Summer of Prototyping – the future of Providence Children’s Museum

Thank you to the Providence Children's Museum for their partnership and for their dedication to Rhode Island's children.

If I’m being honest, when I first heard about the Summer of Prototyping at the Providence Children’s Museum, my initial thought was “oh, that sounds too smart for me…”   As I looked into it, I learned that the Museum is running mini-trials of possible new exhibits, and hoping for feedback from parents and children.

Upon arrival, however, my initial assessment may have been correct!  We visited the Museum for some Fort Building, and as soon as I saw the different length boards, pipes, and connectors, I was filled with deep regret that I had not sent my contractor husband on this particular outing.   When the oldest began with, “So, how do we build something?” that regret was magnified. 

My living room looked like this all weekend, so Fort Building seemed like a great exhibit to check out!

Thankfully, as we moved further into the Prototyping Gallery, we found materials that we could work with. Saw horses, blankets, fabric, and large foam pieces.  As we got into the swing of things, the kids worked side by side to build their forts.  Satisfied that neither fort was bigger than the other’s and that each had the same number of push lights (life is always fair, right??), they realized their forts would be even cooler if they connected, and began work on a tunnel together. I sat back and watched, marveling at how quickly they realized that helping each other worked way better than arguing. I made a mental note to encourage fort building at all times. 


The Providence Children’s Museum never fails to teach us something on our visits- the kids entertain themselves with new-to-them playthings and unwittingly learn a few things along the way.  No longer forced to compromise and play what the other wants to play, they are free to engage in the activities that interest them individually. One makes crafts in the craft room, one spends their time exploring the pirate ship. They both stare blankly at the old rotary phone attached to the wall as I tell them there was, in fact, a time we didn’t have to find our phones before we left home.  

 The Summer of Prototyping leads up to the Museum’s Creativity Initiative, scheduled to launch in 2019.  A series of new pop-up exhibits (see below) will be available every week. Small, fast experiments are opened to the public, and changes are made for new content and exhibits based on what is learned by observation and direct feedback. 

The Providence Children’s Museum helps shape our children; it pours into their futures. This summer, we have the chance to take part in the future of the Museum.


For the Summer of Prototyping, the Museum plans to build new exhibit ideas out of inexpensive, easy-to-move materials and offer new, experimental hands-on activities, with projects set up in Assembly Space (serving for summer as the Prototyping Gallery!) and also in Discovery Studio. With a packed schedule in place and plenty of surprises along the way, the Summer of Prototyping is a wonderful opportunity for kids, families, caregivers and community partners to explore their creativity, experiment with new materials, and shape the next three years at the Providence Children’s Museum. Plan your visit here! 


Tape Room & Makerspace in the Prototyping Gallery
Tuesday, July 24 – Thursday, July 26 • 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Four white walls, lots and lots of colored tape, and colored sticky dots – what can you create?
And in the makerspace, learn how lines can be drawn, woven and shaped.

Cardboard City & Puppet Making in the Prototyping Gallery
Tuesday, July 31 – Thursday, August 2 • 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Build whatever suits your interest, using boxes, sheets of cardboard, tape and fasteners, and
carefully supervised hand tools. Add onto what others have built, or start your own world!
Make a puppet, and bring your creation to life in the cardboard city.

Techno Art in Discovery Studio
Monday, August 6 – Friday, August 10 • 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Pull it apart and piece it together; use real tools to tinker with recycled bits and bytes to create
something new!

Mirrored Noodle Forest in the Prototyping Gallery
Tuesday, August 7 – Thursday, August 9 • 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Come play in the forest made of pool noodles, and camp out among the mysterious trees.

3-D Puzzle & Print Making in the Prototyping Gallery
Tuesday, August 14 – Thursday, August 16 • 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Friday, August 17 • 5:00-7:30 PM
Build a large-scale three-dimensional puzzle, using shapes that slide together. Add onto a puzzle
that others have started, or make your own! Explore printmaking techniques and add color and
patterns to your own puzzle pieces.