Inclusive fun

UPCM offering new programs

From left, Micaela Westmann and Jadyn Negilski, 11, play in the music room of the Upper Peninsula Children’s museum. Many of the UPCM’s new programs focus on children interacting with their guardians. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

MARQUETTE — The Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum is a place where kids can just be kids. For the spring season, the museum has updated its weekly programming to offer even more fun for local youth and their guardians.

Education coordinator for the UPCM Jim Edwards, known as Mr. Jim at the museum, hopes the new programs will help foster an environment where kids and parents can interact together.

“I’ve always thought after a couple of decades working here, it’s about the children knowing that someone wants to play with them,” Edwards said. “We want a culture where everybody’s playing at home and pretending and figuring out things, and you do that here. You see how other children are, see how animals are different than you and then the people you refer to are your parents, caregivers, and guardians, so we want to get them in on the fun as well.”

Every Monday, it’s PJs all day at the UPCM. Children are welcome to wear pajamas to the museum and create “nighty-night” crafts from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, there will be music-centered activities for Rockin’ Toddlers Day.

UPCM Education Coordinator Jim Edwards, known as Mr. Jim at the museum, puts together crafts, based off a popular children’s book Llama Llama Red Pajama, to help kids with color recognition for Kids Take Over Crafts Day. The craft day will take place every Wednesday and is a part of the new spring progrmming now offered by the museum. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

Wednesdays are Kids Take Over Crafts Day. The museum will have various craft stations set up for kids to get creative while they play. This week, children could decorate a paper pajama set based on the book “Llama Llama Red Pajama.”

Second Thursday Creative Nights will still continue. Thursday’s event was a Family Science Night focused on water. Engineers from GEI Consultants made water troughs to “talk about water and the purity of water and how dams work and where water goes if you block it and how to have fun with it,” Edwards explained.

There was also slime to play with, and premedical students educating on healthy eating and a 10-topping frozen custard bar for “good balance,” Edwards joked.

Children will return home with a free book on Second Thursday Creative Nights. Admission to the museum is now free those evenings as well through various sponsorships such as GEI Consultants and the Childhood Abuse and Neglect Council, who will sponsor next month’s event. The event will be themed extraordinary superheroes. There will be zumbini and other activities for children and their families to enjoy.

“We’ll have capes and Megan the Balloon Princess helping everybody think that they are the extraordinary superheroes,” Edwards said. “It doesn’t have to be in a movie; you can be the superhero too.”

Cecilia Kitzis, 3, plays with legos at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum during the Kids Take Over Craft Day program. Children are encouraged to come play at the UPCM during program times even if they don’t want to participate in the activities. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

On the third Thursday of every month, the museum will now be hosting a Low Sensory Day from 3 to 7 p.m. The lights will be lowered, and music will be turned off in the museum. Meditate Marquette will join in on the fun and offer a focused space for children who prefer to play in a quiet space.

“We thought more about the folks on the edge who don’t always get served like children with special needs … Mediate Marquette, a member of the group, will be here and turn down the lights, turn off the music and it can be a time to think and reflect and a time to be able to play if you’re upset by loud noises and other things,” Edwards said. “Now the children are playing, but we want to give the parents the tea, hot chocolate, cookies and biscuits and be able to chat with each other and find out what it’s like to be a parent because sometimes you’re on your own. It’s more of an opportunity to be shoulder to shoulder with parents in the same situation.”

While there is a multitude of activities taking place each week at the museum, the UPCM’s primary goal is inclusive fun. Those who attend the programs don’t have to remain focused on the group activity or attend each week and for those who don’t want to participate the museum is still open for all to play during program times.

“We’re opening the museum up and making it have tangible things going on,” Edwards said. “All these programs are, you come, you immerse yourself, if you want to touch it for five minutes then play in the rest of the museum. It’s not a class — you don’t have to, there’s not a score, no one’s judging it’s just about enjoying yourselves and relaxing. Play should be relaxing.”

These programs show children there is extra fun at the museum they can join in on, Edwards said, and the programs offered will continue to change to accommodate the needs and desires of all.

“It’s wonderful this week seeing people come in for the first time and are quite surprised by our color, our size, our friendliness and I don’t mean staff being friendly,” Edwards said. “Children can make mistakes here. If you go to a museum you might be surrounded by people saying ‘shh, stop,’ Whereas we anticipate children growing here. To do that you need to bump into the wall sometimes or have a friendly voice telling you how not to get hurt this time. Go play.”

For more information on the UPCM and its programs visit upchildrens museum.org.