Safe Space for Modern Families - DuPage Children's Museum

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Safe Space for Modern Families

May 12, 2022

Safe Space for Modern Families

By Cara DeGraff, DCM Board Member, Vice President Product Management at Vistex, Inc.

Ever since my daughter was a small child, she loved going to DCM. As she grew, different areas became her favorite place to go. As a small child, she was enamored with the sensory experience of playing in the water. She loved watching any object float and was intrigued when it would go faster or slower and the direction it headed as I put the barriers up. Her curiosity was always on high those days. 

As she grew, she loved capturing herself in a giant bubble and making bubbles of all other shapes and sizes while I knew she was learning gross motor skills, listening skills, and surface tension. As she grew into a budding musician, she would play with the musical instruments and sound activities which helped her fine motor skills, literacy, and language. 

When she was 5, she would run upstairs to dress up in the costumes and put on plays for anyone who would watch, which taught her creative thinking and improved her communication skills. When she was 7, she constructed works of art with wood and tools, designed her own marble runs, and blew ping pong balls and scarves all over the wind area. This taught her science, physics, design, and cause and effect. 

Each visit, no matter what the age, she always had to visit the art studio to express herself and design masterpieces while gaining confidence and perseverance. She went to the museum to play, but I always knew she was doing much more than that.

DCM was a great place for her to go to explore and learn while having fun. As I was a single, working mother, she didn’t get a lot of chances to do that being in daycare full time. She had a very structured day which is very important, but little kids need a place for unstructured learning through play. 

DCM allowed her to run around and do what she wanted to do without instructions and directions, but within controlled guardrails. She could explore on her own or mirror what other kids, adults, play facilitators, or her parents were doing as we were all playing just as much as she was!

However, my favorite thing about DCM was that it was a safe place for her father and I to take her together. We got divorced when she was very little, but we always made a point of doing something with the three of us for her birthday. 

DCM was the perfect place for that. It was large enough and had enough to do that she could control the narrative without us having to step in. It allowed each of us to split time with her depending on our talents, but still allowed us to not be left out while watching or joining, all while in a neutral space. 

He would do the woodworking with her and carry that lesson home and have her build me presents for my birthday or talk to her about the science of the wind, electricity, and circuits as he told her about what he did in his past jobs. I would help with the pretend play, art, and music and share my stories and creativity and we would continue with the stories and crafts at home and make her dad homemade cards and pictures.

DCM was the perfect place for her to explore and grow whether she went with me, with her father, or for that one day a year, with the two of us together as a modern-day family.