Did You Know? Free Admission for 3rd Grade Graduates on Select Dates this Summer

Did you know that 3rd grade graduates and TWO family members who live in Erie County can visit Explore & More on select dates for free this summer?  This program allows Buffalo Third Grade Graduates and family members free access to Explore & More – The Ralph C. Wilson Jr., Children’s Museum to ensure all children and families can leverage the healing power of play – no matter what circumstances surround them. 

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO PARTICIPATE? Third Grade Graduates in 2024 and TWO family members who live in Erie County are eligible. A limited number of FREE admission tickets are available on a first-come basis at the Guest Services Desk. 

WHEN: June 22, July 27 and August 24, 2024

WHERE: Explore & More – The Ralph C. Wilson Children’s Museum 

HOW: Visit the Guest Services Desk at the museum

This awesome opportunity is funded by the C-SAAHN Fund at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.  We hope to see you and your soon-to-be 4th graders this summer to play!

Make-your-own Seahorse!

By Jacalyn Modrzynski, Lead Educator

I always look forward to May’s Newsletter because I have a chance to share about National Water Safety Month! For more information on National Water Safety Month Click Here. You can find water safety tips, swim lessons, learn what to do in an emergency, and more.

A fun way to play in the water is to imagine that you’re a sea creature! You can be a big whale, a sea turtle, a mystical mermaid, or a seahorse! How would each of these creatures swim in the water?

If you’re not quite ready to get your feet or fins wet, here’s a fun water-themed craft.  You can make your own seahorse using some materials you may have around the house!

What you’ll need:

  • A seahorse template. Click Here for our explore and more template
  • Markers, crayons, or watercolors.
  • A glue stick.
  • Cupcake liners, crepe paper, or recycled newspaper.
  • Scissors.

What to do:

  • Decorate your seahorse, I used watercolors to decorate mine.
  • Cut up your extra paper into triangles, I used cupcake liners.
  • Decorate your triangles, I painted mine different colors.
  • Cut your seahorse out (optional)
  • Glue the triangles to the back of the seahorse.

You’re done! Pretend your seahorse is under the sea and have him swim around!

If you loved this craft, we’re making crafts as cute as this one every day in our Under the Sea camp. You can sign up here.

Wishing you a fun and safe summer!

Ms. Jackie

Understanding how Screentime Affects Children’s Mental and Emotional State

By Mara Gordon, Play to Learn Facilitator

Did you know that starting the groundwork early by creating boundaries can help both children & parents avoid letting screen time take over our lives?

With how important technology is for nearly all aspects of life nowadays, it can be easy to let screen time take up most of the day. Digital media has revolutionized learning and made so much information accessible but there are some unintended negative consequences that accompany the positive benefits.

Understanding how digital media and screentime affect children’s mental and emotional state can help families create & use healthy boundaries with technology for everyone.

When one is watching a fun video or playing a game on their device, the brain releases “dopamine” which is a brain chemical that’s linked to feeling happy. This dopamine feedback stops when the video or game is over and leaves us feeling upset or sad, especially when its cut-short unexpectedly. This process reinforces the association of digital media as a positive stimulus that creates happy feelings and creates a feedback loop often ending in addiction.

So, when a toddler becomes accustomed to watching a show while eating dinner at home and the family tries to go out for dinner without a tablet, it can trigger a tantum, a physical expression of large emotions that they are unable to verbally express. The normal dopamine delivery that is associated with dinner has been disrupted and can cause the child to feel distressed in a way that is hard to handle.

Digital media and screens have provided humans with a virtually unlimited supply of social stimuli and dopamine production in the palm of their hand, but that makes creating boundaries for usage so important. Having a healthy balance of digital interaction and real interactions can be a challenge and requires some effort to put into action. It requires us to make conscious decisions about how to use our time as individuals and as a family.

Every family is different and will have their own expectations and boundaries, but all parents are capable and responsible for teaching their children behavioral controls. Try replacing screen time with in-person socialization or group activities; talking with your child at meals rather than having digital media on to keep them occupied. Or perhaps create “no-screen” zones in certain spaces like bedrooms or not allowing screens outside the house.

Take a break from your screens and come play at Explore & More as we get ready to host an Au-Some Evening, celebrate Mothers & More weekend, build together on STEM Saturday, and so much more!

Hayes, Trevor “Dopamine, Smartphones & you: A Battle for your Time” Science in the News, 2021

Muppalla, S. K., Vuppalapati, S., Reddy Pulliahgaru, A., & Sreenivasulu, H. (2023, June 18). Effects of excessive screen time on Child development: An updated review and strategies for Management. Cureus

Radesky, Jenny. “Screen Time & Temper Tantrums: Helpful Tips for Parents.” HealthyChildren.Org, 2024

Mental Health Awareness Month

By Alexis Turan, Access & Inclusion Intern

Over the past 20 years, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and others within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and across the Federal Government, the public health community, and the general public have made efforts to increase the importance of understanding both prevention and treatment of mental health problems. These efforts have significantly improved the outlook for those affected by mental illnesses.

