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Tracing back decades, the concept of “learning through play” has been recognized in both academic and psychological settings as a wholly positive educational method that nourishes every aspect of childhood development.

As a leader in informal education, The DoSeum – San Antonio’s children’s museum – is no stranger to this idea. In fact, The DoSeum not only strives to incorporate “play” into each experience they create for children, but its very foundation is built upon joyful learning and discovery.

By combining STEM subjects with literacy and creativity, The DoSeum aims to educate the whole person, developing both the logical left-side brain and the creative right-side brain. The space between is exactly where “play” works its magic.

When it comes right down to it, “play” is simply the most fun way to get children excited about learning and willing to engage and participate. Combining learning and play is – quite frankly – a no-brainer.

“Play is fun, but it is more than just fun,” said Richard Kissel, vice president of education at The DoSeum. “From practicing motor skills to helping develop social skills, play is an essential component of a child’s development. It fosters curiosity and creativity – the foundation of critical thinking.”

Each of The DoSeum’s current exhibits and programs features play in a unique and enriching way. “Exhibits like Force Course and Innovation Station, both expanded within the last year, offer experiences where educational content has been added to already playful spaces,” said Meredith Doby, the museum’s vice president of exhibits.

Force Course introduces force and simple machines to kids through their interaction with balls and pneumatic tubes, while Innovation Station provides the opportunity to tinker with Rigamagig tool sets while following a specific design challenge. Another exhibit, Do-landia, takes playfulness to a virtual space, allowing kids to be the creators of their own virtual reality through a computer-aided design program.

“With Do-landia, we aim to teach kids they can be the creators of technology, rather than just consumers,” explained Doby.

Another play-centric exhibit, called Spy Academy, encourages kids to use math and technology skills to advance in a school for master spies. Expanding in February 2020 to include another layer of immersive technology, kids will use logic and deductive reasoning to crack codes and solve top-secret missions while keeping tabs on their progress with personalized spy watches.

The DoSeum programs and workshops implement play as a means to learn and create in a community setting. This winter, The DoSeum will host a DIY Family Board Game Workshop, taking place on Dec. 27, that puts a spin on family game night by providing families the opportunity to brainstorm, design, and build together as they create their very own board game. Using laser cutters and 3D printers, participants will explore new technologies while practicing collaboration and communication skills, critical thinking, and financial literacy. After spending a fun-filled evening operating as a team, families will leave with a brand new game of their own creation to play in 2020.

The DoSeum works hard each and every day to create impactful learning experiences that will resonate with children and serve as a fundamental building blocks for their continued education. A visit to The DoSeum imbeds, early on, that not only is learning fun, but it also has the power to produce engineers, designers, and creators. Through playful learning, we can make great things, and in a society where hard work and achievement often overshadow playfulness and creativity, we could all use a little reminder that it’s OK to play.

Jaclyn Miller

Jaclyn Miller is a freelance journalist and copywriter with a particular interest in music, culture, and health & wellness. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, she currently lives in Austin, Texas, where...