The LCM Play With Me Gallery: A Very Special Place for a Very Special Time
May 15, 2023
By Shannon L. Blady, PhD
LCM Chief Learning Officer
The first three years of a child’s life is a period in which a child’s attachment and bond to his/her primary caregiver(s) is shaped, and 85% of the architecture of the brain is formed. These gains build on the enormous potential of each child and are shaped largely by positive experiences between the child and the caregiver. This is why the Museum offers several areas designed for babies and toddlers, including our Tot Spot in the Move With The River Gallery and the Toddler Landscape in our expansive backyard. There is also a very special place in the Museum designed solely for children ages 0-3 and their caregivers. Play With Me is a brain-building gallery bursting with opportunities for babies and toddlers to actively explore with their senses in a safe environment, while their caregivers learn about the magic of everyday moments during these first three years.
Throughout each day, LCM staff facilitate learning and exploration by being “In Dialogue” with caregivers, highlighting the roles for adults in interacting with their babies and toddlers, encouraging parents and caregivers to interact with each other, and sharing information about related activities and resources in the community. Parents and caregivers often congregate around one of the most popular features in Play With Me, the Sensory Lagoon. Here, the youngest guests are invited to lie down or roll on the lily pad, listen to the splashing water, and feel the movement on their tummies. Behind the lagoon is our Cypress Tree Book Nook, where caregivers can cuddle up with their babies to read books from our wide variety of children’s literature. Other engaging spots in this gallery for sensory exploration, relationship building, and developing language include a Felt Wall, Mirror Labyrinth, Peek-A-Boo Theater, and a Climbing Space. Guests can also find a collection of resources on topics such as parent-infant attachment, teething, and speech and language development. They also learn about community partner events and details of upcoming LCM webinars and programs.
Play With Me offers daily scheduled programming titled Toddler Time at Ten. Each Wednesday features a STEM activity. Infants and toddlers engage with their caregivers in an interactive, multisensory experience that provokes curiosity and stimulates the senses. Our staff model for parents and caregivers how everyday, common household items and recyclables can become playful opportunities to explore, discover, and learn. For example, we have made fun explorations with a variety of reused materials – paper towel tubes, oatmeal containers, and bubble wrap, to name a few.
Each Thursday is Toddler Time Animal Yoga, inspired by the animals represented in our beautiful floor-to-ceiling Alex Beard mural in the gallery. Our pint-sized guests are encouraged to spread their wings like a butterfly, slither like a corn snake, or stand as tall as a majestic oak. Friday is Splish Splash, a time to explore water with open-ended play that encourages using fine motor tools to scoop, squeeze, and pour. And although there is singing throughout each day in Play With Me, there is a scheduled Sing-Along Saturday.
If you are a new parent or caregiver, you definitely want to visit and revisit the Play With Me Gallery at the Louisiana Children’s Museum to play and learn with your baby or toddler, to explore and enjoy the everyday moments, and to build your support system. For more information, visit https://lcm.org.
First 1000 Days
Did you know that LCM has a special cohort program designed to support parents and caregivers in the first three years of their baby’s life? Through the First 1000 Days, LCM staff communicate to new parents and caregivers the powerful role they have in building their baby’s brains. The touchpoints include an online platform that provides weekly developmental tips and invites parents to post photos and videos of their growing baby; monthly in-person breakfasts and workshops hosted by local experts, during which parents have opportunities to network with each other; and weekly support from parent mentors and our Early Learning Director. This program was recently included in the New York Times in an article titled “Children’s Museums are Growing Intellectually and Emotionally” (April 27, 2023):
“Some museums are offering mental health outreach to parents. The Louisiana Children’s Museum, in New Orleans, started First 1000 Days last fall, monthly breakfast workshops that aim to help see parents through the first three years of their child’s life. They are led by mental health professionals who talk about milestones that parents should look for. Parents are invited to ask questions and voice their frustrations, too.
Jazmin Roberson, a nanny and doula, is a regular attendee. She said the sessions had been instrumental in helping her navigate the stresses related to her 8-month-old daughter. “I have so many questions about how to care for her, and First 1000 Days has given me answers and peace of mind,” she said.”
We are so proud of the progress of this program. The babies in our first cohort, affectionately named Cuddles Cohort, are soon to turn one year old! We have enjoyed watching them grow and develop and watching the parents and caregivers build supportive relationships with each other over the past seven months. We look forward to working with our next cohort, which will begin October 2023.