by Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator
Every week at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire we host a program called “Tinker Time”. Tinker Time is a drop-in program that emphasizes the importance of tinkering! Tinkering helps children develop fine motor skills, increase problem-solving abilities, and is an open invitation to foster peer relationships.
What I love about tinkering is that it’s open-ended and no-fail. The carefully selected activities are designed to have many possible solutions and ways to explore. This means that children with different learning styles, who are different ages, and have different interests can all get something out of these activities.
I usually set up the tinkering program with five different activity areas: Art Material Creations, Sorting, Building, Sensory/Texture Play, and Cause & Effect Exploration. I’m sharing one activity from each of these categories, but please don’t feel like you have to set-up all of them to have a successful tinker time! Set up one or two - use these activities as jumping off points and then tweak it to match the supplies you have at home or your own child’s interests - it’s totally up to you!
Art Exploration: Sticker drawing prompts
- Place round tickers (or draw round circles with different colors) on index cards or pieces of paper. Invite your child to use the placement of the dots to make a picture!
- Try putting the same configuration of dots on several pieces of paper and have a “draw-off” with the whole family - see how different your drawings are even though you were given the same prompt!
Sorting: Color sorting
- Gather lots of different art materials from around your house (markers, permanent markers, crayons, hi-lighters, colored pencils) and invite your child to sort them.
- Will they sort them by color? By type of art material? By size?
- Invite children to try and make a pattern using the colorful art materials!
Building: Cup towers w/ manipulatives
- Collect plastic cups from around your house
- Find some small manipulatives - little animal or people toys.
- Build homes for the animals or build fences around them. Hide little people in the cups and guess where they are.
- See who can make the tallest tower!
- Build a tall tower and then throw a ball at it to knock it down!
Sensory/Textures: Cars on Salt
- Sprinkle salt all over a cookie sheet or other container
- Use toy cars, toy animals, or just hands to explore the salt and make designs!
Cause & Effect: Is it magnetic?
- Collect small items that are either magnetic..or not magnetic...and place them in a container
- Find a magnet on your fridge that is powerful enough to pick up some small items
- For younger children: test and see which of the items are magnetic! How many items were you able to pick up using the magnet?
- For older children: invite them to pre-sort the items into piles of items they think will be magnetic and ones that they do not think will be magnetic. Use the magnet to test their predictions!
By Neva Cole, CMNH Communications Director
When I first started working at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire, I knew my mother had only months to live. She had been diagnosed with cancer and we were in the process of saying goodbye. My daughter was four at the time. My mother, ever the educator, was the first to suggest that we look into some picture books that might help her grandkids understand what was about to happen. So, on top of starting a new job, parenting a four year old, being there for my family, and processing my own grief, I now had to find picture books to somehow help me try to explain death to my daughter.
But Mom was right. She always is. I'm glad I took the time to find some of those books, because talking about death with anyone is not easy, but with kids...it seems even more complicated. Depending on their age, they don't necessarily have the vocabulary to understand what dying really means. And unless you've spent a lot of time pondering the process yourself, you might not be well equipped to explain it to them. My Mom would speak to her in her own religious terms, introducing the idea of Heaven, but with every new word comes a whole different set of questions.
But in the end, those questions are what it's all about. Starting a dialogue with your kids about what death means to you, and encouraging them to ask those hard questions, helps prepare them for something that no one in this world escapes from. We will all be dealing with it, sooner or later, wether we have time to prepare for it or not. We were fortunate to have time.
Four years later, we still talk about Nana with the same language we learned from those picture books. We even have one of those audio picture books that Nana recorded so we could always hear her voice telling us a story. Recently I met Linda Dinndorf who is a Training and Education Coordinator for a NH non-profit called Friends of Aine. Aine was established to provide bereavement support services to grieving children and families. This organization was borne out of the tragic loss of Aine Marie Phillips (pronounced Ahnya) at age 8, and the recognition that bereavement services for Aine's surviving 5-year-old sister Bella, were sadly scarce. I told Linda about my Mom's passing and how it was a struggle to find resources as simple as picture books that would help my daughter process her grief, and she instantly said, "Oh, we have a great library of picture books for all ages! We'd be happy to share some info with you!"
