Children’s Museum Experience: Learning Through Play Webinar Breakdown

Last night I attended a webinar presented by Child Care Aware, Parents Network which is a part of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRA).  I learned a lot about:

  1. the mission of the children’s museums;
  2. why they are important in a child’s developmental and learning experience;
  3. how the adult should interact with the child in the museum setting; and
  4. tips on how to navigate a children’ museum before and during the visit.

I don’t want to be exhaustive about what was spoken about and relayed in the webinar because you can watch it yourself for free but I did want to point out a couple of very intriguing points made.

Children’s Museums are a place where children can have hands on learning and stimulate curiosity for the outside world.  Jeannatte Thomas talks about the Association of Children’s Museums and the purpose of the children’s museum.

Panel Key Points

Susan Harris MacKay spoke about the importance of learning through play in a child’s developmental process.  In this talk she mentioned the reasons for the importance of play.  One of them being that even though a child can learn just as well with directional teaching as he/she can with play and the final outcome is typically the same, child that learned through play was less frustrated and more likely to do the same task again.  Susan also stated that even though studies have proven that play is an important part of the development process, formal education is pushing away from play and actually leaning towards cutting it out of programs all together.  Are Children’s Museums that much more important because it is becoming one of the only social places for children to engage in activities for development through play?

Keith Ostfeld provides an excellent breakdown of what the adult and child/ren can and should do at a children’s museum.  He explains how to make the most of what the museums have to offer by:

  1. Be an active participant;
  2. Let the children guide you where to start and finish; and
  3. Don’t be afraid to get messy or be silly

He expounds on these points and gives great examples of how to do what he suggests.

Joe Olson manages the user experience for the Minnesota Children’s Museum, which has 42,000 visitors a year and provides many tips to follow when planning and executing your museum visit.  One of his suggestions is to visit the museum website first to determine prices, museum layout, what you want to cover how long you can stay and more.  He also suggested having the children take a gander at the website to see if there is anything they really want to do.

Joe mentioned that the Minnesota Children’s Museum provides discounted memberships/entrance fees for licensed child care programs!  The provider just needs to bring in their license and fill out some paperwork.  The entrance fee for the children will be reduced and a certain number of chaperones are free.

I wonder how many other children’s museums have such a great program and what we might be able to do if they don’t already have the program.  Maybe getting together with your local association to approach the museum about it might work!  Any ideas?  Please do comment below.

Here is the link to the webinar,, it is definitely worth watching to learn about what the children get out of learning through play, how museums can help make that happen and your role as the adult with the child.

The Panel:

Jeannette Thomas: Program Officer, Membership, Association of Children's Museums, Arlington, Virginia
Susan Harris MacKay: Director, The Center for Children's Learning, Portland Children's Museum, Portland, Oregon
Keith Ostfeld: Director of Exhibit and Program Development, Children's Museum of Houston , Houston, Texas
Joseph Olson: Vice President- Visitor Experience, Minnesota Children's Museum, St. Paul, Minnesota


Samantha Marshall, M.A.

Samantha is, just like you, excited to make a difference in our community and our world. With a Master of Arts degree in English Literature, you might ask how she found herself building and writing for a website focused on child care. From 1995 through 2001, Samantha started her career working for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sponsors which introduced her to the importance of non-profits, community and quality child care. Her experience with Sponsors, State Officials, and Family Child Care Providers left a great and lasting impression. Later in her career and her most recent position at SAGE Publications, an academic publisher, was as a product manager for a new online resource! During this time many of Samantha's passions collided. A love for the written word, children and the proliferation of knowledge as well as a fascination with the resources the internet gives us, building a community for child care on is the perfect way to make the difference she wanted to. Needless to say, she is very excited to be an active part of creating and building