Have you heard about natural Learning? Natural Learning to me is nothing more than learning about your interests, asking questions and finding their answers, learning through play or following your passions. Over the next several Sundays, I’m going to share several amazing places here in Michigan that we use to support natural learning for our children.
*Side note… we have one who is homeschooled and one in the public school system. Natural learning can be supported at home no matter your schooling choice.
Flint Children’s Museum
Our first place in our series is the Flint Children’s Museum. We love visiting children’s museums for many reasons and this one is one of the kiddos favorites.
The #1 reason is…..
We get to play! Everything is hands on, so the kiddos can touch, manipulate, and play with the exhibits. Don’t get me wrong, we visit other not-so-hands on museums as well, but it’s nice that the kids can be free to play as long as they follow our rules. The rules are simple clean up when they are done exploring an exhibit, use their walking feet/be safe, no eating or drinking outside the eating area, and being kind to the other kids, parents, and staff.
Our littlest really enjoys it because she doesn’t have to be confined to a carrier or stroller. She can walk, crawl, and climb (when it’s safe to do so). If you have a busy toddler like we do, this makes for a happy toddler and happy, but exhausted parents.
The last time we visited our 16 month old wore herself out from playing and exploring so much she took a 2 hour nap and was out as soon as we left the parking lot.
They have several different types of exhibits with one that rotates every few months. The kids are always discovering something new. They can explore different stem topics, experience music, dress up for some dramatic play on the big stage, act out a creation with the hand puppets, play store or pizza parlor, climb a rock wall, and lots of other exciting adventures.
The kiddos are able to freely explore different aspects while playing which exposes them to new interests and raises new questions for them to answer. The kiddos are learning naturally without having an adult telling them how to think or what to learn about.
We especially love the toddler exhibit area. Our little one crawled through a tunnel, put together puzzles and could freely explore with developmentally appropriate items.
What the children learn?
Beyond what the exhibits are teaching the children through their explorations, the kiddos also learn many other things as well. The children learn they can learn through play. They develop new interests that can be explored in other ways at home. New questions are asked which can be further explored with more research on YouTube, webinars, books, etc. They work on problem solving skills, collaboration if they are playing with other children, and are given opportunities to practice kindness. These opportunities can also increase a child’s background knowledge and increase their vocabulary.
The little ones develop more language experiences. They increase their fine motor and gross motor skills. They develop a further love of playing and explorations.
All of these skills help the kiddos develop a life long love of learning. This to me is exactly what natural learning is all about. Letting the children explore and learn on their own and while enjoying it.
I encourage you to find a children’s museum near you to explore. I know most museums trips can be costly, so be sure to check out the membership opportunities that are available at most museums. The memberships some times come with free or discounted fees to visit other museums in their network. For example, we are members at the Grand Rapids Public Museum which allows us free entrance at the Flint Children’s Museum and many others in Michigan and across the nation. Yes, these benefits sometimes are available for museums in other states.
Also, check out your local library. Our library here offers a Michigan Activity Pass which can get you free or discounted admission to participating places if you have a library card. I’m not sure if this is available in other states, but it is available here in Michigan.
*Just a reminder, the activity pass and membership visiting passes are good for participating museums only. Be sure to check the website of the MAP or the museum to see which ones participate before visiting a new museum.
And if you are in the Flint area, I recommend you check out the Flint Children’s Museum. The staff is super helpful and friendly, it has just the right amount of exhibits and the exhibits are fun and developmentally appropriate.
I’m Melissa Dow, M.ED. I am a wife, mama of 2 and a bonus mama of 1. A former public school educator with 7 years of experience in both special education and general education who is on a new journey to help parents guide their children to uncover their true passions in order to find their life purpose. I love spending time out in nature whether hiking, running, camping, canoeing or just playing in our backyard (aka our outdoor classroom). I also enjoy reading, learning new things, organic gardening and creating our a simple life.