Fostering Empathy Through Pretend Play

Fostering Empathy Through Pretend Play

By Suzy Letourneau and Robin Meisner, Providence Children’s Museum

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Providence Children’s Museum’s recently reinvented Coming to Rhode Island exhibit explores history through four story galleries ­– an English colonist’s farmhouse (1640), the new Fort Adams worksite (1835), a Cape Verdean packet ship (1892) and a Dominican bodega (1961). The exhibit uses these stories to build empathy and foster respect for the diversity of individuals who make up the world. Empathy is the ability to sense, understand and share other people’s emotions, and it allows individuals to take others’ perspectives, communicate and collaborate.

Children develop social and emotional skills like empathy as they begin to understand their own identities and appreciate differences between themselves and others, and research shows that pretending is a natural avenue for this development. In Coming to Rhode Island, children engage with each story through pretend play, allowing them to practice social and emotional skills in developmentally meaningful ways.

Toddlers (and even infants) start to notice and react to others’ emotions, a foundation of empathy. They also start pretending in simple ways and playing in parallel with other children, setting the stage for social skills and later forms of pretending. In the exhibit, a toddler might offer fake food to someone who says they are hungry or share with another child while playing side by side.

Children ages 3 to 5 begin to engage in more complex forms of pretend play, from wearing a costume or using props to creating stories with different roles. Children in Coming to Rhode Island might pretend to cook in a kitchen, build a fort or sail a ship. When pretending together, they talk about their ideas and decide how a story should unfold. In the process, kids learn that other people might not think and feel the same things they do, and they practice seeing other’s points of view and learn to work through conflicts.

Children ages 5 to 7 start to understand similarities and differences between themselves and others, and can take many different perspectives. When playing together, they create elaborate stories and practice empathy by imagining what others might feel in different situations. In the exhibit, kids might take on roles that are very different from their own lives. They might think about what life was like for the people whose stories appear in the galleries, and they recognize differences between their own lives and those who lived in the past.

Children ages 7 to 11 begin to recognize that different people might have different interpretations of the same situation, and that multiple perspectives can be equally valid. They also start to understand that people’s feelings are influenced by what others think and how others act towards them, helping them develop deeper empathy for others. In Coming to Rhode Island, older kids might reflect on how other’s previous experiences shaped the decisions they made and their perceptions of the world.

While children begin developing empathy and perspective-taking very early on, these skills continue to grow throughout their entire lives. In Coming to Rhode Island, older children and adults might question stereotypes and challenge assumptions, and appreciate the diversity represented in our community.

Learn more about Coming to Rhode Island and get a peek at the process of creating the exhibit on the Museum’s blog.

Explore Empathy and Stories In New “Coming to Rhode Island” Exhibit

Explore Empathy and Stories In New “Coming to Rhode Island” Exhibit

By Megan Fischer, Associate Director, Providence Children’s Museum

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 Step back in time at Providence Children’s Museum to explore a playfully reinvented version of its popular Coming to Rhode Island exhibit. The dynamic environment invites visitors to embark on a time-traveling exploration of the state’s history, immigration and culture through stories and engaging hands-on activities that encourage empathy and respect for diversity.

 For hundreds of years and continuing today, people have come from all over the world to what is now Rhode Island – whether voluntarily, coerced or forced – and everyone has stories about where their families are from and how and why they came. Coming to Rhode Island shares real stories of real people who have immigrated to the state – how they lived, what they left behind, the challenges they met, the solutions they found.

 While Coming to Rhode Island explores history and culture, above all the exhibit is designed to build empathy and foster respect for the diversity of individuals who make up our world. It’s about understanding that diversity makes our communities richer and stronger, and about cultivating compassion for others by making personal connections to their stories. Research also shows that pretend play is one of the best ways to develop empathy and other socio-emotional skills, including taking different perspectives and relating to and communicating with others. At a time of divisiveness and discord in our country and world, empathy is more important than ever.

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 Discover these exciting exhibit updates:

  • Discover an imaginative new gallery highlighting the story of John Quigley, a pre-famine Irish immigrant who helped build Fort Adams in Newport from 1831 to 1841. Enter an immersive kid-sized replica of the Fort with brick and stone corridors and tunnels, join the construction crew to build walls and arches, don period appropriate costumes, explore what home life was like at the Fort, and investigate tools and documents of the trade from the 1800s and about the Quigley family’s history.
  • Step into the “Story Center” to experiment with an array of intriguing hands-on activities and resources that investigate culture and diversity and encourage empathy, building on the learning that happens through pretend play in the story galleries. Play games and hear music from around the world, build with “face blocks” to create unique faces and expressions, create and share self-portraits, and more.
  • Explore a wealth of different stories – stories of Rhode Islanders past and present, stories of people of different cultures and backgrounds, stories that encourage families to think about and appreciate what’s unique about themselves and others.

In celebration of Coming to Rhode Island, discover a series of special programs exploring construction and Irish culture in November and December. Build with bricks, engineer tunnels, enjoy lively performances of energetic Irish tunes, and more. Learn more.

Coming to Rhode Island and related activities are free with $9.00 Museum admission.  For more information, visit www.ChildrenMuseum.org.

Get a peek at the process of creating Coming to Rhode Island on the Museum’s blog!

Coming to Rhode Island is supported by The Champlin Foundations; The Children’s Workshop Foundation; CollegeBound Saver; June Rockwell Levy Foundation; Murray Family Charitable Foundation; The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Ryan Family Foundation; and Nancy Smith Worthen, in memory of Margaret L. Worthen. The Irish gallery was developed in collaboration with the Fort Adams Trust and The Museum of Newport Irish History.

COMING SOON: A New Coming to Rhode Island

COMING SOON: A New Coming to Rhode Island

By Megan Fischer, Providence Children’s Museum

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Providence Children’s Museum introduces a playfully reimagined Coming to Rhode Island exhibit this fall, with an opening weekend celebration November 18 – 20!

For hundreds of years and continuing today, people have come from all over the world to what is now Rhode Island, and everyone has stories about where their families are from and how and why they came. Coming to Rhode Island is designed to promote tolerance, diversity and inclusion by sharing actual stories of the history of immigration to RI – how people lived, what they left behind, the challenges they met, the solutions they found. The exhibit’s goals are for children and adults to develop tolerance and respect for the diversity of individuals that make up their world, understand that diversity makes our communities stronger, and build empathy for others by making personal connections to their stories.

Discover these exciting exhibit updates:

  • Embark on a time-traveling adventure through a transformed “time tunnel” to journey through the exhibit’s story galleries and learn about Rhode Island’s immigration history.
  • Explore an imaginative new gallery highlighting the story of a pre-famine Irish immigrant who helped build Fort Adams. Work on the Fort’s construction crew to build walls and arches, and explore what home life was like at the Fort.
  • Investigate an array of intriguing hands-on activities and resources that explore culture and diversity and encourage empathy, building on the learning that happens through pretend play in the story galleries. Play games and discover music from around the world, and explore stories of other Rhode Islanders as well as your own stories.
  • Examine new labels that help caregivers understand the value of pretend play for developing empathy and other social-emotional skills.
  • And, in celebration of the exhibit, also join a series of special programs exploring construction and Irish culture in November and December. Create Celtic knots, build with bricks, engineer tunnels, and more. Learn more.

While there are a lot of changes in store, the new Irish gallery will replace only the French Canadian mill gallery – so no worries, the beloved English farmhouse, Cape Verdean packet ship and Dominican bodega will return!

Curious how the Museum makes new exhibits?  Visit the Museum’s blog for a behind-the-scenes peek at the process of reinventing Coming to Rhode Island!

 

Coming to Rhode Island is supported by The Children’s Workshop Foundation; CollegeBound Saver; June Rockwell Levy Foundation; Murray Family Charitable Foundation; The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Ryan Family Foundation; and Nancy Smith Worthen, in memory of Margaret L. Worthen (as of October 11). The Irish gallery was developed in collaboration with The Museum of Newport Irish History and the Fort Adams Trust.

Make Some Music!

Make Some Music!

By Providence Children’s Museum

This summer, kids and adults can explore beats and rhythm and make some joyful noise on two vibrant interactive sound sculptures recently installed in The Children’s Garden at Providence Children’s Museum.

Whether banging on drums or ringing bells, children inherently respond to making and sharing music. Designed to accommodate a range of physical abilities and skills, the sound sculptures invite children of all ages to play a variety of inventive percussion instruments in their own ways and create meaningful interactions with music and with each other. Making music together promotes confidence and social skills, as well as the development of language, mathematical and spatial thinking – and it’s just plain fun!

PCM-Music MakingBy incorporating a variety of intriguing reclaimed objects and new materials, the playful sound sculptures offer kids a hands-on musical experience with both usual and unusual instruments, including bells and tongue drums fashioned from steel propane tanks, triangles and large wooden and metal chimes.

