Playzeum stresses the importance of play to develop creativity and curiosity in young children. Photo Contributed.
While some consider math, science and literacy as essential to one’s education, a local nonprofit in Fresno wants to stress “the importance of play.”
Playzeum is a portable “museum without walls” that focuses on the importance of play in developing young minds and helping develop social interactions.
Karen McEwen is Playzeum’s executive director and was an integral part in opening up the portable museum. The move came as an attempt fill the cultural and educational void following the close of the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science.
Her experience of 14 years as the childcare director for Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia allowed her to become familiar with the mental and social development of children.
After the Fresno Met closed down in 2010, McEwen was contacted by First 5 Fresno County to develop a business plan for a new museum. She contacted everyone she used to work with at the Fresno Met to form a committee.
Originally there were plans to open Playzeum in a building provided by Fresno County, but the plan was never developed.
McEwen stepped away from the committee because she had to commute back and forth between her job at Kaweah Delta in Visalia, and she left the reins with Wendy Sheridan.
In 2017, Sheridan moved to the coast and contacted McEwen so she could see what stage Playzeum was in to get the ball rolling by becoming executive director.
McEwen wants Playzeum to help develop children’s creative and critical thinking skills and encourage parents to interact with their children during playtime.
“So many of the schools are missing out on the whole play component,” McEwen said. “You have five-year-olds that go into kindergarten and it’s a race to get testing done. It’s all about math and science and these children are missing the whole component on socialization and how to interact with other children and how to work through conflict.”
Playzeum has a contract with Storyland Fresno to set up a play area and travel to local schools from Madera to Kings County.
Playzeum provides children with educational exhibits that they can engage in such as building with magnetic blocks and PVC pipes to help them understand math concepts and expand vocabulary skills and oral language.
Currently, Playzeum is entirely operated through the help of volunteers, and a plan to buy a van to haul equipment out to sites and to advertise the non-profit is close to fruition.
McEwen hopes to see a permanent facility one day, and encourages donations to Playzeum.
Until then, she hopes that parents take more time to interact and engage with their children during playtime so they can develop educational and life skills that will be used across a lifetime.
Playzeum is located at 1155 West Shaw, Ste 104, Fresno CA 93711.
Contact (559) 222-5068 for information or visit them on the web at www.playzeum.org.