The joy of museums and children

It was International Museum Day last week and I for one, have taken for granted the amazing opportunities museums can bring. With Children’s Day just passing, it made me think a lot about the kind of quality time we spend with our children. Our young ones and museums… a perfect match. Creating opportunities for learning whilst having fun, most importantly AWAY from screens, is a wonderful way for families to bond.

There’s no shortage of research indicating the benefits of museum visits for children. They can provide memorable learning experiences, stimulate our imagination, introduce unknown worlds and subject matter, and offer unique environments for quality time with family.

Museums, be they art or history, give an experience like nothing else can. It gives us a chance to connect and explore with our children things we don’t talk about normally in day to day life. They help us understand our world and engage in innovative thoughts. A safe space for reflection, experimentation, inspiration, creativity, enjoyment that allows for authentic learning experiences and play. Bringing children to the museum shows that  children and adults can be equally active in learning and builds bonds through shared understanding.

“Museums like the New Britain Museum of American Art strive to make art and programs accessible in hopes of sharing their resources in an enriching and welcoming environment. It is proven that children of all ages regularly exposed to museums are provided with a strong foundation for intellectual growth and development, making museums the perfect place for children to explore, inquire, and see new things.” —Linda Mare, Director of Education, New Britain Museum of American Art

“It is so important to introduce children to museums because museums open up a world of imagination and exploration. It is even more important to introduce children to museums at a young age because our youth is our future and museums broaden our knowledge of the world.” —Jennifer Peters, Director of Exhibits and Education, Muncie Children’s Museum

Here are a few tips for your museum visits with your little ones: 

Make it fun! You are going to a museum because you want to have fun with your kids. This is not a chore, but a chance to be together and learn something new. Get your kids excited about the prospect of going to a museum. Make it something you all look forward to.

Get inspired. If you have an older child, a little research ahead of your museum visit can get you both eagerly anticipating the upcoming experience. There are a ton of great children’s books available, often about the theme of the exhibit, art, or visiting a museum in general.

Be on the lookout for special exhibits. When choosing a museum you should definitely check if they have any special exhibits and workshops for kids. I see now that museums are going out of their way to adopt to their new patrons – parents with kids. There is an increase of events museums and galleries offer to kids and their parents. These are even more fun as well as educational.

Don’t expect to see everything. There is no need to see it all the first time around. Pace yourself. Follow your kids’ lead. If they are getting bored, agitated or restless, it’s time to leave. The goal of the visit is to have fun even if it’s just for half an hour.

Be an early bird. Beat the afternoon crowds and meltdowns by hitting the museum early. You’ll be able to see more and will feel less rushed.  If you children are tiny it’s probably better to go out in the morning and save the afternoon for nap time.  The other benefit of going out in the morning is heading straight for lunch when the hunger sets in – you’ve had your fun, now time to eat.

Respect. The visit is a perfect opportunity for kids to learn that museums and galleries are special places, where certain rules must be followed for all the visitors to have a nice time.

Bring snacks. Snacks can be a cure to all types of kid dilemmas. However, be mindful that food and drinks are typically not permitted in museums and galleries, and this rule applies to children, too. Don’t fret, though, as more and more local artisan coffee shops and world-class restaurants are quickly popping up inside museums for those much-needed breaks to refuel and recharge. Research the options before you get there.

Make it as kid-friendly as possible. When you get there – head over to the  Visitor Services desk to ask if there is a special map, guide, audio tour, or other program designed especially for younger visitors. Lots of museums have kid-friendly spaces that many visitors don’t even know about. You can also get non-traditional and skip the exhibits altogether and explore the museum’s unique outdoor spaces or stunning views for a change in scenery.

When’s the last time you took your family to a museum? What’s your favorite local museum? I’d love to hear all about it! Leave me a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram.