By Janice O’Donnell, Executive Director, Providence Children’s Museum
Some children are digging in the sandpit in the Children’s Museum’s garden and uncover the mastodon bones. “Are these real fossils?,” one asks. Kids press their faces to the glass to examine an absolutely still lizard at the zoo. The lizard blinks. “It is real!” the kids shout.
Real is important to kids. Their world is full of toys, models, videos, computer simulations. In their books mice are ballerinas and dogs drive sports cars. Not that there is anything wrong with fantasy and imagination — far from it! Fantasy delights and exercising the imagination breeds creativity. But figuring out what is real and what is pretend is an important part of their cognitive development at a number of stages. They want to know. And sometimes it must seem to them that the grown-ups get all of the real stuff, so they long for the genuine article.
I think that must be why the Museum’s summer “Wheels at Work” program is such a perennial favorite. Each Wednesday in July and August a different work vehicle pulls into the Museum parking lot and kids get to discover how it works. Imagine the joy of your truck-obsessed 5-year-old as he climbs aboard a tow truck and tries out the levers or gets to sound the siren on a real fire engine. Almost as cool as the trucks, the people who operate them are on hand to show Museum visitors how they work and tell them about their jobs. Kids chat with EMTs as they investigate an ambulance, with linemen who show them how the bucket truck lifts them to wires high in the air, and with construction workers as they explore a backhoe. Meeting these workers and learning about their jobs and the equipment they use gives children a real world experience that is memorable and important.
You can give your kids real world experiences from your own life. This summer, take them to work with you one morning. Let them see what you do and let them help. Even if yours is an office job, they can open the mail, sharpen pencils, or maybe even put papers in order for filing. Put them in charge of preparing a simple summer meal for the family some evenings. Give them buckets and sponges and have them wash the car. It won’t be the most efficient way to get the job done, but taking on real grown-up tasks are exciting learning opportunities for kids and, if you’re relaxed about it, fun for all of you. After all, there’s nothing like the real thing.
“Wheels at Work” takes place at Providence Children’s Museum from 10 AM to 12 PM every Wednesday in July and August. Come aboard!
- July 2 | Tow truck from AAA of Southern New England
- July 9 | Fire truck from the Providence Fire Department
- July 16 | National Grid bucket truck
- July 23 |Police cruiserand officers from the Burrillville Police Department.
- July 30 | Bobcat utility vehicle from Providence Public Works
- August 6 | WPRI 12’s Pinpoint Weather Mobile, with meteorologist Tony Petrarca
- August 13 | Ambulance and technicians from Brown University Emergency Medical Services
- August 20 | RIPTA city bus
- August 27 | Backhoe from Cardi’s Construction
Visit the Museum’s website to learn more.