Sunday, October 24, 2010

Learning to explore

One of my favorite haunts locally is the Science Museum Oklahoma (previously known as "the Omniplex," and honestly? that's how most oklahomans still reference it). It's a hands-on science museum with displays ranging from the history of flight (from the Wright brothers to modern-day space exploration) to the science of gymnastics to how earthquakes happen and how your teeth and mouth work.

One of their newest additions to the museum is the young children's area, and I've been taking our little ToddlerBeast (yes, i admit it... he's no longer my BabyBeast) into that area each time we go to SMO. I've had to struggle to sit back and let him explore on his own, rather than trying to take him by the hand and show him each area. It has helped that we have a new membership to SMO, so it doesn't matter if we don't get our "money's worth" each time we go in, because we can go as many times as we'd like.

So, in my sit-back-and-relax mindset, I followed the toddler as he made his way to the first area of interest: an old tractor.

Apparently, the tractor was a popular piece of the children's play area, because in the ten minutes he was pressing buttons and pulling levers, three different kids wandered in and out. He was so intent on what he was doing, his normal reaction to strange children (stare at them in alarm and escape when possible) didn't come into play. He just kept pulling levers.

Next on his to-do list was the phone display.

He is very occupied with phones... cell phones and house phones. Any time he hears a phone, he mimics holding one up to the side of his head and starts babbling. Of course, he's used to phones without cords, so playing with the SMO phones - that were practically rotary phones - left him a little... umm... troubled.

Once we ventured out of the children's area, he only had one stop in mind: the giant hot air balloon that, at the push of a button to start the burner, floats slowly up to the top of the ceiling then drifts back down to its starting point.

Eventually, though, even the balloon no longer held his interest, and he began manhandling the stroller tray, opening and closing it with great interest.

Shortly after that, though, the toddler meltdown began and we left SMO to head back home.

Since I've been going to SMO since my own childhood, it was a struggle to not drag him to all my favorite exhibits... but when I go to SMO for him, I have to remind myself that it is his adventure. My job is, as Maria Montessori said, to follow the child. When I can sit back, and allow the ToddlerBeast to be himself, he ends up showing me things I never would've noticed on my own.

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