Deborah Spiegelman, CEO for the Miami Children’s Museum, took the time to speak with Mommy Mafia about the reasons why we need a children’s museum and how play impacts childhood learning and development.
How are you a Museum in the traditional sense of the word?
We aren’t! Rather than the “hands off” learning adults are familiar with at museums, children’s museums are designed to stimulate learning through hands-on and interactive experiences. Young children learn best through PLAY…..by exploring, interacting and doing….and even more so when they are having fun in the process! Play-based experiences develop skills that serve as a foundation for life-long learning and success, including critical thinking, communication and problem solving referred to as the 21st-century skills.
Our young visitors learn about important topics related to art, culture, music, health & communication through our exhibit’s interactive components which have been designed specifically to stimulate learning through exploratory play. Their experience becomes even more multidimensional when it is complimented by the Museum’s programming such as story & music times, stage performances, and art activities.
Why is it so important for our community to have a Museum dedicated to our youngest children?
Every young child deserves to have access to a safe and fun educational space. Miami Children’s Museum is designed in a way that allows (and encourages) the child to explore freely from one exhibit to the other, at their own pace – setting the stage for rich learning opportunities. Each child learns differently and the importance of a child-led experience cannot be overlooked. Whether it is a family visiting from another city or country, a school or camp group from an underserved neighborhood, or a local family, children benefit from a space that provides unique learning opportunities created just for them.
In addition, the Miami Children’s Museum serves as a rich early childhood resource for local families and the community as a whole. Much of our programming is centered around school readiness and helping children (and their family unit) develop the foundation they need before entering the elementary school setting. For example, our annual Kindergarten Kickoff event (this year on May 21st) provides tips and resources for families to use throughout the summer to help everyone prepare for Kindergarten in the Fall. We work very closely with other community organizations and companies to make events like these robust resources for everyone who attends. In addition to the informal learning at the Museum there is also a pre school that gives children an opportunity to experience the great fun environment that is inspired by the Reggio approach.
There is a lot of emphasis on play – isn’t that something children do naturally? Can you talk about the importance of play?
They do….but play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. Play also offers an ideal opportunity for families…it gives adults a chance to engage fully with their children. Despite the benefits derived from play for both children and the entire family unit, time for free play has been markedly reduced for some children. However, it is up to us to make sure they have ample opportunities for it! In today’s world where structured learning, exposure to technology and extracurricular events fill our children’s days, making time for unstructured play and exploration needs to be a priority.
Play strengthens the bond between children and their caregivers, builds children’s confidence, and facilitates cognitive, emotional and social growth. Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as “a right of every child”. Even our preschool, which is located inside the Museum, was created around the idea that attending a school within a setting that fosters play based experiences has unparalleled benefits.
In addition to interactive exhibits, what else does the Miami Children’s Museum offer the community that people may not know about?
Well, in addition to our Early Childhood Institute (preschool) for children 12months – 5 years, we offer a robust camp program that exposes children to new countries and cultures, field trip opportunities for local school groups, and an outreach program that takes Museum programs & experiences out into the community. Ensuring that all children have access to our programming is at the heart of our Mission – whether it is a child with sensory processing disorder exploring our exhibits on a Sensory Friendly Saturday, a family listening to one of our educators lead a story time at a local book store, or an interactive performance at an underserved school in our community, we work very hard to make quality early childhood educational opportunities available to everyone!
Deborah Spiegelman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)/Executive Director
Miami Children’s Museum
Ms. Deborah Spiegelman is the CEO and Executive Director of the Miami Children’s Museum. She is an accomplished not for profit specialist with over thirty years of experience. She provides leadership to the Museum’s core staff and reports to the Board of Directors. She is involved with long range planning, development, and the creation and implementation of exhibits and educational programs.
Ms. Spiegelman holds a B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Miami and has extensive non-profit experience in areas such as marketing, public relations, board development, management and fundraising. Her career highlights also include working for University of Miami/Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, University of Miami/Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Greater Miami Jewish Federation and Mount Sinai Medical Center. She has served as a co-chair of the National Conference for Children’s Museums and a member of the Association of Children’s Museums, American Association of Museums, Children’s Cultural Coalition, and National Society of Fund Raising Executives. She also served as a Board Member for the Cushman School, Girl Scouts, and Association of Children’s Museums.
Miami Children’s Museum
In 2016, Miami Children’s Museum was named the top Children’s Museum in the South and the eighth overall destination in the country by FamilyFun Magazine. The Museum has been recognized for its world class exhibits and public programs from a variety of organizations including the Association of Children’s Museums, The Beacon Council, The Children’s Trust, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and South Florida Business Journal. In addition, the Museum received the American Alliance of Museums Media and Technology MUSE Award for its integration of technology in an interactive installation.