A Trip To The Museum: How to Create a Success With Your Young Child
by Elizabeth Romanaux
School’s out. The days are long, sometimes hot. You’re a little stir-crazy and so are the kids.
A trip to a museum seems like a good idea (to you) but will it be a good fit for the kids? Will they like it? Will they behave? Will you be able to enjoy yourself too?
The answer is YES, absolutely! when you follow a few tips:
1. Plan around naps and kiddie downtimes. Come early or late, but don’t expect your child to be enthusiastic when they are tired.
2. Visit the museum during low-visitation times—sunny, warm days; the week following major holidays; early morning or later afternoon. Your child shouldn’t have to contend with lots of other visitors. If in doubt, call the Box Office and ask for the best day to visit.
3. Many museums don’t permit eating and drinking in the galleries. Respect this guideline and fuel up before entering.
4. Realize that at many museums, children won’t be able to see everything in one day. It’s better to enjoy some of the sights and come back on another day than turn your child off to ever visiting again. Many places sell money-saving memberships, which are great for multiple visits, or “come back again” discount tickets. Ask at the Box Office.
5. Understand that some things will fixate your child while others will be of no interest. If your child wants to stay in one area and explore, don’t drag him or her away. Disrupting your child’s focus will only discourage their interest. On the flip side, if your child isn’t interested, don’t force spending a lot of time there either.
6. Ask fun, open-ended questions as you go. “How many animals do you see in that artwork? Does that sculpture remind you of anything? If you could chose one thing to take home, what would it be, and why? Where do you think that dinosaur slept at night?” Allow the child to frame answers and give his or her ideas and opinions. Don’t get too hung up on “right or wrong” answers, but let the child learn by thinking and doing.
7. Relate the exhibit to something in your own experience. Share a brief history or story about your first encounter of what they are seeing, keeping what you share age appropriate for the child’s level of understanding. This helps personalize the experience for your child and gives you both an opening for ongoing conversation in the future.
8. Take regular bathroom and water breaks. When it’s time for a snack or meal, begin before the children are too hungry. If they usually eat at noon, make your way to the cafe at 11:30.
9. Expand your child’s interests and experiences by visiting lots of kinds of museums in lots of places. There are wonderful large and small museums everywhere.
10. As you leave the museum, stop in the gift shop and buy a postcard at each place to build a Museum Memory Book. Or when you get back home, start a “Museums” board on Pinterest.com. Or, cut up the museum brochures and make a collage together.
Your museum experience will last for years through the experiences you continue to share long after you’ve left the final exhibit.
Elizabeth Romanaux is the Director of Communications at Liberty Science Center, located at 222 Jersey City Boulevard, Jersey City, NJ. She’s a lifelong science enthusiast, especially geology and natural history. She enjoys kayaking and bike riding too.
Tags: activities, liberty science center, outings