2023 Winter Block Champion
Announcing our first Block Champion of 2023…
Dinora Padilla, Executive Director of Explorium Denton!
Located in Denton, Texas, Dinora has been with the museum for 4 years total and has served as the Executive Director for almost half of that time. With a background in education and child development, Dinora came to the museum with over a decade of work in the non-profit world. With three children of her own, she gladly explains that playing is one of her favorite hobbies and she often spends her days off still at the museum- just with her “mom hat” on instead of her “director hat”!
The childrens museum originally became part of the Imagination Playground Family over 6 years ago (before they even had a building to call home!) when Anyah Brittain, the museum’s founder and former director, secured a grant from the local community to purchase the Big Blue Blocks. Anyah took full advantage of the convenient portability of the Big Blue Blocks and took them to farmers’ markets, shopping malls, and other community events while raising funds for the building the museum now calls home. The philosophy was always simple, “Play and safe play resources should not be a luxury, but the norm. We are fighting for the importance of play.”
Today, Explorium Denton has an exhibit space dedicated to the Blue Blocks where children (and adults alike!) build and create together daily! Dinora explained that the staff use the Blue Block area to help deescalate big feelings or behaviors that some visitors may experience, and they are trained on various prompts and redirection strategies to help work through these feelings using the Blue Blocks. The staff at Explorium also use this building area to help reinforce positive behaviors and take the opportunity to help “build up” their visitors’ self-esteem at the same time! When a young builder is feeling especially accomplished with their Blue Block build, they can request their picture be taken and added to the special “Blue Block Builders” board that is up for all to see! Dinora says “seeing the proud faces the kiddos have once they have built something new and ‘made it’ on the wall is priceless! The Blue Blocks are a catalyst for building a child’s self-esteem!”
Sometimes, their Big Blue Blocks return to their portable beginnings and take a trip into the community for camps, and outreach and recruitment events! Dinora explained to us that the Big Blue Blocks are one of the very few exhibits of theirs that is able to travel, due to weight restrictions, cleaning procedures, and extra expenses. She went on to say “In my experience, the Big Blue Blocks are always my first choice when I go to volunteer or recruitment events! The Blocks are versatile and serve different purposes and are worth all of the smiles and giggles they give.”
For Explorium Denton, some of their visitors’ favorite Big Blue Block builds include forts, robots, and most uniquely- catapults! In the Blue Block area, it is not uncommon to see a toddler and teenage working together, as the Blocks seem to “magically encourage collaboration” according to the enthusiastic Executive Director. Dinora also let us know that she often sees how excited the young visitors get when their adult builds with them, and the Blue Blocks just seem to bring the creativity and child-like curiosity out of most parents.
As we were wrapping up our time with our newest Block Champion, we asked what she would say to someone who was considering investing in the Big Blue Blocks. Dinora told us “In my experience as a mother and as a museum director, there is not much out there that can compare in all categories of durability, open-endedness, and age-range to the Big Blue Blocks. The Blocks invite the whole family to join in and they bring tremendous value to our museum.”
If you are in the Denton, Texas area, or are traveling through, make sure to stop by Explorium Denton to build, play, and chat with our newest Block Champion, Dinora! Until then, remember no matter where you are, to BUILD ON!