The Magnet Wall is one of the first things you see when you come to SPARK. Sometimes it has gears, sometimes it has ramps; but it is always fun for play! Get ready to explore with science as you learn in this fun exhibit! Read below to find out just how much your child is learning as they play with any tools currently stuck to the magnet wall.
Your child will develop both gross and fine motor skills while interacting in this space. They will have to bend and squat to reach the tools in the tray, or reach the magnets near the bottom of the wall. This takes motor planning to know how quickly to move, or where to move to in order to reach the desired toy. They will also need to pinch or grab the different pieces. The larger pieces will take the whole hand to move such as a ramp support or gear, but the smaller items like a ping pong ball will take just a couple fingers. As your child uses those different hand muscles they will get more strength and dexterity for other tasks.
Social Emotional Development
Just like in all our other exhibits, there are other children often playing in the same area as your child. They can be friends or strangers, but both take interactions to play near or with. Whether the children need to discuss who is using which pieces, or if they want to collaborate to make a giant structure together, conversation will fleurish. The more opportunities children have to discuss their plans and ideas the more their language will develop as well as their conversational skill.
Younger children may just get practice using their voice, “I am using that.” Opportunities outside home to use words will improve language and future social interactions. It is also an opportunity to expand on their current vocabulary, “I am using that ramp.” Or, “My ball has a lot of velocity!” While you play you can introduce more vocabulary words to your child, or they may learn them from a peer. The more interactions they have the more prepared your child will be for school or future trips to the children’s museum.
This is the Magnet Wall of course it touches on science skills! You can ask so many questions and test out a variety of hypotheses while playing here.
Why is that big piece harder to pull off the wall than the smaller piece?
Why does the wall seem to pull my piece into place?
What happens when I drag the piece to another part of the wall?
Do the pieces stick to one another if I take them off the wall?
Take this time to explore with your little Isaac Newton. Ask questions and formulate answers based on what happens. You can talk about gravity or velocity with the ramps, or cause and effect with the gears. Both types of magnets use momentum while the ball is rolling or while the gears are turning. Take this time to wonder with your child and watch their eyes for those incredible light bulb moments when they find an answer.
Just like any other exhibit in the museum there are opportunities for counting, sorting, and patterning. The more context your child gets around math skills the more confident and consistent they will become. When you can sort based on color of food, toys, or art materials your child will begin to notice more ways they can categorize thus expanding their current understanding of the world. Take this opportunity to count with your child and practice 1:1 correspondence and the understanding that the last number counted is the total number of items in the set. If the gears are out, make fun patterns before you see how they work: big gear, big gear, little gear, repeat. Build on and repeat these simple math skills to create a foundation for future success for your child.
This is an opportunity for abstract art. You can create structures with the ramps and see if they are inspired by structures you’ve seen in town or in your house. This is also an opportunity to talk about the art process with your child. Ask questions like, “What inspired you during the design process?” or, “What was your goal during the creation phase?” This is also an opportunity to learn some new color words. Just like reading all the silly color names on the 500 count box of Crayola crayons, you can look up different shades of the colors of the pieces you are building with. Maybe you will learn a new word for a shade of green or orange.
Scripts to Try
While you are playing try these open ended questions or comments to spark learning and open up conversation about the experience.
“Wow, that ball moved so fast! I wonder how we can make it move slowly.”
“I noticed you always start the ball here, I wonder what happens if we start it somewhere else.”
“You are working so hard to turn those gears!”
“I see five gears moving right now! Are there any gears that aren’t moving?”
“What happens when the gears are close together? Or far apart? Do they move differently? Lets find out together.”
“I see you are really focused on building. How can I help?”