TORRINGTON — Phase two of Connecticut’s COVID-19 reopening plan, put in place June 20, included museums, but KidsPlay Children’s Museum has chosen to hold off — at least until later this summer.
“We want to make sure we santize every single interactive area, and we’re also doing some improvements inside,” said director Eileen Marriott. “We’ll reopen sometime this summer.
“We usually do a refresh of the museum’s gallery area in September, and we’ve moved that up,” she said. “We also took the opportunity to start opening the new museum space, between 61 and 54 Main Street, the former Salvation Army store. That was a positive thing, because doing it now meant there wouldn’t be as much disruption when we open again.”
Some parents have called to find out when the facility will open, but not many. “There hasn’t been a lot of demand, but it’s OK,” Marriott said. “People are out enjoying the beautiful weather, and when it gets hotter, we’ll see more interest in coming to the museum.”
For those hot days, KidsPlay has developed numerous activities for children to do at home.
“Families and caregivers have had to take a much more active role in activities for children, we we’ve built some for families that actually take the children away from the (computer) screen,” Marriott said. “For example, there’s a short video for the child to watch, and then we’ve given them basic activities and simple materials they can find right at home, to make it as easy as possible for them.”
A Zoom show and tell program, she said, gives children a chance to chat about what they’re doing with others their own age.
“When kids realize they can talk to our educators, and other kids, on Zoom, they’re so happy,” Marriott said. “They really miss their friends. ... this is a way to give them that experience in a different way.”
A breakfast and bingo program online is starting on Zoom, Tuesdays at 9 a.m. “Again, it gives them a chance to see other kids, and parents can have a little break while they’re playing,” Marriott said. “We scheduled it early, so they can still get out and enjoy their day.”
KidsPlay has also developed a Playful Learning Tool Kit, with read-aloud activities and stories in both English and Spanish.
“The museum is working on translating our programs into Spanish, because we have a large population of elementary school-age children who speak Spanish,” the director said. “We want to help parents feel empowered by using these activities at home. Also, the read-alouds can be a shared experience for the family. If a staff member is reading a timeless story, something everyone knows, then everyone can enjoy it together.”
Educational content in the Playful Learning Tool Kit includes cooking and other STEM activity videos, play and maker challengs and read-aloud videos, as well as recorded interviews with community professionals, discussing ways to support children during the pandemic.
This summer, many of the usual summer camps and programs offered by churches, schools and the parks and recreation departments in Torrington and surrounding towns have been canceled because of coronavirus concerns.
“We’ve geared some of our reopening plans on activities coming up on Main Street,” Marriott said. “Ther are fewer camps this summer, and we’ll do our best to provide things for the children.
At KidsPlay, she said, groups of children are close together, whether they’re creating in the maker space, climbing into the story corner or playing in the fire engine or train. That has to to be avoided for now.
“The state’s guidelines say no co-mingling of groups, and we’re in a place where kids meet, so things will be a little different when we do open, “Marriott said. “But we’ll do our best to provide a good experience for them.”
Families can connect with KidsPlay by visiting www.kidsplaymuseum.org, subscribing to its newsletter, KidsPlay Connections: Inspiring Learning from Home, and using the Playful Learning Toolkit. an archive of activities, play prompts, articles and community resources.