So thank you Linda for this wonderful list, which can also be found here on their website: https://www.friendsofaine.com/...
On this list of resources, I see some of the books that I used, like The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst, and Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley, both gentle, loving stories about how the people we love may leave this world, but their memories and influence remain constant. I hope this list helps you when you need it most.
Sometimes I Feel Like a Storm Cloud – by Leslie Evans
I Will Always Love You – by Melissa Lyons
The Memory Box: A Book About Grief – by Joanna Rowland
A Child’s View of Grief – by Alan Wolefeit
Badger’s Parting Gifts – by Susan Varley
Help Me Say Goodbye – by Janis Silverman
How It Feels When a Parent Dies – by Jill Krementz
In Mommy’s Garden – by Neyal J. Ammary
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children – by Bryan Mellonie
Saying Goodbye When You Don’t Want To – by Martha Bolton
Sesame Street – When Families Grieve Kit – by Sesame Workshop
Someone I Loved Died – by Christine Harder Tanguald
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss – by Pat Schwiebert
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf – by Leo Buscaglia
The Invisible String – by Patrice Karst
The Mountains of Tibet – by Mordicai Gerstein
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney – by Judith Voirst
Turned Upside Down – by Karen Keesler
Waterbugs and Dragonflies – by Doris Stickney
What On Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies? – by Trevor Romain
When Dinosaurs Die – by Laurie Krasny Brown
Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You – by Nancy Tillman
Learn more about Friends of Aine here https://www.friendsofaine.com/
By Neva Cole, CMNH Communications Director
When I hear people talk about summers with their kids it always sounds so idyllic to me: long days spent lounging on the beach; trips to local attractions; camping with family and friends. If I were to take people’s Facebook feeds at face value, pun intended, I’d think there was something seriously wrong with my summer parenting skills.
I’m a working parent, and so is my husband. My daughter has been in a year-round daycare, so she hasn’t experienced “summer break” yet. We’ve gotten used to squeezing summer fun into the afternoons and weekends. But that’s all going to change soon with the start of kindergarten in her local school this Fall. I’m about to become one of the parents that will have to plan way in advance on how to schedule work around camps, squander vacation days to spend a few precious long weekends on a lake somewhere, and probably start to butter up the grandparents for when plans inevitably fall through.
I’m not really complaining. I know how lucky we are. I’m a little jealous of my daughter getting to experience summer break, where the days seemed like endless adventures. I wish I could spend every minute with her out in the sun, gardening, swimming and blowing bubbles. But we all do the best we can. And my best is being there with her in the moments we have together, and making sure she’s surrounded by love and engaging her brain and her creative muscles when I’m not there.
New Hampshire is teeming with opportunities for kids to grow and learn in the summer. All the great cultural institutions like the Currier Museum of Art, the Seacoast Science Center, the SEE Science Center, Audubon centers and yes, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire have fantastic camps, programs, events and workshops for kids of all ages. And many bend over backwards to help parents make their children’s summers memorable and affordable. These non-profits are here to be a resource to you, and I hope you use them this summer and many summers to come. I know I will.
Parents interested in the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s summer camps can choose from 3-day Mini Camps for ages 4-6 (which are all full as of today) or 5-day Discovery Camps for ages 7-11.
by Rebecca Scheinberg, CMNH Intern
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from.” – Billy Joel
Music has an incredible power to imprint memories into our brains that can last a lifetime. Music has the ability to transform a mood, to lift a spirit, to bring people together. My morning routine includes music and coffee. These are the essentials. I am not a morning person so music serves as a necessity, equal to my morning coffee, for waking up. While I was getting ready for my internship [at the Children’s Museum] one morning, I was listening to the Harry Belafonte station on Pandora. The songs were upbeat and may have inspired an impromptu dance party in my kitchen while making coffee. Then the song, ‘When I’m 64’ by the Beatles, started. I love the playfulness of this song and I remember listening to it with my dad when I was a kid. My father is a big music and Beatles fan. It prompted a vivid memory of listening to the song from the tabletop jukebox in the mid-90s with my family at a New York diner. My parents would give me three quarters and let me choose the songs, at least one of which would be a song by the Beatles.
