St. Thomas’ Playful Learning Lab and Minnesota Children’s Museum are joining forces to make play an even more powerful force for Minnesota families.

The two leaders in championing play will collaborate on experiences at the museum and research about the critical role of play in early childhood development.

Kicking Off This Summer

The partnership comes to life this summer as Playful Learning Lab students prototype a variety of brain-building activities and host hands-on workshops with museum visitors. The experiences add to the museum’s summer focus on special exhibits and programs that help children develop critical and creative thinking skills.

AnnMarie Thomas, PhD, founder and director of the Playful Learning Lab, will set up an office this fall at the museum. She will guide lab students as they work with museum staff to develop experiences and evaluate the learning that happens when kids play.

“Everyone knows play is fun,” Thomas said. “But not everyone knows that play is absolutely critical in helping kids develop the social, emotional and cognitive skills they need to thrive.”

One goal of the partnership is to help parents notice the power of play and learn more about what they can do to support their child’s playful learning. Ultimately, the partners aim to help reverse a decades-long decline in the amount of time the average child spends playing.

“When parents see how play helps their child flourish, they’re more likely to make play a priority in their family,” said Dianne Krizan, president of Minnesota Children’s Museum.

During the partnership, the lab and museum will:

  • Collaborate on exhibit and experience design
  • Establish a research program to complete studies and publish results
  • Seek grants to fund research, experiences and other collaborative projects

Code + Chords Workshops

Later this summer, the Playful Learning Lab plans to bring Code + Chords workshops to the museum. In an experience that blends computer science and music, museum visitors will participate while lab students use special computer code to turn voices into real-time visual displays.

The Code + Chords workshops complement the museum’s Think Big | Dream Big summer experiences, which aim to get kids thinking critically and creatively.

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