We all have them, those "AHA!" moments when seemingly unrelated ideas suddenly connect, allowing us to understand something that had previously baffled us. That ability to make connections starts from a very early age. For example, children barely old enough to walk will sort toys by sameness or difference, because they see the connections between and among distinct objects. Not only is connection-making a building block for learning, it is key to the joy of discovery. A passion for making connections is a passion for learning.
We can promote making connections with children by providing opportunities for open-ended exploration and play. At the Museum, we offer lots of "loose pieces," including building blocks and construction tools in Building Bridgetown; recycled materials and tools in the Maker Studio; pebbles and sticks in Outdoor Adventure exhibits like the Creek and the Campsite; and boxes and cans in the Grasshopper Grocery. These encourage children to create their own experiments and construct their own knowledge of the world.
There are countless opportunities to create similar experiences at home and out in the world. You can act as a “guide,” at the Museum and elsewhere, asking questions such as “Where do you think this block should go?” or by describing children’s experiences with observations such as, “You made that building really sturdy.”
Using words like inside, outside, up, or down supports children's ability to make connections about spatial relations. What begins as a sense of space soon extends to more complex concepts and descriptive language. Play games that involve children finding their way in spaces such as hide-and-seek.
**Making Connections is one of the Seven Essential Life Skills described by Ellen Galinsky in her book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (2010), available in the Museum Store. We have also created a brief handbook to provide information for you to explore at home.