Maybe you’ve seen the viral video of a baby swiping and tapping on a magazine — or what is, to her, a broken iPad. Whether it saddens you that printed pages are becoming incomprehensible, or it excites you that the future is unfolding before our eyes, the video makes one thing clear: Children learn by touching.
This hands-on educational philosophy is employed throughout the Portland Children’s Museum, where an array of exhibits let little fingers poke, prod, grab and grasp complex concepts and toddler-sized tools, so they can learn by doing. From the Clay Studio to the Water Works, they can sculpt and splash, discovering elements of cause and effect while developing motor skills. And by taking part in kinder-sized construction projects in the eco-friendly garage or the “Building Bridgetown” exhibit, they can pick the tools they need to succeed later on, in the real world.
But the sharpest tool kids are developing at the museum is undoubtedly imagination, which plays a central role in Storyland (Feb. 9 – May 5), an exhibit that features favorite children’s books, from the classic Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter to newer favorites like Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and encourages early literacy by getting children interested in books, improving their vocabulary and helping them to tell stories of their own. With a setting that looks like it leaped out of the pages of a book itself, the environment is interactive and hands-on — and way more exciting than an iPad.