This memory sparked an idea. I wanted to learn more about what songs parents shared with their children. I spoke with a few people including Neva and Taylore (the two incredible humans who run the Communications/Marketing department at the CMNH) and my dear, wonderful friend Marsha. They shared some musical memories with me.
Taylore Kelly, Communications Specialist and Development Assistant
I Ran by the Flock of Seagulls
My son Yoso was delayed in speaking. He would hum and so I would play him music a lot and he started singing in the car in particular. I think it may have been the acoustics and the stereo itself. So he could sing before he could talk. The first song he picked up was the song “I Ran” by flock of seagulls. He sang that song after the second time of playing it for him, and danced in his car seat. It was the first song I had ever recorded on my boombox in the 80’s. So it’s very nostalgic to us both.
Marsha, CMNH Patron and Mom
“I make sure that I sing both kids a handful of lullabies before it's lights out. I love this part of the day, when they are quiet and succumbing to sleepiness, and it's pretty much the only time of day when they are still. Like most people, I love sleeping children - they almost seem to glow with innocence and goodness. I also have nice memories of my mom singing me German lullabies before I would go to bed, which was pretty much the only time I let her speak German, her native language, so I think she loved that time of day. At any rate, we had all sorts of songs in our repertoire in the beginning, but because James (my husband) and I tag team with the bedtime responsibilities, and because both kids are stalwart in their little routines, the songs we routinely ended up singing needed to be songs that both of us knew. James doesn't know many songs. One of the few songs he does know is Silent Night. It was never a song that I was particularly interested in, as it has fairly obvious connotations and I'm a cynical atheist, but we sing it each and every night throughout the year, and I have come to deeply appreciate its message of peace, a gentle world, a good night's sleep that is wished upon innocent children, and I often confess that I get a bit choked up as I sing it. It's exactly what I wish for my children: peace, both through sleep and through a good and kind world. It's beautiful, and it makes me so grateful that I have these little hellraisers to look after and try to help them pave a safe path through their travels.”
Neva Cole, CMNH Communications Director
“My daughter, Lila has never really tolerated my singing. When she was about 2 or 3, we’d be driving in the car and a great song would come on the radio and I’d start belting out the lyrics, only to have her scream at me “Mama! STOP!” Even when I’d play her toddler music, she refused to let me sing along to the ABC’s, insisting that she should be the only one singing and dancing around.
Now that she is five, she’s a bit more tolerant. We’ve had some successful dance parties in the kitchen to Taylore Swift’s “Shake It Off.” After seeing the animated movie “Sing” however, we’ve taken it to a whole new level of enthusiasm. Now, when we are making cookies, or eating lunch in the kitchen, the request for music is very specific. “BAMBOLEO, please!”
Neither of us know most of the lyrics, but we dance around waiting for the chorus to kick in. Then, at the top of our lungs, shout it out: “BAMBOLEO! BAMBOLEA!” Thank you Gipsy Kings for getting my daughter to finally let me get my dance on!”
Thank you all for sharing a beautiful glimpse into your stories. I hope that you find time in your day to enjoy the music and get your dance on!
Last year, I ran the Children’s Museum 5K Road Race with a 6 month old. It was definitely a different experience from the previous races I had run. My son, wearing a *slightly* smaller version of the Captain America shirt that Daddy runs in, mostly stayed quiet the whole race while I talked loudly and often to him throughout the race. It was the first time during a race that – when encountering a downhill portion of the course – I yelled, “Wheeeee!”