With the weather beginning to get nicer, the sun shining and flowers blooming, May is the perfect time to start working on practicing mental health awareness. Self-care is essential for mental health and overall well-being. Often unseen and untreated, child and adolescent mental health challenges can impact the ability to learn and develop. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration released that one in five children have a diagnosable mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted research that links students’ mental health and their academic success. Therefore, awareness of mental health to support our children and students should be a core part of every family’s school preparation.

Here are some helpful ways as a parent or guardian that you can support your child’s mental health!

  • Model healthy coping skills. Activities such as deep breathing, using stress balls, making art (painting, coloring, doodling) or going for walks can be great strategies for coping with feelings.
  • Keep communication open and honest. It’s important that your child knows they can approach you with any issue, and that they will be received and listened to with love and support. Simply letting them know that you are there to support and listen to them without judgment.
  • Create a routine. Uncertainty about day-to-day schedules can lead to a lot of stress or anxiety in a child’s life. Creating a general routine at home can provide some relief and peace for your child.
  • Provide positive feedback and encouragement. Kids love to receive positive feedback and learn that they’ve done something well. Knowing they’ve done something well increases feelings of pride and confidence, which can stick with a child long term.
  • Talk about emotions and feelings regularly. Kids learn so much by watching their parents, including behaviors when it comes to emotional expression and regulation. Rather than simply saying your day was “good” or “OK,” try to discuss different emotions you felt throughout your day when talking with your child and then talk to them about how you handled your emotions in that situation

In addition here are some books and resources used in this article that you can also utilize at home:

  • Cory Stories by Jeanna Kraus is a book about ADHD with emphasis on why it shouldn’t define them.
  • Be Happy: A little book of mindfulness by Maddy Bard is a guide for helping young children boost their self-confidence, canine best friends Hucky and Buzz share some tips on staying present and positive as they share thoughts, emotions, and feelings with each other.
  • Mindfulness for Little Ones by Heidi France. This book helps children move toward healthy coping skills and behaviors with playful, developmentally appropriate activities.

18 Coping Skills: Strategies for Children and Teens

Books to Help Kids Understand Their Emotional and Mental Health

10 Best Restorative Mental Health Day Activities for Kids

77 Children’s Books About Mental Health

Annie’s STEM Lab: Plant Edition!

By Annie Savinon, STEM Educator

As we get ready to embrace the warmer weather, many families will be headed outside to enjoy the sunshine! While the list of outdoor activities may include some items such as chalk and bubbles, perhaps consider adding some watering cans and shovels to your child’s outdoor supply list this year! Gardening can be a wonderful activity that can engage all members of your family. Below, lists a few of the wonderful benefits families can experience while completing this activity together!  

  • Promotes healthy eating and builds confidence and self-esteem. It is no secret your family will be excited to eat the food they made themselves. As we know, fruits, veggies, and herbs all have wonderful health benefits!

  • Encourages scientific inquiry. Naturally with the gardening process, your child will begin to ask questions about the parts of the plant, the stages of its growth, and when it is time to harvest. Having this knowledge through experience will increase your child’s science comprehension. In New York State, students are expected to begin learning and observing the life cycle and observations of plants starting in their kindergarten science classes!

  • Enhances a calm and happy mood. The act of gardening is a calming experience. James Lake MD with Psychology Today shares that regular gardening has been shown to enhance one’s general well-being, cognitive function, and community engagement. Also, it has been found that participation in gardening activities reduced the severity of depressed anxiety, reduced stress, and enhanced overall quality of life!

  • Natural sun benefits. Being outside on a sunny day certainly has benefits in itself; two being Vitamin D and better sleep! The National Library of Medicine states that the best-known benefit of sunlight is its ability to boost the body’s Vitamin D supply. Without sufficient Vitamin D, bones may not form properly, which could result in young children being at risk for a disease called rickets. Also, The National Library of Medicine states that humans are diurnal creatures, and we are truly programmed to be awake and outside during the sunshine hours, and asleep during the dark hours. When people are exposed to sunlight or bright artificial light in the morning, their nocturnal melatonin production occurs sooner, and they can enter sleep more easily at night. How much sunlight is the right amount you may ask? Although there is no one size fits all answer here, and it depends on the human’s skin composition and location, it is a good rule of thumb that we can see significant health benefits with about 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day!

A summer day beginning with a morning walk and gardening, anyone? Yes, please!

Lastly, depending on your gardening skills, there could be a perfect beginner plant if you are a novice gardener looking for a successful harvest. The Old Farmers Almanac states that some of the easiest and most common vegetables that can be grown by all includes lettuce, green beans, and peas! For further information on growing tricks for these veggies and more, refer to the link below!

Useful links:

Gardening and Mental Health: A Brief Overview

K-LS1-1: Plant and Animal Needs

You Can Do It! The 10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow From Seed

Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health


The girls in the photos for this article are the author’s adorable nieces! Their names are Bridget, Winnie, and Hadley, and they enjoy gardening with their mom and dad every season in Hilton Head, South Carolina!

Upcoming Hours - OPEN: 7/17-22 | CLOSED: 7/23, 7/30