Taking your kids to a museum in the school holidays can seem like a daunting and tiring task. However, this is the precise thinking Justin Wright is trying to change.
Justin is the Programs Coordinator behind Melbourne Museum's Playdates, and his whole job centres around framing the museum's offerings in a way that is fun, entertaining and educational for kids, while also empowering grown-ups to take their small kids into previously unexplored places in the museums.
Each Playdate focuses on a specific topic - be it prehistoric dinosaurs, geology or biodiversity - breaking down what Justin calls "pretty tricky concepts" into language, hand actions, stories and craft activities that allow kids and adults to really make sense of them.
After chatting with Justin, here are the six main reasons why every child really needs to attend a Playdate:
1. Research has proven museums are great for kids
First things first - taking kids to the museum is really good for their development."Research has proven that kids who visit cultural institutions are better equipped for their future," say Justin. "It improves their emotional skills and cognitive skills ... and that's just the start of it!"
2. Every session is "kid-certified" FUN
When creating a new Playdate program, Justin has a lot of things to draw inspiration from within the museum. 17 million things to be precise. However, Justin says his biggest sounding board when making a new kids' activity are his two boys - aged five and two.
"They are brutally honest with me about what they like and what they don’t like," say Justin. "I can come up with the greatest idea and they’ll quickly tell me that it's not good. And just like that, it’s not happening."
Above all else, Justin hopes each session will have kids walking out with smiles on their faces: "I say goodbye to each child as they leave, checking for that smile to make sure they’ve had a fun experience."
3. Kids (and parents) will make new friends
Playdates only run for one hour (the perfect length for short attention spans!) but according to Justin, he sees many kids form strong friendships in a short period of time. "I love seeing families and groups that have just met each other, still hanging out and playing with each other in the museum after the Playdate has ended."
For parents wanting to help their kid socialise outside of a school or daycare setting, this outing is for you!
4. Adults will be better equipped to explain things to kids
Yes, the focus of Melbourne Museum's Playdates are the kids, but Justin says he has an alterior motive when designing a program - he wants to make it fun for the caregivers, too. After all, it's grown-ups who are going to bring their kids back to the museum. And grown-ups who will have to go away and consolidate the new information their child has just learnt. His aim is to equip parents with the knowledge and kid-friendly language to help "talk science" with their littlies.
"I often see families later in the day, and hear them using some of their new language and actions. It's great."
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Our epic Museum Playdates are back in a big way in a new monthly format. Book your tickets now for our geology-inspired Rock Playdate on Feb 26 - with a special sensory-friendly session and an all-systems-go session, we've got something for everyone! #RocktheMuseum #MuseumPlaydates #Geologykids
5. They'll be able to take the experience home with them
Each Playdate involves various segments - a story time, a craft activity and a tour through an exhibit with a museum "expert" - and the element that usually resonates most with his young audiences is art and craft. It gives them a tactile experience that consolidates what they've learnt during the day, and gives them something tangible to take home.
For example, in the Rock Playdate, kids took home rocks that they'd painted using all natural earth materials that were sustainable and eco-friendly.
In the Pacifika Playdate, kids are taught about the ocean and its importance for Pacific Islander communities. At the end they do a stamping activity where they're given a piece of fabric and some traditional stamp patterns so they can decorate and personalise their fabric however they choose.
6. Small group sizes means every kid feels special
Each Playdate can accommodate up to 20 kids (usually only 15) and their grown-ups. Justin says this is the optimal number as it allows each child to feel engaged with individually, it's not so big that it feels intimidating, but it's also large enough that there is a mixed group of people and kids are encouraged to make friends.
What's coming up?
If you want to learn more about upcoming Playdates like the Pacifika Playdate or the Prehistoric Playdate, check out the Melbourne Museum website. If you're keen to attend one of the dino-themed Playdates, be sure to book early. They tend to sell out quickly!
This post is sponsored by Melbourne Museum
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