Like I said, a different experience.
This year, the experience changed again.
#1. That 6 month old suddenly (at least it felt sudden) had become an 18 month old, had a mouth full of teeth, is obsessed with his Thomas the Tank Engine sunglasses and waving and shouting to most people (and animals – especially animals) he sees on a leisurely walk around our neighborhood. A very busy Road Race & Fun Run? Would it be too overwhelming? Would he have a meltdown? Would I need to keep raisins in my shorts pocket? He loves raisins.
#2. As the museum’s Media Producer, I would be photographing and videotaping different portions of Race Day. And pushing my son in the stroller at the same time.
#3. If things turned upside-down (something that any parent of a toddler can attest happens roughly every 20-30 minutes), I would have to leave the course and head back to the museum for an extended raisin-filled time out.
Please enjoy the following look at our participating in the 30th Annual CMNH 5K Road Race and Fun Run.
Father & Son, pre-race, sporting the official hashtag of the CMNH Road Race!
Long time volunteers and former staff Ann, Gabe & Anne help man the registration tables for those picking up their race bibs and the many racers that wait to check the weather that morning and register the day of the race
It was still a little chilly about 15 minutes before race time.
One of the largest groups of runners at this year’s race!
Getting to the starting line on time can be difficult when there’s a . . . FIRETRUCK PIT STOP!
Face Painting is always a popular activity at our road races.
CMNH Volunteer and Miss Teen NH Caroline moments before she sings the National Anthem.
One more minute until the starting pistol starts the 30th Annual CMNH 5K Road Race!
On your mark . . .
Get set . . .
Making our way up Central Avenue!
Cutting across Chapel Street next to Kendall Pond Pizza II & Janetos!
“Horsies! Horsies!” the voice from the stroller cried out as we continued up Portland Ave. The Dover Mounted Patrol joined our volunteers at Rogers St in cheering on the races. (Which also convinced my son that there would be horses waiting for him at the end of every street we passed.)
CMNH Media Producer Zach and his son ran the 5K this morning. We checked in with them at Mile #1 to see how the father/son team was holding up. We'll give you a hint: Someone was missing the third member of their team! #CMNH #CMNH5K #CMNHrace #CMNHzf #SeacoastRoadRaceSeries #AtlanticAvenue #FamilyFun #FatherAndSon #Mile1 #SeacoastNH #DoverNH #NewHampshire
A video posted by Children's Museum of NH (@childrensmuseumofnh) on May 2, 2015 at 3:04pm PDT
Long time CMNH volunteer Frank prepares runners for the Fairway Meadows Cul-de-sac. What he DIDN’T prepare me for is that there would be cute puppy dogs that live on said cul-de-sac. Cute puppy dogs that my son INSISTED we stop the stroller for so we could point at them. Repeatedly. “Doggie, Doggie, Doggie!” was his repeated yelp. That is, until he came up to the top of the loop and quickly remembered that his grandfather was helping to man the water station!
After 1.5 miles mostly uphill, our Water Station volunteers were a very welcome sight for our course runners! #CMNH #CMNH5K #CMNHrace #CMNHvolunteers #WaterStation #SeacoastRoadRaceSeries #SeacoastNH #DoverNH #NewHampshire
A photo posted by Children's Museum of NH (@childrensmuseumofnh) on May 2, 2015 at 4:52pm PDT
It’s all (mostly) downhill after the Mile #2 marker! And this is about when the cries for, “Grampa!” finally gave way to “Balloon! Balloon! Balloon!”, which itself turned to excited garbles of “PONYHORSIEPONY!” as we approached the Mounted Patrol Stables on Cocheco Street.
CMNH volunteer & balloon wrangler Jess mans the hill leading from Cocheco Street to Portland Avenue.
Looking out over the Cocheco River as we round the bend towards Mile Marker #3!
Can it really be Mile #3?! Are we almost there?
These two long time CMNH members both participated on race day; 5K for Mom and Fun Run for Son!
