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For children, play is learning. And now The Children’s Museum of the Upstate and Greenville First Steps have joined forces to help parents use that important play to better understand their children’s development.

Museum visitors can now access a free smartphone app to interact with iBeacons at museum exhibits. The iBeacons send notifications to visitors’ mobile devices as they enter an exhibit, including information about developmental milestones and recommended age appropriate activities. Parents can use the information to see their child’s progress toward cognitive and physical developmental milestones.

Nancy Halverson, president and CEO of The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, and Derek Lewis, director of Greenville First Steps, worked together to make their vision of the app a reality.

“I’m also the parent of a 5-year-old,” Lewis said. “There are everyday opportunities to do things with our 5-year-old that just pass us by because we don’t think about them.”

Lewis said the iBeacons serve as good reminders.

“Right now, while you’re here, here are so ways to further your child’s learning,” he said.

Lewis had seen a paper version of a similar program at another museum and that sparked the idea to bring it to Greenville in an electronic format.

“We basically pitched an idea to (TCMU) and they got excited and took the ball and ran with it,” he said.

“You can load on your phone the IonGreenville app,” Halverson said. “As you move through the museum, your phone will get pinged. It will give you five or six things you can do (at an exhibit).”

As the app gives developmental information, parents can see whether their child is doing what is appropriate for their stage of development. And because it occurs in a non-threatening environment, kids just think it’s play.

“The first part is to give parents more ideas for ways to interact with their children,” Halverson said. “It also identifies areas where a child might be struggling or where they are doing well. All of the activities are easily observable.”

Lewis hopes to expand the iBeacons to other Upstate locations frequented by parents and their children.

“What we’ve realized is that it’s everyday interactions that build on each other,” he said.

To download the app, visit http://iongreenville.net. For more information, visit http://www.tcmupstate.org and http://greenvillefirststeps.org.

Here’s an example of iBeacon activities at TCMU’s Start Your Engines exhibit:

Children ages 2 -3 years old should be able to:

• Sit in a race car and pretend to drive.

• Push a big tire.

• Put a small race car on the race track and watch it go.

• Play mainly beside other children.

• Play make-believe.

Children ages 4 -5 years old should be able to do the above plus:

• Engage in make-believe while pretending to drive a race car.

• Change a tire, with an adult’s help.

• Put objects on race track and observe cars on track.

• Put together sentences of four or five words about race cars.

This resource is powered by Greenville First Steps.

Although every child matures at their own pace, the activities recommended here correspond with broad developmental milestones at each age level.

If your child is not able to perform the tasks described for his/her age level, we recommend you contact your child’s pediatrician or call Help Me Grow South Carolina, 1-855-476-9211 or check out their website at www.helpmegrowsc.org to learn more.

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