BellaBoo’s Play and Discovery Center
- The Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center in Indiana was designed by the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group and built by the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department on the proven concept that there is a positive relationship between how children play and their cognitive and social development. Many facilities are implementing strategies to enhance children’s innate curiosity. The Field Museum in Chicago, for example, has built the Crown Family PlayLab, which focuses on hands-on activities. The key, both there and at Bellaboo’s, is that children learn via play. Everything is designed to be touched, moved, built, and played with. Activities at Bellaboo’s will combine fun and entertainment with learning and growth in a safe and secure setting. The exciting Discovery Play Center is intended for children aged one to nine. The center’s 23,000 square feet of hands-on activities are brightly colored and inventive. Self-guided play in a child-sized supermarket, construction zone, and pizza parlor, for example, will give locations for children to not only connect with others, but also to engage in dramatic play that fosters intellectual growth. Block play, do-it-yourself face painting, an art studio, dress-up, water tables, soft-contained-play equipment, a reading room, children’s do-it-yourself cooking, a performance area, and a space just for infants and toddlers with developmentally-appropriate play activities are among the additional elements. The New York Times noted and applauded the completion of the $28 million master plan makeover in August 2017. The story discussed the newly renovated Marquette Park Pavilion as well as the Gary Aquatorium/Museum of Aviation. Educators, parents, and leisure professionals have long recognized the importance of play in laying the groundwork for early learning. Children gain social skills and competency when they use concrete objects in dramatic ways, such as playing in a pretend grocery shop or a kid’s size construction zone. Written clues in the form of signs assist children in preparing to read and write. Even though they cannot read, they comprehend that the written symbols on paper have meaning. Motor development, including gross and fine motor skills, will be aided by play devices. As adults, we may believe that children are “simply playing,” yet consider how much language development occurs as youngsters interact with one another and figure out the specifics of play. They’ll have no idea they’re learning… but we will.
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