her, but expectations were so high. Honestly, I was worried expectations were too high. What if Winnie was having a rough day (she started teething on this trip)?, What if the Museum was too noisy for her? What if she just didn’t like it; what if Jeff and Alta didn’t like it? What if??? With all of the what ifs swirling around my mind, we did what we could to set up a positive experience. We planned our visit timing so that Winnie was fed and had napped and was ready to explore – a tip I had learned from our specialists while answering questions online.
So here we were, the four of us adults and one baby setting out on a new adventure. Upon arrival, Winnie was in her stroller. I had selected the Built It Young Explorers as our first destination. I chose this particular area for three reasons: it has a baby ball pit; it has a mirror with a bar to hold onto; and there is an area in the corner where air gently comes out of the floor. All of those things seemed like things Winnie might enjoy.
As we made our way through the Museum, Winnie seemed to begin to light up from inside. By now, Jeff had taken her out of the stroller and was carrying her. Her eyes were opening wider and wider, the corners of her mouth were turning up into a smile, and slowly but surely her tiny probing pointer was coming out before we had even arrived at the Young Explorers area. All of the “what ifs?” from earlier were definitely fading away.
When we entered Build It Young Explorers, Jeff put her on the floor so she could demonstrate her superior crawling ability. She went straight for the balls in the baby ball pit. Yay! I had chosen wisely! She grabbed a ball, rolled to a sitting position, and promptly put the ball into her mouth. Oops… Mom and Dad both jumped to get the ball out of her mouth. I could see some doubt creep into their faces about whether that was ok. But never fear, Auntie Jaime to the rescue! I showed them that the Museum staff understand and anticipate that babies put everything into their mouths; so, there are bins where toys that have gone in babies’ mouths go to be cleaned. The doubt vanished, and we continued on our journey.
As anticipated, the mirror with the bar was an incredible hit. Winnie just loves holding herself in a standing position AND she was super excited to see her reflection. Another win for Auntie Jaime 🙂 Winnie was interested in the air floor and probed the openings a little, but her real fascination was with the screws in the floor. Go figure. But I suppose screws in the floor are just as “probable” as anything else that is new to her.
There were other aspects of our visit that I hadn’t anticipated. Winnie’s excitement about seeing other babies was one. At first she just stared and one little guy stared back. Then, they got to meet, and it was magic. There were smiles, there was probing, there were squeals of joy. It was awesome! I observed a sense of ease in both Jeff and Alta that I hadn’t seen at home where they were constantly on-guard about what Winnie was touching so she wouldn’t get hurt. But in the Museum’s environment made specially for kids, these first-time parents were able to relax a little.
The other experience that I witnessed involved the moms in the Young Explorers area. The natural conversations that took place with the exchanging of information and experiences really brought to light that while the Museum is a great place for kiddos to grow and learn, it is an equally great place for caregivers to make connections with each other.
In total, we only spent about an hour in the exhibit area. Winnie’s exploration was cut just a little bit short because her trip to the Museum needed to include a tour of the offices so I could show off just how cute she is to all of my coworkers. Judging by Winnie’s smiling face, she enjoyed that part of her trip too. As we were walking back to the car, Alta commented, “This place is awesome! We should have come here every day.” That’s when I knew for sure that I was crushing this Auntie thing.
As I had mentioned, we get so many questions regarding what a baby can do at the Museum. Now, I can answer, not only with the information from our specialists, but with some first-hand experience. I would tell any new parent not to wait to visit the Museum. Whether in a stroller, on their tummy, crawling, cruising, or toddling, the Museum is an amazing environment designed to inspire wonder, discovery, curiosity, and more in even the youngest of visitors. And the best part… at every age and every stage, the Museum offers something new to learn and discover. I can’t wait for Winnie’s next visit.