Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - May 2014

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28 Hudson Valley Parent n May 2014 open air. Marian Goldin, the museum's marketing manager, says, "It's gotten to the point where people don't know how to explore the outdoors by themselves." The solution that the museum of- fers is a natural experience blending the wildness of the woods with some of the structure and security that today's parents demand. "Our new playground, Grasshop- per Grove, is a large nature play area that's gated. Younger kids can get out and play in nature, and the parents can be there with them, and they don't feel insecure." In this same spirit, the museum also offers what Goldin calls "the bunny trails of hiking," offering kids and parents a chance to walk, climb and explore without the more serious challenges of wilder areas frequented by seasoned trekkers. In addition, the museum operates popular summer camp programs, including one for 12 to 15-year olds. "It's a week of camp," says Goldin, "that ends with an overnight in the woods where they learn survival skills." Early start Another prominent trend of today's parents is the push to stimu- late and educate children at younger ages, and one of the area's most popular family-friendly destinations, the Mid-Hudson Children's Museum, is working hard to meet this need head-on. Now located on the Hudson river- front in Poughkeepsie, the museum was founded in 1989 with the goal of educating kids and families through interactive play. But after more than two decades of catering to kids of all ages, the museum is now narrowing its focus. "The Museum has moved away from being a place for children of all ages to being a place for the youngest members of our community, children ages 0 to 6," says Sara Capozzoli, the museum's director of public, media and corporate relations. "Providing young children with a place to devel- op early learning skills, helping par- ents lay a sturdy foundation of health and wellness education and fostering the idea of community and collabora- tion among our children is now what the Children's Museum aims to do." This change in philosophy can be seen as a direct response to the attitudes and expectations of today's parents. "Parents, now more than ever, want their children to be ready for school and well equipped for today's world," explains Capozzoli. "The exhibits and programs at the mu- seum are designed to be a resource for parents and caregivers to raise well-adjusted, informed, kind, edu- cated children." Like Wild Earth and Hudson Highlands, The Mid-Hudson Chil- dren's Museum offers a very popular summer camp. "Our Summer Camp is something that we are particularly proud of," says Capozzoli. "The camps were completely redesigned in 2013 and have received incredibly good reviews. Designed as a 'first summer camp experience' for children ages 3, 4 and 5, our half-day camps feature the fun of a traditional camp experi- ence while encouraging the develop- ment of critical learning skills. " And while the museum and its programs are not specifically geared to helping families disconnect from technology, they now seem to em- brace a back-to-basics approach that are compatible with the ideas behind the programs at Wild Earth and the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum. As Capozzoli put it: "Although technology has come a very long way in a short amount of time, allowing children to learn vital developmental skills is done without much technology at all." Bill Spring is a freelance writer living in New Paltz with his wife and two daughters. PLAYTIME (Continued from Page 27) Wild Earth in Ulster County aims to have participants unplug from the modern world and reconnect with world of nature. All participants are required to hand over their devices before they go into the woods. Photo by Maggie Heinzel-Neel.

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