Two local runners who run the CMNH 5K every year!
Long time Children’s Museum 5K mascot, Albert the Alligator getting ready for the Fun Run! (Has anyone else ever noticed that Doug is always missing when it’s time for the Fun Run? Hmmmmm . . .)
Stop the presses – BANANA BREAK!
CMNH Educator Sarah and Albert the Alligator lead the junior racers in some stretches before the race begins
And they’re off!
My wife and son running in the Toddler 50 yd. dash. He might just make this!
You’ve . . . um, gone . . . off course . . .
And . . . he’s decided he’s running an entirely different race now. To each his own!
CMNH volunteer extraordinaire Terri mans the CMNH/Hannaford Foodworks Yogurt Bar in Henry Law Park
You’d be bananas to miss out on the miles of food post-race at our Hospitality Tent! (See what I did there?)
Bookings Manager Caitlynne, Corporate Relations Manager Katie and CMNH Board Member Sarah were running behind the scenes all morning to make sure everything ran smoothly!
Well, that’s another CMNH Road Race & Fun Run in the books! We’re already preparing for Race #31! Did you run the race? We hope you had as much fun as we did!
For years my family has gotten accustomed to my gift-giving strategy. Sure, you may get something from me that you want (like a certain brick building toy) or something you need (like socks and pajamas), but thrown into the mix has always been the “experience gift.”
No one in my close circle can avoid these treasures – from tickets to a concert, theatre, attraction or sporting event, to a Museum membership, day of skiing, weekend of camping or day-trip adventure with several destinations, always including a stop for food, of course.
I always thought I was being sly, giving gifts that brought my family together for shared experiences, creating new memories. Is it still considered “giving” when what you receive back is just as valuable as the gift you give?My sons, age 2 and 6, at the Boston’s Children’s Museum.
I recently asked my boys, ages 12 and 16, what their favorite gifts were from years’ past. I was surprised how few toys they could name or really remember, especially given how excited they were about them at the time.
But my teenager did remember the awe of sitting in the front row to see his first live theatre performance at age 4, and how much fun he had exploring the Museum in this picture at age 6. And my 12-year-old remembers the thrill of night skiing with a glow stick strapped to his jacket and learning how to start a campfire by a lake.
As my children get older, I may not always be the person chosen to enjoy these experiences with them. You can be sure that my experience gifts will keep coming nonetheless.
This year, consider giving your friends and family the gift of a year-long membership to the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire or our top-level Clubhouse Membership that includes free and reduced-priced admission at 400+ museums around the country.
One of our favorite family workshops here at the Children’s Museum of NH is making and decorating gingerbread houses. This past weekend, we welcomed 34 families – some with grandparents, cousins and friends – to this annual holiday tradition. Never does our classroom smell so sweet as when filled with the aroma of baked gingerbread. And if you want to see smiles, it is amazing what a table full of colorful decorations and baggies full of icing can do.
Although you will have to wait until 2013 to make a gingerbread house with us, here are our top five tips for creating a similar fun experience at home:
1. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as building a full-sized gingerbread house. For younger children, you can start simple with constructing small houses, or anything else their imaginations come up with using graham crackers. Another great no-bake idea – decorate ice cream sugar cones to make a forest full of trees!
2. If you are using candy decorations, expect that kids will want to eat them while they decorate. Serve a healthy snack of cut fruit or veggies with dip before you even think of taking out the candy. Even serving a small portion of a sweet treat while they are decorating, such as our choice of a simple sugar cookie and apple cider, keeps the desire to munch on candy at bay.
3. Think outside of the box when choosing decorations. Many cereals that you might already have on hand have interesting colors, textures and shapes. Waffle pretzels can make interesting windows and doors. Dried fruit, shredded coconut and snack treats you already have at home can all make great decorations without breaking the bank.
