What can babies really understand? How do toddlers absorb everything around them? Why is learning before kindergarten so important? Big things are happening in little kids' brains and bodies!

A disconnect exists between what science tells us about the developmental needs of children ages 0–5 and what society does to support that development. Considerable evidence indicates that the public and policymakers do not appreciate the crucial issues underlying early childhood development; nor does either group know how best to incorporate science into public policy. Wonder Years: The Science of Early Childhood Development is a unique and collaborative project about the big things that happen in little brains.

The exhibition highlights what is happening in early development, including some things that babies can do better than adults! Museum visitors explore how young children learn from the world around them, and how scientists learn about children's development. Wonder Years is designed for teens and adults, parents and non-parents alike, and includes a quiz show, early literacy nook, and pretend "kitchen" where visitors of all ages can enjoy learning about the development of young children.

Related programming continues conversations around this important topic. These conversations help to ensure that all children benefit from the growing body of knowledge about the science of early childhood development and get the best start in life.

Wonder Years is a partnership of the Science Museum of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota, and Public Agenda. The National Science Foundation provides funding for the Wonder Years project with additional funding for expanded programming from the F.R. Bigelow Foundation and Grotto Foundation.

NSFWonder Years is funded by the National Science Foundation.
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BACK TO PROJECT HISTORY

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Book Nook
Book Nook
Story time is growing time. Caregivers can build a child's language skill through reading, story telling, singing, and reciting nursery rhymes.

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Brain Connections
Brain Connections
The first five years of life are a time of amazing change. Experiences, especially during infancy and early childhood, influence the ways brain cells connect to one another. This "wiring" of the brain lays the foundation for much future thought.

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Scale Errors
Scale Errors
Toddlers often make simple mistakes as they learn about everyday objects and how they work. They may try to climb inside the small model car, believing it works the same way as the full-sized toy.

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Experience Matters
Experience Matters
In this experiment, visitors try to match identical monkey faces. Adult brains have learned through experiences that this is not a useful skill, so they have lost this ability. Children, however, perform well.

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Infant Goggles
Infant Goggles
See the world through an infant's eyes. These glasses represent scientists' best guess at how well babies see at different stages of development.

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Human Brain
Human Brain
There is a lot going on in the brain. From birth to age five, a child's brain changes at an astounding rate. Experience helps sculpt the brain as it develops.

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Playing in the Kitchen
Playing in the Kitchen
Play is the work of children. It helps them process emotions, learn social skills and values, strengthen language skills, and build trust and confidence.

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Early Language
Early Language
As infants we can distinguish the sounds of every spoken language. But our early language experience—the voices of the people who care for us—quickly tune our brains to recognize just the sounds of our native tongue. Listen for yourself!

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Marble Maze
Marble Maze
Children need positive relationships. Scientists use cooperative activities, like solving this maze, to study parent-child interactions.

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Testing Theory of Mind
Testing Theory of Mind
The ability to see the world through someone else's eyes helps us navigate our social world. Researchers call this "theory of mind." Experiments help caregivers understand a child's development of this important skill.
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