Crystal Bridges’ monthly Preschool Playdates are designed to give our youngest visitors a fun experience that gets them started looking at and thinking about art: color, shape, texture, patterns and lines. There are many benefits to the developing brain that can be gained from early exposure to art and art-making.
“Looking at and talking about art stimulates creativity and imagination, and helps with early literacy skills, like vocabulary, questioning and description,” says Public Program Manager Janelle Redlaczyk. “Making art builds problem-solving skills, motor skills, and confidence. Plus, when you encourage children to explore the unfamiliar and inspire curiosity about art and museums, you give them a gift that lasts a lifetime!”
Vukin is a specialist in play therapy and holds a master’s degree in counseling education. She has used her knowledge of the value and importance of play to create events that bring parents and children together in the no-rules creative world of play. Pop-up Playgrounds are unstructured free-play environments Marie cobbles together from everyday materials that parents can find at home: boxes, kitchen utensils, plastic bins full of sand, plastic tubing, funnels…things that preschoolers can explore and pretend with. “I like to find ways to bring families together to remember how wonderful it is to play,” she says. “Kids learn best through exploration: through trying and trying something until they get it right. In unstructured play, they don’t have to sit and listen to us, they don’t have to be quiet and still. We meet the kids on their level, and let them experiment.”
The parents are encouraged to join in the fun, of course, exploring and playing with materials alongside their little ones.
“One of my favorite things about the Preschool Playdates is seeing the parents sitting down and playing with their kids,” Marie says. “I love to see their expression when I tell them: your child just stayed focused on one activity for 45 minutes! It’s fun to get the parents involved, to show them how to see what your child is telling you: what they are interested in. It’s really about getting children ready to learn.”
Free play opens doors to several important learning skills: kids learn to solve problems, to experiment, and to work with others. Pretend play introduces kids to the concept of symbols: a piece of fabric becomes a baby, a stick is a bridge. There are also fundamental facts they can discover and explore: using a length of tubing and a funnel, they can pour deer-corn, marbles, or sand from one container to another, learning about how things fall, what fits into what, volume, shape, and texture.
The same lessons apply to art. “Artists play with their materials, too,” Marie says. “They’re like scientists, experimenting, making guesses, trying things out. It’s all the same skills children need to become an artist, perhaps, or just someone who loves art!”
The theme for October’s Preschool Playdate on October 10, is “Orange.” Kids can enjoy a performance by kids’ musician Dino O’Dell, storytime on Walker Landing, an “I Spy Orange Art!” gallery hunt, scratch art, shaving-cream painting, and of course, a Pop-up Playground with Project Play! Marie will be setting up a pretend kitchen where children can play with dough: rolling and shaping it, adding textures or fragrances, and using cookie cutters to make pretend cookies to go into the pretend oven. Come out to Crystal Bridges and play with us!