4. Icing matters, especially when building 3-D objects like houses. Regular frosting that you purchase or make does not stiffen fast enough or get hard enough to glue your creations together. Our favorite recipe that has the added benefit of drying like concrete is: 2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar, 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar and 6 egg whites. Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer for 5 – 7 minutes until stiff peaks form. Instead of buying expensive pastry bags, a plastic sandwich bag with the corner snipped works well to spread your frosting.
5. It’s all about having fun together! Will your children care about creating a symmetrical design or have the willpower to resist the urge to taste while they create? Probably not. Will it be messy? Certainly yes, but once dry the icing is easy to sweep or wipe up.
We hope you’ve been inspired by these tips and photos from our recent Gingerbread Workshop to try this project at home. Happy Holidays!
Guest post by Alison Leighton, Child Life Specialist at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, and Seana Hallberg, Family Resource Coordinator for Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth’s clinic at Wentworth-Douglass HospitalSeana Hallberg (left) and Alison Leighton (right) visited the Children’s Museum recently to answer parents’ child development questions.
In our work with children and parents at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, we get a lot of questions. Each day, we meet with families who are dealing with pediatric medical issues and try to help in any way we can, from answering questions and acting as a sounding board to connecting them with community resources and specialist care.
No matter who we meet or where we go, we find we get a lot of the same questions about child development. We recently spent time at the Children’s Museum of NH’s Toddlerfest and took questions from new parents and it was no exception. Their concerns were typical of what we are asked most often.
So here are our Top 3 Toddler Development Questions, along with the answers we can practically give in our sleep!
1.) “My child has used certain words before but when prompted, he does not want to mimic. Is this normal?”
Children who are typically learning to speak are also seeking “mastery” of their new skills. This often involves practicing the skill repeatedly, but on their own terms. A general rule of thumb is by 12 months of age a child should use simple gestures as a way to communicate like waving, or simple signs. You can begin modeling simple signs as early as five months and doing hand-over-hand with your children to model the sign. Children as young as nine months are seen making approximations of simple signs. What’s most important is that your child is moving forward in her communication skills — using his sounds, gestures and facial expressions in increasingly complex ways. If you have concerns about where your child is developmentally, you should speak with your pediatrician.
2) ” My child is resistant to being potty trained. What do I do?”
Our general feeling surrounding this issue is that children need to show signs of readiness before we begin the stages of using the potty. Often a child will tell you that they are about to go, or after they have gone, they begin to hide when voiding, or they are dry at night. This shows they are beginning to have bladder/ bowel control. Every child gets to this place at different times. It is important to remember to make potty training exciting by reading books about potty training, talking about the potty, practicing sitting on the potty. Rewards can work wonders (such as giving a sticker for each time they go). If a child isn’t ready, it often becomes a source of anxiety and stress for the entire family and they do not gain the sense of accomplishment or mastery of an important new skill.At the museum’s FoodWorks events, children are invited to sample colorful fruits and veggies they may not have tried before.
3) “I feel like my child only eats particular foods and I worry she isn’t getting all of the important vitamins and nutrients she needs. What should I do?”
As we all know, children can be extremely picky. Toddlers love to turn their noses up at the food we often want them to eat and those meals we slave over. It is important to remember to expose your child to a variety of foods beginning at a young age. Don’t assume your child may not like something … give it a chance. If your child does not like the food initially, they will begin to try if it is offered repeatedly. Children are more likely to resist if they are forced to do something. Try to be creative when making foods. Make smoothies with ingredients that they will not eat raw. Make fun snacks, etc. using cookie cutter shapes. In the process of making food, involve your children as they will be much more likely to try something they created.
- About Alison Leighton, Child Life Specialist, Wentworth Douglass Hospital: As a child life specialist, I ease the stress and anxiety for families in the medical environment using the child’s method of communication, play to teach, learn and cope.
- About Seana Hallberg, Family Resource Coordinator for CHaD at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital: As a Family Resource Coordinator, I am able to support families with the stressors of a child’s medical diagnosis and can assist families in finding socializing opportunities, educational and financial information and behavioral counseling.