When we walked into the Storyland exhibit at the MN Children’s Museum last Friday evening, my kiddo’s eyes went wide with delight. The room–which, in all honesty, was smaller than I was expecting–was full of familiar scenes from the pages of children’s books, several of which we have read over and over again. There, though, it was real. And it was big.
The first scene to catch her attention was from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Not only is this one of our favorite books to read at home, but also, the huge letters and giant coconut tree are probably the most eye-catching part of the room.
That wasn’t the favorite, though. She spent the most time in Peter Rabbit’s burrow, which surprised me since I don’t think she has read the story. Ladybug could have spent the entire time just in that one place.
I can’t imagine she was thinking about sound awareness as she played with letters or about narrative as she put Peter Rabbit to sleep in his bed or made him a tasty pretend dinner. To her, it was play. To me, it was early literacy in action.
I am currently reading Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky. One of those skills is communicating, which includes a lot of information about early literacy, but what has really interested me as I read the book (and I am only about half-way through) is how often storytelling and pretend play have come up as suggestions for cultivating other valuable skills.
The pretend play that Ladybug did in the Peter Rabbit part of the exhibit, for example, is a way to promote cognitive flexibility. She had her thing going on as she pretended to be Peter’s mom, but other kids and parents were also at the exhibit. They interrupted her narrative or changed it, and it was up to her to deal with these changes. This skill isn’t necessarily one we think about often as we watch our kids play together, but when our children are adults a high level of cognitive flexibility will help them to adapt to change and understand other people’s perspectives.
Storyland is a great opportunity for both parents and children to see how books are more than just words on paper and literacy is more than just knowing how to read. It is an opportunity for what Mind in the Making calls “extended discourse,” or taking the conversation beyond the obvious to ask questions about stories or connect stories to our own experiences.
We will definitely be going back to Storyland, since we are members of the MN Children’s Museum, and I think that reading the featured books that we hadn’t yet read will enhance the exhibit even more.
Disclosure: I was not in any way compensated for this post. We received a family membership to the Minnesota Children’s Museum as a gift from my mom. Books referenced in this post are either personal or library copies. Amazon links are affiliate links, which means I earn a percentage of any purchases made from the links.