The captivating musical components have infused The Children’s Garden with even more creative exploration, and inspire families to express themselves while discovering ways that everyday items can be playfully repurposed. Feel the beat!

There are plenty of other great play opportunities at the Museum this summer, too! Get Out! for hands-on activities in The Children’s Garden on Tuesday afternoons, climb aboard a different vehicle during Wheels at Work each Wednesday morning, build with big blue Imagination Playground blocks every Friday, and much more! Learn more.

Play at the Park with Providence Children’s Museum!

Play at the Park with Providence Children’s Museum!

By Megan Fischer, Associate Director, Providence Children’s Museum

For a fifth summer, Providence Children’s Museum is bringing playful hands-on activities to parks across Providence, building on its commitment to advocate for and raise awareness of the critical importance of children’s play, and its efforts to provide unstructured play opportunities throughout the community.

Families will join the Museum to try a variety of playful open-ended activities – to build forts, blow bubbles, send rockets soaring, play parachute games, and more. Activities take place evenings in July and August from 5:00 – 8:00 PM during Celebrate Providence, the city’s Neighborhood Performing Arts Initiative performances, and are free to the public.

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Play at the Park with Providence Children’s Museum from 5:00 – 8:00 PM:

Thursday, July 7 • Bucklin Park (Bucklin and Daboll Streets)

Tuesday, July 12 • Fargnoli Park (Smith and Jastram Streets)

Wednesday, July 13 • Harriet and Sayles Park (Harriet and Sayles Streets)

Thursday, July 21 • Dexter Training Grounds (Dexter and Parade Streets)

Wednesday, July 27 • Harriet and Sayles Park (Harriet and Sayles Streets)

Thursday, August 4 • Billy Taylor Park (Camp and Cypress Streets)

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Unstructured, child-directed play is vital for kids’ healthy growth and development, and the Museum is bringing play to public spaces to combat children’s growing play deficit and to make unstructured, high-quality play experiences available to all kids and families. A strong advocate for the critical importance of open-ended, child-directed play, the Museum is excited to continue partnering with Providence parks to bring creative play opportunities to kids and families in communities throughout the city.

Children’s Museum activities at the parks are part of its participation in Playful Providence – a citywide celebration commemorating Providence’s fifth consecutive designation as a “Playful City USA” by KaBOOM!, which recognizes communities commended for prioritizing play.

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There are plenty of great play opportunities at the Museum this summer, too! Get Out! for hands-on activities in the Museum’s garden on Tuesday afternoons, climb aboard a different vehicle during Wheels at Work each Wednesday morning, build with big blue Imagination Playground blocks every Friday, and much more! Learn more.

Play – Not Just for Kids!

Play – Not Just for Kids!

By Megan Fischer, Associate Director, Providence Children’s Museum

The need for play doesn’t end with the childhood years – it’s also important for grown-ups to have time to slow down, explore their interests, be creative, be silly and have fun with their friends! That’s one of the reasons that Providence Children’s Museum is presenting its third annual PLAY ON! event on Saturday, June 11 from 7:00 – 10:00 PM. This night out just for “big kids” provides adults with a playful after-hours adventure at the Children’s Museum – an opportunity to build tall block towers, investigate the power of air, construct water and mist fountains, solve puzzles and design challenges, and a whole lot more.

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Research shows that playing for the pure joy of it – not with any goal or intended outcome – is good for all of us, and in so many different ways. Play promotes creativity and imagination, boosts brain function, and is a tool for problem solving. Play can relieve stress and foster resiliency. Play can keep us active and healthy, and help improve our relationships with others. According to this Boston Globe article about grown-up play, “People who exhibit high levels of playfulness – those who are predisposed to being spontaneous, outgoing, creative, fun-loving, and lighthearted – appear to be better at coping with stress, more likely to report leading active lifestyles, and more likely to succeed academically.”

Yes, play is critically important for children’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development – but let’s not overlook its significance in helping us become happy, healthy adults as well!

For more ideas and info about why grown-ups need to play, too:

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PLAY ON! event details:
When: Saturday, June 11 from 7:00 – 10:00 PM
Where: Providence Children’s Museum (100 South Street in Providence)
Ages: Just for grown-ups, ages 21+
Cost: Advance tickets are $15 for Museum members and $20 for non-members, available online until 5:00 PM on Friday, June 10. Limited tickets will be available at the door for $25.
For more information: Website  | Facebook