Learning Through Play with Toytopia

Playing isn't just blowing off steam – it's how kids learn. A new exhibit at the Michigan Science Center makes learning fun for everyone in the family.

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Play is one of the most engaging ways for kids to learn. Whether it’s building blocks or sharing shovels in the sandbox, playtime is an important part of child development.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, play helps kids develop cognitive skills, physical abilities, vocabulary, social skills and more. Play is the child’s lab, the organization suggests.

“For children (and even adults) play brings out so many different opportunities for cognitive learning, team building, hand-eye coordination, and more,” says Michelle LeRoy, lead presenter at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit. “Play is good for everyone.”

It’s with this in mind that the science center is welcoming the new temporary exhibit, Toytopia. Opening Oct. 17 and available until March 31, Toytopia is a wonderland for kids and grown-ups, and it all revolves around learning through play and the importance of invention.

Features of the 9,500-square-foot exhibit, located in the Special Exhibit Hall on the center’s fourth floor, includes a giant 20-foot-tall interactive dollhouse that visitors can play in and explore, the world’s largest Etch-A-Sketch, a model railroad display, a huge LEGO® wall, old-school arcade games and more. You’ll also find classic favorites like Mr. Potato Head and Lincoln Logs.

Toytopia proves that there’s science in everything,” LeRoy says. “For example, any kid that builds with LEGO® bricks is an engineer.”

Amanda Murray, an educator at MiSci, says that Toytopia will be a big draw for all ages with retro games like Star Wars and Donkey Kong.

“We’re anticipating that even the adults are going to have a fun and discover science,” Murray says.

And with toys from multiple decades, parents might find that they’re engaging in playtime with their kids in ways they weren’t able to before.

Toytopia is sure to bridge the gap between generations,” says Meredith Gregory, public programs coordinator at the center. “It’s ideal for family members of all ages.”

While the exhibit is new, the concept of learning through play is one that the Michigan Science Center has always emphasized, Gregory says.

“We were really excited to find that this exhibit expands on the concepts that we were already in tune with,” she says. “As a hands-on museum, we bring science, play and invention together year-round.”

For pricing information, visit Mi-Sci.org.

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