How to make a visit to the museum with children a pleasant experience

by: Lydie Thomas

Summer is here and an air-conditioned museum is much more appealing than a hot playground for many adults. However, parents often steer clear of all museums except for the most kid-friendly because they are afraid their child will be bored and act up.  Here are few simple tips for getting and keeping your child engaged on a trip to a museum.

Tip 1: Study Up a Little Ahead of Time
Take the kids to the museum’s website ahead of time and map out what they’d like to see. Then do a little research ahead of time so they’re not going into the exhibit totally blindly, but rather know what to expect and can appreciate it better. That way, you’re concentrating more on what THEY like, too.

Tip 2: Arrive Well Rested and Well Fed
Don’t expect a child to be interested museum exhibits when they are tired or hungry; stick to their normal schedule as much as possible.

Tip 3: Ask For Tours or Fun Packs for Kids
Check with the museum to see if they have special programming or “fun packs” such as IPod tours, scavenger hunts, hands-on activities, etc. to help kids engage with the museum at their level.  The Indiana State Museum has a Passport, which kids can get stamped in various places in the museum.  They also have a Hoosier Heritage Trail that allows you to obtain additional information if you want to.

Tip 4: Help Kids Focus On One Exhibit at a Time
Children often rush through exhibits, anxious to see everything in the museum.  The best help you can give is to focus their attention on one exhibit at a time, get them to examine, experiment and ask questions. Your enthusiasm and interest give children permission to explore everything the museum has to offer!

Tip 5: Ask Questions That Help Kids Relate To the Exhibits
Ask them questions, such as “What do you think they used that for?” or “can you imagine Grandma doing that?” to make it more personal to them. Or encourage them to be more of an art critic by asking them “Which piece of art in this room do you like best? Which do you think is the funniest? Which would you like to take home?” Asking them with a French accent always adds to the  fun. ;)
For the preschool crowd, try pointing out and naming colors, shapes, or even just counting the number of something you see.

Tip 6: Take A Back Seat And Let the Kids Teach You
You do not need to know the answer to every question your children ask!  A children’s museum is a great place to let kids take the lead and show you how things work.

Tip 7: Make it Fun with a Savenger Hunt
Try a postcard scavenger hunt. Visit the Museum’s gift shop and pick up a few postcards of objects in the museum for each kid. Then see which of those objects your kids can find during your visit.

Tip 8: Make it Fun with a Game of I-Spy
Play I-Spy: One person says an I-Spy statement, such as  “I-Spy something green” or “I –Spy something that swims in the water,” and the other has to find an object that fits their statement. Take turns being the speaker and the finder.

Tip 9: Keep You Visit Short
Don’t overdo it. Typically, an hour to an hour-and-a-half is a good visit length for children. If you live near the museum, consider a family membership to allow you to come back and explore as often as you like.

Tip 10: Follow up at Home
Plan some related follow-up activities at home, like art projects, nature walks, or science experiments. A photo journal or scrapbook of the day is always fun to put together as well and remember their day.


Ready to Head Out?  Here are some fantastic Museum Exhibits Around the US Kids Will Enjoy (2009)


Museum Exhibits Around San Francisco Bay Area Kids Will Like (2009)

Egyptian Exhibits Around the US (2009)


Indiana State Museum,IN
Children's Museum of New Hampshire, NH
Culture & Heritage Museums in York County
, SC
Denver Art Museum's Education Department, CO 

Lydie Thomas is a Travel Whisperer and mother of two little avid travelers. She is sharing her tips and tricks on visiting the San Francisco Bay Area with children. She also loves to share her French culture and tips on vacationing in France with little ones. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on twitter @lydiethomas.

updated: July 09 2009 by Lydie

at 10/06/2009 12:00AM cavalletta wrote:
What a helpful article...thanks for posting :-)
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