By Elizabeth Dampier

The sound of grocery carts banging into walls, squeals of laughter, the bam, bam, bam of doughnuts falling through the funnel and onto trays, and crying screams near the exit doors can only mean one thing – you are at the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem!

Since its opening six years ago, the museum has maintained its unique position in our community as both an educational resource for parents, caregivers and educators and a place for children and families to gather and experience quality time and play experiences together. So important is play that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes it as a right for every child. And here, we take play very seriously for all ages.

But, like any good parent or teacher, it isn’t all about play – underneath the smiles, laughter, activities and hands-on experiences, it’s happening – learning! Everything a baby experiences in his or her first five years is building the foundation of life’s learning potential through the formation of neural networks in the brain. Neurologists suggest that 80-95% of the brain is already developed by the time a child enters kindergarten.  Through increasing the complexity of the early childhood environment in developmentally appropriate ways, we can nurture these neural networks and insure lifelong learning and academic success long before a child steps in the classroom. So, feel good about your visits to the Children’s Museum because not only is the whole family having fun, but you are actually building pre-literacy skills in your children that will allow them to be more ready to enter the formal learning environment and, even more importantly, be successful.

So, forget all of that grown up talk…it’s time to Create! Imagine! and Play! at the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem! And even more, there are new things to see and do. The Art Studio has been updated and provides guided activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am – 1pm. And, when there isn’t someone in the room guiding a project, there are suggested activities for those who are challenged creatively (like me). It may be creating things with recycled toilet paper holders or making animals out of shapes or designing clothes for your model, but there are lots of creative ideas for your family to experience together. The Build It exhibit has undergone a small renovation as well with new graphics and two new activities. Choose your parachute, get it to the top of the lift and click…watch it waft down as you try to catch it! There are also some new Tegu blocks that allow you to create these cool 3D structures that you can’t do with regular blocks – what’s the secret, you ask? Embedded magnets, shhh.

If you are looking for something more than just a visit, April is packed with opportunities at the museum. From Storytimes and Sign Language to Angel Bear Yoga and Wiggly Worm Wednesday, there is something for everyone’s interest. On Saturday, April 16, from 6:00 – 7:30pm, join us for a wild west adventure at the Toy Story Wild West Night! Mine for gems, go on a green army men scavenger hunt, “Run like the wind, Bullseye” during stick horse races AND get tasty pizza dinner. Registration for the program is required, $8/member and $10/nonmember.

And, on Saturday, April 23rd, you’re invited to a dog party! Come dressed in your favorite or most unique hat and enjoy a preview of P.D. Eastman’s classic children’s book, Go, Dog. Go! performed by the Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem and Twin City stage at 11:00am. After the performance, enjoy a character meet and greet. You will have a dog gone good time with a special craft, a special Go, Dog. Go! Angel Bear Yoga program and a visit from the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club. Activities are from 11:00am – 1:00pm and are free with paid admission or Museum membership.

All in all, the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem is a great place to play and learn and well worth a visit, so take some time out to come and see for yourself – register for a program, have a themed birthday party or just come for quality family time. And while you are here, make some noise and let us know what you think. We’ll see you here soon!

For more information about the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem and what’s happening, please visit our website at www.childrensmuseumofws.org.