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7 Questions with Member Erica Villanueva

Erica Villanueva and her family have been members of Minnesota Children’s Museum for at least three years. We recently asked Erica some questions about her family, their experiences at the museum and what play means to them. We loved her answers!

1. Can you tell us about your family?
I am from Chicago, Ill., and my husband is from Lima, Peru. We met and got married while attending college in Madison, Wis., before relocating to St. Paul. Since then we’ve been lucky enough to add a boy (5) and girl (2) to our family. When it comes to our parenting style, we TRY to find a balanced approach to most things. My kids may be covered in mud one day and the next be wearing their fancy clothes to school. They live in their swimsuits in the summer and spend hours outside in the winter rolling around in the snow. Raising Minnesotans when you’re not Minnesotan yourself can be odd at times, but we’re doing our best!

2. What made you decide to become a member?
When my son turned two, our family decided that it was time for me to leave the workforce and become a stay at home mom. From the beginning, I’ve always made it my goal to leave the house with my kids every day and Minnesota Children’s Museum has been one of our top places to visit. It made sense for our family to become members because of how often we were coming to play.

3. Have you discovered anything new about your kids when you’ve visited the museum?
I’ve always been surprised how quickly my kids have been able to adapt to the new experiences the museum has to offer.

4. Do you have a favorite memory from the museum?
At a recent visit, we had the opportunity to learn how to sew pillows. After gathering our thread, needle, fabric and stuffing, my son sat down and enthusiastically worked on sewing his pillow by himself. He was so proud of himself when he was done and wanted to sleep with his pillow that night. The next day he was begging for a chance to sew again so I made him a cross-stitch pattern of a dinosaur that he’s been working on ever since.

5. What do you value most about coming here?
What makes the museum one of a kind are the people who work there. Every single person helps to make the experience so unique. The greeters at the entrance are always engaging with the kids while their parents are digging in their wallets for their cards. The volunteers and workers in the exhibits have such vivid imaginations and know how to put a smile on every visitor’s face, kids and adults alike. The people behind the scenes planning and making the exhibits have such a high attention to detail and are always full of fresh ideas. I’ve been to several children’s museums both in the United States and abroad, but the museum that we have here in St. Paul still stands out to me as the best resource for families.

6. What are your kids favorite things to do in the museum?
My son’s favorite exhibit of all time was Thomas the Tank Engine. His tastes have changed since he’s gotten older and recently he has been enjoying the Dinosaur Train: The Traveling Exhibit and The Studio. My daughter just loves to run and get lost but she’s two, so she can’t help herself.

7. What does play mean to you and your family?
Play should be open ended and kid led. When I take my kids out to play our rules have always been: don’t ever leave the play area without a parent and if you can’t see me, then I can’t see you. Having these rules empowers my kids to explore their surroundings while feeling secure that they will be taken care of if something happens. There is one quote that I read at a nature center that helps guide me, “Let it go, trust your child”. It’s a nice reminder that kids instinctively know what they are capable of doing or not.

We’re thrilled that Erica and her family have been part of our museum community for several years and hope they’ll stay members for many more! We can’t wait to see what new experiences their kids will explore next.

Want to share your story? If you’d like to be featured in one of our member profiles, contact Courtney Finn at cfinn@mcm.org.

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