Have you ever planned to visit a museum somewhere around the world?
Were you excited at the opportunity to share this experience with your family? Probably you were hoping to see your same excitement, in your kids eyes as well.
Whatever your reasons may be for wanting to share this experience with your kids, let’s be honest, it can be a bit challenging! Specially if not all of your kids are in that perfect age, where a day at the museum might be the most amazing place to visit. Or if they are simply not trilled at the idea of spending hours in a building reading all kinds of information. Luckily not all museum are “boring”!
I have been there! After having plenty of family museum experiences, there are 10 valuable tips that I would like to share with you.
1. Get them excited about it beforehand
Find some information or pictures that tell a little more about the museum. Some also offer virtual tours online. This might spike their curiosity even more. However keep in mind that they might also have the opposite reaction. It can be risky if they know too much and decide they don’t like it. I personally try to get them excited by telling mainly about what I know might fascinate them more about that place.
For example, while visiting New Zealand, I found a flyer about Steampunk HQ (an art collaboration and gallery). The picture attracted my attention and I shared it with them as well. It was very particular and got them extremely curious! In this case the limited information caused more interest!
2. Find out if the museum has a kid’s area and where is it
This option is recommended if you can’t get them excited or they are too young to be interested for more than 5 minutes. Find out if there is a kids area in the museum. This might limit the opportunity to explore it together as a family, since one parent has to stay with the child. However you will have a chance to enjoy it and your child will be happy!
Years ago we were in Seattle and the art museum was free on day we were there. I really wanted to go in, but how long do you think my kids would be interested in looking at a tons of paintings? Not long! After walking around for a few minutes and noticing how big the rooms were, they started running all over the place! Oh my gosh, it was so embarrassing and I honestly thought they were going to knock over some very expensive piece of art! Luckily at one point we found a kids area where they could draw, watch some educational cartoons or simply play. We took turns to safely visit the rest of the museum without breaking any valuable pieces of art!
3. Make sure to bring the stroller if you have a toddler
If you have a toddler with you and they still nap, make sure to have the stroller. When possible try to plan your visit during nap time.
When we went to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, my older kids were interested in seeing everything! Luca, on the other hand, just learned how to walk and was only interested in climbing on everything! Luckily we got there at nap time. I strapped him in his stroller and after walking up and down the same corridor for 20 minutes he was out. I got a chance to see the rest of the museum with Cosimo and Emma. Mind you, the only problem was that it was a Music Museum, so at one point some really loud music played and he was wide awake!
4. Getting their wild energy out before
Some kids get into a museum, see lots of space and think it is fair game to go wild and run everywhere.
How do you get that out of their system? By finding a playground or simply letting them run outside of the museum (if there is the space). Once they start slowing down, you can finally head inside. They will be tired enough that their pace will be much slower and they won’t have any interest in running all over the place. This works most of the time!
5. Feed them before you go and make a bathroom stop before entering
Magically everyone gets hungry while they are walking around the museum. However many places don’t let you bring drinks or food inside. You want to make sure you got that covered! The cafes inside aren’t that cheap and might not even have a great selection of food. It is best to stop somewhere along the way or bring a packed snack to eat while they are running around outside (point 4). I do keep some little snack for the youngest and if he needs it (for sure he will demand food when inside!), I will carefully give it to him when no one is looking.
As for the bathroom, you must go before starting your exploration. We have been in museums, for example the Louvre, where you might loose your way in search of a bathroom. You don’t want to miss part of the exhibit simply because you don’t know how to get back to it!
6. Check if the museum offers some type hunt for kids
When purchasing your tickets, always ask, if they have any activities for kids. For example in my post Visiting a mini world, the kids had to do a little fairy search. They each got a flyer with images of five missing fairies, whom were placed in different mini houses all over the museum. Their job was to find them. This spiked their interest and they focused more on what they were seeing. To this day they still talk about that museum and how cool all the miniature houses were. They still what they saw and not only the fairy search they did!
If the museum doesn’t offer any activity, maybe you can come up with a creative one yourself. For example, if it is an art museum, you could ask them to find every painting that has kids or animals in them. In some cases you might want to offer a reward, it does make them work for it even more. However if they take it as a game, they might simply be willing to compete between them. This will give them the opportunity to go through the whole museum and while doing their little treasure hunt, possibly get more interested.
7. Be realistic
Sometimes there may be museum that just aren’t a good idea to visit as a family. Instead of spending lots of money to get everyone in and waste the whole time yelling at your kids and making everyone miserable, don’t give up on your dream just change it!
It might be better to simply go to a park. After all you are traveling all together, so you don’t want to waste your time being mad. But if it is something you really want to see, but not the rest of the family, find a comprise. They stay and play and you go visit the museum on your own. There is nothing wrong if you go your separate ways for a few hours. If both you and your husband though want to see it, then you have to work around other options.
8. It is ok if you have to speed through it
Sometimes we think that because we spent the money we have to see every corner of the museum. However when you have kids with you, this might be challenging.
Make sure you see what you came for first. If you notice that the kids are getting bored, learn to do the “speed exploration”, which means seeing things at a faster pace. I’m sure we have all been there, at least once in our life with kids! Realize and accept when it is time to go!
9. Find unconventional museum, they might spark your kids interest even more
Museums can be of many different types. Many might seem boring for younger kids, for example art museums or historical ones, specially if not very interactive. Others can truly surprise you and be fun, educational and interactive both for kids as well as adults. Learn to get out of your comfort zone and try something different, it might fascinate both you and your kids!
10. Consider audio tours
Many museums offer audio tours. I never thought of getting one, until we visited a museum in Iceland where it was part of the experience. Luca was luckily napping, so Cosimo and Emma really enjoyed it. The information was well explained and in a easy and engaging way. The kids went through the whole museum without ever loosing interest!
I hope these tips will be helpful when you are planning your next museum experience with your kids. I feel that experience is the best way of learning and without any doubt my museum ventures have taught me a lot on how to manage to do them with 3 kids. This doesn’t mean that I’m an expert now or that my kids are perfect during these visits but without any doubt they are a much more manageable!