Updated: May 23, 2022
Have you played at the air wall, Amazing Airways? Do you know what all you can do and what your child is learning while they play? Read below to find out!
Amazing Airways allows children to use their gross and fine motor skills, which are the big and small muscles. Amazing Airways play encourages gross motor development by shooting out the scarves and balls so the children have to run and try to catch them on the way down. In order to run and catch, a child is working on their proprioceptive system - knowing where their body is in space. They know their arms are above their head, their feet are on the ground, and their hands are grabbing for the flying toys. As they move and play, they gain more coordination and understanding of how each part of their body works together. The fine motor skills are used and refined when picking up a scarf or pom-pom. They need to use a pincer grasp or a fisted grasp, depending on their age to pick up each item. Then, to get it in the tube system, they have to use their hands to push back the flap and get the scarf or pom-pom inside the tubes.
Depending on the age of the child, the math skills used during this activity vary. For a young child, it would be basic addition in the form of the more scarves they put in the tubes, the more that fly out of the top. Older children may start counting, "I am putting two scarves into the tube!" They might count as something is falling, "One scarf, two, three scarves!" If you ask how many scarves they caught and they respond, "three!" your child just successfully used cardination, counting and successfully sharing the total. If your child has not mastered that skill, they might answer two or four when they just counted to three. You can then follow with, "Hmmm, let's count again and check. One, two, three. You caught three scarves!" Modeling counting will support your child in learning that math skill.
For older children, you can have them do more advanced math skills. Try, "Catch two scarves and one pom-pom. How many total items did you catch?" Or, "You caught four scarves and two pom-poms. How much is four times two?" You can also have them solve math problems while catching items. "Catch four plus three scarves." Or, "Catch two times two pom-poms." You can turn any activity into an opportunity to develop and practice math skills.
Amazing Airways demonstrates science skills through the functioning of the tubes. The air forces objects through and out the top and children watch objects fall. Do they fall at different speeds? Can you use the knobs to change which tube the objects fly out of? Can you change the speed of the scarves and pom-poms traveling through the tubes? Asking questions about how they think the objects are traveling and describing the process is part of the scientific method and a science skill.
Identifying the different colors of the scarves and pom-poms is one way to increase art language, such as how the translucent scarves look different than the opaque pom-poms. The wall itself is a sculpture to admire and appreciate, starting with the construction on a colorful grid to all the tunnels and acrylic boxes used on different parts of the tubes. You can also dance around while grabbing falling objects, find a rhythm or strike a pose as you catch one.
Just like in The Helix, you can take the air wall home in a creative way by asking your child to draw what they did in this space at SPARK. Seeing how they interpret the experience, colors, and structure might surprise you.
Just like every other experience in the museum, it is rare for a child to have a whole exhibit to themselves. Amazing Airways is no exception. There is one entrance for the flying toys, a couple of knobs to turn, and one big space where everyone wants to catch. These are opportunities for conversation, rule-making, and friendship. Children will find agreed-upon ways to play when given the space and support from the adults with them.
You might need to help them at first with a prompt like, "Oh it looks like that child is waiting to catch this scarf, you can go for the next one!" Or, "Wow you both are trying so hard to catch all of the scarves as they come out. Let's decide how we will keep all our bodies safe while we go for the scarves. I want to catch the pink ones, is there a color you want to catch?" Depending on the age of the children you may need a solution for them, like catching every other or only going for a certain color. Older children might just need a reminder there are other families in the area and to talk to their peers about how they expect to play together. All of these interactions support your child's executive function, acting on impulse, and ability to play successfully with peers.
Scripts to Try
"Let's pick up all the green scarves, go!... How many green ones did you find?"
"I have four scarves to put in the tubes!"
"Wow, you put one scarf in the tube and one scarf came out the top!"
"I can see you working so hard to catch the pom-poms! You just caught two!"
"Catch three plus two scarves! How many did you catch?"