Big Ideas Come in Small Packages
Use all of your senses while exploring the South Dakota prairie, the Badlands, the Black Hills, and the Missouri River.
miniExplorers supports young children's choices and decision-making, helping to build confidence, independence and self-sufficiency. It also supports children's sense of belonging and pride in the prairie. This gallery is specifically for our youngest visitors, children ages 0-4.
In this gallery, new parents may socialize with each other while playing with their toddler in a more serene environment. While there are toddler spaces in each of the other galleries, here, the museum’s youngest guests encounter exhibits especially supportive of their overall integration of physical, spatial, and cognitive development.
Through play, children engage their senses in exploring the colors, textures, and sounds of nature in South Dakota. There are many ways to practice fine and large motor skills through touching, crawling, climbing, balancing, running, and walking. Children can:
- Climb in a cozy cave and peek out the window
- Crawl inside a hollow tree and discover plush animals hibernating inside
- Explore the sounds from animals hidden in the grasses
- Zoom down a wavy slide.
Cause and Effect
One main cognitive challenge in this gallery is cause and effect. Cause and effect is the idea that one can ‘turn a crank and then watch what happens’. The cause is always the same and the effect is always the same; it’s predictable. This helps young children decide what to do in future situations.
The other cognitive challenge in this gallery is object permanence. Object permanence means that an object exists even when it's out of sight. When toddlers figure out object permanence, they will search for the toy or blanket that is hidden or missing, rather than having an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ response.
These two developmental tasks are the basis for building the first relationships. For example, a young toddler may think "if I cry; then my dad picks me up and hugs me" (cause and effect) and "my dad exists and when he’s gone, I miss him" (object permanence). If the father’s responses are loving and consistent, then a positive, healthy attachment relationship develops. For a young toddler, the first relationships (in their first 2 years of life) will influence all future relationships.
Object permanence and cause and effect are also related to toddlers' future thinking skills. If the reactions they experience are consistent and predictable, then they will develop healthy reasoning skills. While doing so, children tend to repeat the same thing over and over to seek out the same response. For example, a young toddler may think, "What happens when I drop this block off my high chair tray?" and then finds out "Now I can't reach it." If the response is consistent, then the child is learning about how objects in the world work. Experimenting with objects and testing responses builds brain neural connections, which provides greater potential for later learning.
All early learning builds the foundation for life-long learning.
Country Animals, Lucy Cousins
Let's Dig and Burrow, In: Animal Antics, Anna Nilsen & Ann Axworthy
Child Sense: From Birth to Age 5, Priscilla J. Dunstan
*At the time of writing, these books were not found at the Brookings Library.