Play to learn: 2 Southeast Wisconsin educational play destinations
Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
It's all about learning through doing at the Betty Brinn Children's Museum, at 929 E. Wisconsin Ave. The museum has hands-on exhibits and experiences for families with kids of all ages.
One thing a lot of people don't realize about Betty Brinn is that the museum is committed to helping kids throughout the country learn through play, as they develop interactive traveling exhibits that they lease out to other museums. Big League Fun is one of those exhibits. This hands-on baseball exhibit made its debut in Milwaukee this winter, and local fans have the chance to check it out through April 30, at which point it will start its travels. The exhibit features fun activities, simulated game experiences and trivia challenges that promote important educational concepts for children and engage fans of all ages.
Betty Brinn also has a Be a Maker (BAM) studio with workshops to help kids and families explore science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM concepts). The BAM staff includes a variety of educators with diverse backgrounds, from urban gardening to higher education. BBCM’s Chief Advancement Officer Kristen Adams says that the Be A Maker studio “has facilitated programming offered by museum educators and guest community makers to undertake the process of making, driving creativity and skill set building”.
Kids get the chance to work with a variety of technology-based and DIY backyard tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, plastic forming machines, sewing machines, hammers, nails and saws. The goal of the studio is to offer STEAM education at an early age, and provide open making for a general audience through projects that interest each visitor. The Be A Maker studio is open after school from 2-4:30, and on Saturday afternoons.
Children's Play Gallery
Learning through interaction is among the mainstays at The Children’s Play Gallery, at 126 E. Wisconsin Ave. in Oconomowoc, where owner Lynne Precord says the goal is to respect that play is the true work of a child.
“We believe in the theory that children learn best through play and embrace that in everything we do,” Precord says. “I honestly believe the best gift we can give to a child is to play with them and that is how we are set up here."
The gallery is designed for kids from birth to 8 years of age, and features a wide variety of entirely interactive exhibits designed specifically for parents and children to play together. From the three-story pirate ship and marketplace that greets visitors upon entry to the uniquely constructed toddler area and train table, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Sarah Rosolack, mom of 3-year-old Mason and 2-year-old Emerson, says the gallery "has a number of stations to choose from, and hours can be spent here exploring and learning new things. From a painting station, to being able to play dress up and put on a play, to playing trains or racing down slides, my kids love it all."