Science of Play for Little Ones

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Learning fun? Kids are wired for it! Check out these hand-picked programs for tots.

Little ones from babies to preschoolers learn about the world around them through play. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) says guided play at young ages boosts language development and spatial skills.

“Play provides a natural, comfortable setting for young children to develop,” says Kyle Snow, Ph.D., director of the Center for Applied Research at the NAEYC. “All the greats in our field have said that play is children’s work, but it is also adult work. We in early education must better understand the role of play in the lives of young children,” he adds.

Research Backs it Up

Just observing your baby with blocks shows you that he’s learning as he plays. But the latest research shows that play exercises the brain even more than that. Hundreds of scientific studies show that babies and young children think, draw conclusions, make predictions, look for explanations, and even do experiments.
    Always have plenty of play time at home for your little ones — without electronic devices on. And if you’d like to get your child out in the community (fun!) check out our handy list of local activities.


These unique offerings for wee ones offer educational fun in playful environments:

Baby Sensory Art Class

Little Art House
2104 Acklen Ave., Nashville
This ongoing class lets ages 6 – 24 months explore and play while igniting their curiosity for learning. Each $15 class introduces babies to different mediums. There’s also a separate class just for toddlers ($20).

“Explorers” Family Science Lab 

Adventure Science Center
800 Fort Negley Blvd., Nashville
Children 3 – 5 with a parent can explore STEM through hands-on activities. Offered twice monthly, this month’s sessions are Sept. 20 & 23, and the topic is robotics. Cost is $5 per child in addition to regular admission ($14.95 adults, $10.95 ages 2 – 12). The Early Explorers preschool program will be returning upon the completion of the new early childhood area (date TBA).

It Looks Like Play

Brentwood Library
8109 Concord Road, Brentwood
Every Thursday from Sept. 7 – Nov. 16, ages 9 months – 4 years can engage in this free sensory program that delivers tactile experiences. Little ones can mix, pour, shape, tear and squish a variety of materials and substances. The program targets larger concepts of math, science, language and social development.


Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music
2400 Blakemore Ave., Nashville
Blair’s “Maestro Status” program is ranked in the top 5 percent of all Kindermusik programs in the U.S. Offering fall and spring classes for newborns, infants, toddlers and preschoolers (with Mom & Dad), little minds get lots of stimulation through songs, stories, dance, instrument play and more. Semesters are $415 per family.

Nature Play Days

The Wilderness Station
697 Veterans Pkwy.
Murfreesboro • 615-217-3017
These free play dates with Mother Nature are for little ones ages 1 & older with a parent. The program helps stimulate your child’s interest in learning to play with objects found in nature, and children have fun getting muddy along the way! The next two installments are Wednesdays, Sept. 20 & Oct. 11 at 11 a.m.

Preschool Song & Storytime

Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum
222 Fifth Ave. S., Nashville
Taking place the third Saturday monthly, each installment gives ages 3 – 5 the opportunity to hear a story and create art inspired by the artists, artifacts and music featured in the galleries. Admission is free for kids in Davidson and surrounding counties, and up to two accompanying adults get 25 percent off the regular $24.95 admission.


Discovery Center
502 S.E. Broad St., Murfreesboro
SPARK (STEAM Play Achieves Real Knowledge) is a parent/tot program every Monday and Tuesday at 9 a.m. It includes art activities, music and movement, stories and hands-on activities for toddlers and preschoolers. Each week covers a different topic. Admission is $2 for the program in addition to the $8 gate.

Tuesdays for Tots

1200 Forrest Park Drive
Nashville • 615-356-8000
Ages 3 – 5 with parents can craft art projects every Tuesday from September – May. Ages 2 & younger are welcome and can have fun coloring. The drop-in class runs 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., and projects change weekly. Themes often tie to the museum’s or gardens’ current exhibits. Included with gate admission ($20 adults, $13 ages 3 – 17).

Wishing Chair Productions

Nashville Public Library
615 Church St., Nashville
The Children’s Division of Nashville Public Library is a magical experience for little kids. Every Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:30, 10:30 & 11:30 a.m. is perhaps the most popular storytime for tots who love joining the Professor, Library Pete and Mary Mary for 30 minutes of singing, juggling and book-reading delight. Little ones also love appearances by puppet pals like Tommy Dog and Jimmy Giraffe. Admission is free.

Zoo Tots

Nashville Zoo
3777 Nolensville Road, Nashville
This six-week program in the fall and spring is for ages 2 – 5 years along with a parent. Kids learn about different animals like birds, furry friends, amphibians, invertebrates, reptiles and more. Furthermore, sessions include play experiences, art, songs, live animal encounters and more. Cost is $100 members, $125 non-members. The fall session is underway. Spring session runs March 21 – May 2, 2018.




Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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