Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I Like Theme Weeks

Earlier this week I joined another Mommy friend and her 2.5-year-old toddler for a visit to Travel Town as the opening salvo for a Train Theme Week. Travel Town is an odd assortment of derelict historic trains parked in a corner of Griffith Park, which is L.A.'s tragic answer to NYC's Central Park. My mom-friend grew up in another city, and so this was her first visit to Travel Town (whereas I'd visited it many times as a kid). With her fresh eyes, she noticed that it was sort of user-unfriendly and pointless, which is entirely true. It's just a bunch of crummy old railroad stuff that's barely of interest to even avid train fans, and it was never clear to me as a child (or now as an adult), what the heck you're supposed to do with it. But while we were wandering around, trying to wrangle the kids, I realized that I think I like these theme weeks just as a way to organize the infinity of things there are to know about the world, not to mention the infinity of things there are to do in Los Angeles.

Basically it's about feeding the baby's brain as much healthy, nutrient-rich information as possible, in as many forms as possible. Some of it comes from books, some from sensory experiences and household projects, some from field trips, some from noodling around doing absolutely nothing (which is important too), but I love that the theme weeks give me some sort of starting point for the umpteen possible experiences he could have. We won't be able to do everything, but I find the theme weeks are a good motivation for doing something. Even if that something ends up just being "field trips" and read-alouds, it's better than nothing.

And nothing is a real risk:

My parents volunteer as docents every other Sunday at the Getty Villa in Malibu (a local museum of classical art housed in an absurd but pleasant Disney-esque Roman-villa simulacrum). You have to travel along the Pacific Coast Highway to get to the museum from the city. Apparently some kids in some of the school groups look out the windows of their school buses on the way to the museum and say, "Oh look, there's the ocean. I've never seen it before." Can you imagine living anywhere in Southern California and encountering the Pacific Ocean for the first time when you cruised past it on a school bus? This just kills me!

I can't promise my kid that he'll travel to foreign countries or even too many other cities, but by god, he will do the baby circuit of zoos, aquariums, museums, parks, festivals and fairs!

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