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getting An early start

Naperville, IL - Tuesday, December 31, 2013: Marilyn Hagler (Oswego), Darius Reguous (Minneapolis), Charlotte and Kate Paquette (Hinsdale) watch as dry ice makes bubbles during the DuPage Children's Museum's Bubble Bash. | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media
Naperville, IL - Tuesday, December 31, 2013: Scott and Lauren Smilie (Naperville) work on building a 'Bridge to the New Year' during the DuPage Children's Museum's Bubble Bash. | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media
Naperville, IL - Tuesday, December 31, 2013: Lily Harting (Hinsdale) waits for the topping to be placed on her cookie snow globe during the DuPage Children's Museum's Bubble Bash. | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media
Naperville, IL - Tuesday, December 31, 2013: Ben DeVee (Naperville) watches as his son Brayden DeVee jumps along a strip of bubble wrap during the DuPage Children's Museum's Bubble Bash. | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media
Naperville, IL - Tuesday, December 31, 2013: Annalee Mascarella gives Ben Grunow (Hinsdale) a 'bubble' (balloon) of paint to throw against a wall as Teddy Grunow watches the action during the DuPage Children's Museum's Bubble Bash. | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media
Naperville, IL - Tuesday, December 31, 2013: Jeff Neven (Elmhurst) makes some bubbles during the DuPage Children's Museum's Bubble Bash. | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media

Just before noon Tuesday, Naperville Mayor George Pradel started warming up the crowd full of kids at the DuPage Children’s Museum.

“It’s been a wonderful year,” he told them. “But next year is going to be even better. You’re a year older and you’ll be going to a different grade in school.”

Pradel, clad in black tie formal wear, including a top hat, counted down to noon to ring in the new year early at the 12th annual DuPage Children’s New Year’s celebration.

This year’s event, “Build it Big Bubble Bash,” celebrated the theme of innovation that was the museum’s focus in 2013.

Just before the mayor did the honors, Nico Patrick, 5, and his brother Roman, 6, impressed the crowd when both of them gave a flawless rendition of their ABCs.

“This is the second time we’ve come to this,” said their mother, Jamie Patrick.

The Patrick kids from Aurora shared the stage, even if briefly, with Mr. Singer and the Smart Cookies, a local band who entertained throughout the morning with a mix of holiday music, rock classics reworked for a children’s audience and even a Ramones tune, “Rockaway Beach.”

This year’s celebration marked a return to holding the countdown in the actual museum. Last year’s countdown was held at Wentz Hall on the campus of North Central College.

“We brought it back to the museum,” Marketing Manager Bri Bromberek said, noting that many museum members had been under the impression that the New Year’s celebration had been discontinued.

She explained that the museum had partnered with North Central in programming and the intention was always to bring the countdown back to the actual museum building itself.

Bromberek said that the theme of innovation was reflected in several of the museum’s exhibits on architecture, including the interactive building exhibits, the collaborative giant water ballon painting and, new this year, the “Monument,” an interactive exhibit on the architecture of the ancient Mayans and Greeks.

The exhibit is also the first at the museum that is built to travel, constructed in a way that allows for easy transport to other organizations that rent it from the museum.

Bromberek stressed the hands-on nature of a museum that always offers eight separate areas of interactive learning, or “neighborhoods,” as she called them.

In addition to this year’s theme of innovation, the museum always focuses on areas like science, music, art, and mathematics.

“We are more than a museum,” Bromberek said. “We are a force for early learning. While they are playing they are learning.”

Public Program Manager Marcia MacRae echoed Bromberek’s sentiments.

“Every time your child plays here, they are constructing knowledge,” she said. “We watch repeat visitors grow.”

Katie Hurly, 6, borrowed Mr. Singer’s microphone to entertain the crowd with her interpretation of “Old McDonald,” but before that she and her brother Daniel, 5, spent much of the morning earnestly at work in the exhibit with water and bubbles.

“We come here once a month or so,” their father Scott said. “Especially in the winter.”

Downers Grove resident Anne Lucas brought her daughter Samantha, 3, who already attends a Montessori preschool program.

“She’s been going awhile,” Lucas said. “The activities here are age appropriate ... not too high or low (in difficulty) for them.”

Eamonn Gaynor, 3, occupied himself in the building section.

“I’m building a tower,” he said as he put one piece of material on top of another.

His parents Brian and Serene have already enrolled him in a Montessori program and bring him to the museum often.

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