Literacy through play at Cincinnati Museum Center

New Kid's Town Park exhibit builds early literacy skills; opens June 28

CINCINNATI - Words are building blocks for life. They can be used to express yourself, describe and make sense of the world around you and build curiosity, generosity and empathy. And, when it comes to early childhood development, the sooner – and more – the better. A new exhibit space at Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is giving the region’s youngest learners a new place to learn even more words, through play.

CMC is beginning installation of a vibrant, park-themed early literacy gallery in The Children’s Museum that will invite kids and adults to explore letters, words and sounds together. Kids’ Town Park, opening June 28, will be a permanent addition to The Children’s Museum that will help early learners ages 0-6 explore literacy through play.

“Language and literacy skills are the foundation of intellectual and emotional development. Research shows that children who are exposed to 30 million words in an intentional, meaningful way before age 3 are set up for future success,” said Elizabeth Pierce, president & CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. “With the Kids’ Town Park, we’re equipping kids and their adults with the curiosity and skills to surpass that number and to build positive habits they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives.”

Kids’ Town Park encourages kids and adults to experience the space together and features artwork by local artists Lizzy DuQuette, Charley Harper and Annie Ruth. An interactive pond floor projection helps you learn about verbs as you enter designated hot spots and activate butterflies that flutter, worms that wriggle and frogs that leap. Rotating character cubes invite you to tell a funny story using six characters for you to mix and match. Will you put a toucan’s head on a tiger’s body as it walks on crocodile legs? You can also speak to the talking tree and hear your words repeated back to you in a different voice, helping match spoken and heard words. A street library turns letter cards into a giant see and say, reading the letter and picture out loud with a focus on phonics.

The new addition to The Children’s Museum also uses art and social-emotional aspects to support literacy development. An art in the park station encourages you to create your own story using pieces of felt cut into familiar and abstract shapes. As kids and adults talk about the story together, they’re using three important cues to provide a rich language environment: tuning in to each other, talking about what they’re doing and taking turns to develop conversation patterns. An emotions wheel challenges you to spin a wheel and recreate the face you might make when you feel happy, excited, proud, shy, sad or grumpy.

Kids’ Town Park has space for the earliest language learners, too. Mirrors, textured shapes and tactile letters create moments of discovery and engagement between kids and adults as every ooh and ahh becomes a steppingstone to forming words. Every word the child hears is a building block to how they learn about the world around them.

The science

Research by early literacy experts, preschool directors and pediatricians has shown that language gaps can appear as early as 18 months. These gaps, resulting from hearing fewer words during those critical early months of language development, impact future reading comprehension and overall academic, social and professional development. However, exposing children to a variety of words early and often helps develop vocabulary, reading comprehension, social-emotional skills, math and spatial skills and even generosity.

The Kids’ Town Park opens June 28 in The Children’s Museum at Cincinnati Museum Center.

Support from the State of Ohio and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission made this exhibit possible.

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About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized, award-winning institution housed in a National Historic Landmark. CMC is a vital community resource that sparks curiosity, inspiration, epiphany and dialogue. CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012, one of a select few museums in the nation to receive both honors. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History MuseumMuseum of Natural History & ScienceThe Children’s MuseumRobert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® TheaterCincinnati History Library and Archives and the Geier Collections and Research Center. Housed in historic Union Terminal – a National Historic Landmark restored in 2018 and recognized as the nation’s 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects – CMC welcomes more than 1.8 million visits annually, making it one of the most visited museums in the country. For more information, visit