Visiting the Museum with your Kids
Taking your child to a local museum is a great way to spend time together. Museums provide children with a variety of fun and educational activities that can extend their learning further. However, museums can seem overwhelming to children and families because of their various offerings. Knowing how to structure your visit can help enhance and improve your family’s experience.
Before Visiting the Museum
- Involve your child in planning your visit. Talk about what you will expect to see at the museum. Discuss why people collect objects and how they get to the museum. Involving your child in the planning will help to get them excited about the visit and to be better engaged.
- Call ahead or check the museum’s website for admission fees, hours, and travel directions. Ask about special needs requests. Find out if the museum has any special exhibits for children and families.
- Relate what your child is learning in school to what they will see during their museum visit. The museum visit can extend and reinforce what your child has already learned on a subject.
- Review the museums rules and guidelines with your children. For example, most art and history museums will not allow people to touch the objects because they are one of a kind. Go over personal safety rules and have a plan in the event you get separated.
During your Visit
- Stop by the Information Desk first. Here you can find the location of exhibitions, bathrooms, exits, elevators and places to sit. Plan ahead in case your children need to take a break. You can also find self-guided tours and museum activities for children here. Guides and activities are often also available in different languages as well.
- Be flexible! Take your time and follow your children’s pace. Be ready to stop and discuss any questions they may have for you. It's ok if you don't have an answer. You can record any questions that you don’t have an answer for in a notebook for further research. The objective is to get your children to ask questions and be engaged.
- Young children (6 and under) usually learn better in blocks of 10-15 minutes and can get overwhelmed from seeing too many things at once. Your visit may only last 30-60 minutes. If your child starts to complain that they are bored or tired, it may be time to take a break or leave the museum. You can plan to visit the remainder of the museum at another time.
- Relate the information from the exhibit to your child's interests. How is what they are seeing at the museum like what their life is at home and school?
- Create a story with your child about an object that interests them. Imagine who made the object and how it was used. Encourage your child to use their imagination.
Source: Greene, Wilma Prudhum. Museums and Learning: A Guide for Family Visits. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education and Smithsonian Office of Education, 1998.