This blog is where Eric Gyllenhaal shares the rock-related activities he does at Wonder Works, a Children’s Museum in Oak Park, Illinois. The activities were developed for children and their caregivers to share in the Wonder Works exhibit spaces, rather than as classroom activities. Children can at least get started with most activities on their own or with help from their age-mates, but we also love it when their parents or caregivers get down on the floor and play along with them.
The activities were developed for children 0 to 7 years old. Some work best with younger children, some for older children, some work for all ages (including adults). Most of the activities appeal to children with any level of interest in rocks, from first-exposure to already-have-a-collection. Sometimes we use children’s other interests in, say, trains or construction vehicles, to get them playing with and talking about rocks. However we always try to have a few collection-based activities that will appeal more to children who alreadybhave an intense interest in rock-related topics.
Finally, almost all our activities are designed to inspire and support children’s play. That’s not too hard, because Wonder Works is a loose parts kind of place, and our rock activities always include lots of loose rocks and rock-related materials. We have our daily themes about volcanoes, railroad rocks, rock math or whatever, but we don’t mind if children co-opt our stuff to build their own fantasy worlds, on their own or with their friends.
By the way, if you’re interested in loose-parts play and learning, you’ve got to check out this book:
Daly, Lisa, & Beloglovsky, Miriam. (2015). Loose Parts: Inspiring play in young children. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.
These authors also published Loose Parts 2, for infants and toddlers during August, 2016.