Parent/Caregiver Perspectives on Children’s Play and Learning at a Children’s Museum: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

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Journal of Museum Education


There is more to know about children’s play and learning in public spaces, including the long-term benefits of exposure to established play spaces such as children’s museums. Nested within an 18-month mixed-method longitudinal study, this qualitative descriptive study sought to understand how children aged three to five years develop and learn through interaction in the Early Start Discovery Space, a play-based learning environment, from the perspective of their parent/caregiver. All participants held family memberships to the Early Start Discovery Space. One-hundred and twenty-nine parents/caregivers completed an initial questionnaire, and ten participated in interviews. Content analysis techniques were used to analyze semi-structured interview data. Parents reported recognizing the importance of the Early Start Discovery Space for imaginary and pretend play, parent/child interaction, and physical activity. They also described how this public play space promoted engagement with the outdoors, and was a novel experience for their child. A portion of participants also noted changes in their home environment after their child visited the space, including talking excitedly about their play, and integrating imaginary/pretend play at home. Findings present considerations for educators and parents to enhance learning and development through play-based public spaces.

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