Steve Jobs said creativity is all about making connections*. It’s also a creativity skill that was identified by Professor E. Paul Torrance, but in order to make connections children must be exposed to a wide variety of child friendly ‘interesting’ and ‘stimulating’ things that they can connect to their everyday experiences. As parents we must think of ways to add to the types of things children get from school and their home. Obvious examples are day trips to places like the zoo, a farm, or science museum. These types of excursions will certainly stimulate curiosity and may lead to connections that can produce future outcomes that can be considered new and useful (our general definition for Creativity). In other words, it’s important to expose your kids to extra-curricular activities that are outside there usual routine of the after school sports and music lessons.
Unfortunately zoos can certainly be expensive and are not always conveniently located, as can some aquariums and private museums, which make it difficult for them to become a regular occurrence. This can lead to the connections being short lived or the inability for your child to revisit an experience with newly acquired knowledge (which lets face it they get everyday). Some of us with the time and skills can go about substituting these day excursions with home grown activities and projects, I know of a number of Dads that have the skills to build hen houses in the garden, or create illustrious baked goods, but I like to get out and avoid making a massive mess that will need to be cleaned before Mommy gets home. So, if you’re like me I encourage you to search out low cost, hidden gems that are located not too far away from your home. Connecting with other parents is a great place to start, but searching Google maps is also helpful in locating hands-on child friendly museums to explore. Once you’ve found a few you can determine which ones are worthy of a yearly membership, which pays for itself by the third or forth visit. Below are some of the regional organizations I visited (or plan to visit) in Fairfield County, CT.
- EverWonder Children’s Museum: The EverWonder Children’s Museum was founded in January 2011, by a group of mothers who enjoyed bringing their children to other children’s museums. I have always been interested in weather so anything that has a Tornado maker has my vote. This is a great regional attraction to all parents living West of Hartford CT, and wanting to ignite curiosity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This is certainly one to watch, and I’m look forward to it’s future growth.
- Minds in Motion: Minds in Motion is a weekend event that travels to schools across Connecticut and offers exciting, fast-paced, interactive workshops for every child with every interest, Kindergarten – 8th grade. Adults can attend a keynote and thought-provoking, special-interest workshops, free of charge at every MIM event. At Minds in Motion you’ll be in a good company, and get to meet follow parents interested in cultivating creative thinking skills.
- Stepping Stones: Stepping Stones opened in March, 2000, and was founded by Gigi Priebe in response to the needs expressed by parents, educators and community leaders actively seeking quality educational offerings to help children learn and grow. This museum has a MASSIVE water attraction that has wind tunnels, waterfalls, and opportunities to get wet.
- Danbury Train Museum: So my first boy loved trains, my second is certainly on his way (though he likes soccer balls as well – that’s right I have a ‘creative’ soccer player brewing). General admission to the Museum includes entry to the Museum building and its exhibits and operating layouts, and a tour of a 6-acre Railyard with over 70 pieces of historic railroad equipment and artifacts – basically massive trains for children to explore – over the holidays they also offer a Santa ride.
- New Pond Farm: is celebrating its 30th year as an environmental education center with a small working farm. Our mission is to connect people with the land that enriches and sustains us all. This is a great opportunity for a nature walk with your bug box, but also has a little reptile house.
- Danbury Airport: On the right day there’s a few spots where you can have planes flying over your head every 5-10 minutes. It’s not a whole day experience, but a nice detour on your way to whole Foods. I’m also aware that some local and regional airports have airshows, which are well worth a visit.
- Norwalk Aquarium: This aquarium has sharks, seals, and opportunities to touch stingrays, crabs, jellyfish (which I’ve found out they now call Jellies because they’re not fish). If you go early it’s not too busy and during the summer they have a fantastic butterfly garden.
On my list to visit:
- Dinosaur State Park: The Connecticut Valley has a long history of fossil track discoveries. Outstanding specimens uncovered in 19th century brownstone quarries found their way into museums throughout the world. A new chapter in the history of such discoveries was written in 1966 when hundreds of tracks were exposed in Rocky Hill. This remarkable site became Dinosaur State Park, and I hear has life size sculptures, and pretend digs for young children.
I’m sure there’s more out there so please comment below to let me know what I’m missing.
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