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Tips For Taking Kids To Museums

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Sometimes just the idea of taking kids to anything other than a children’s museum can cause heart palpitations and induce unpleasant thoughts in the mind of an adult. You often begin asking yourself questions like, “Will they break something or touch something that’s not allowed?” Or things like, “Will they be bored, uninterested and hard to handle?” And even, “Will this just be a huge disaster and a big waste of time and money?” The answer to all of these questions should be a resounding “no,” and I’m here to let you know that these “grown-up museums” definitely have something to offer both you and your kids.

This type of exposure to different art forms can expand a child’s awareness of the world and serve to be a wonderful tool for learning. Listed below are just a few tips for taking kids to museums that should ease your anxieties and help you, and your little ones to get out there for some calm and happy exploring.

Do Some Research

Almost every good trip, to anywhere, should begin with a little research and a trip to the museum with your kids is no different. Before you head out, take a few minutes to check out the museum’s website and see what might be going on at the time you are planning to visit, or what things they offer that would be of interest to you and your kids. You might even be surprised to find that many are offering mini tours for toddlers, special children’s programs or even touch-me exhibit opportunities to help inspire interest in young minds.

Planning little activities, ahead of time, like a scavenger hunt list that includes things like a certain object in a famous painting, for example, can also keep the kids having fun! Lots of museums also offer certain days and times when kids can get in free or at a very reduced price. Currently, Bank of America has a program called “Museums on Us” which offers free admission, to over 150 museums around the country to Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit and debit card holders on the first full weekend of every month. Who doesn’t love a free admission?

Tell Them What To Expect

This is a good time to get them excited about the trip and set some ground rules, especially if this will be their first “big” museum visit. Let them know that they will get to see and experience some really cool pieces of art and history, and include specifics like paintings, sculptures or artifacts that you plan to see.

Also, be sure to tell them that although the trip will be fun, there are certain rules that must be followed in order to be invited inside, like no running, no screaming, and no touching (unless it’s suggested to touch) or grabbing. I explain that this won’t keep us from enjoying our visit but will help protect the artwork so that others (including kids like them), can enjoy it for years to come.

Keep It Brief, Baby!

Let’s be realistic for a moment, shall we? Taking kids to a museum can be a wonderful experience… IF you limit your time accordingly and try not to be overly ambitious. I find that it’s best to plan for a visit, especially for first-timers, that will last about two hours, give or take, and include a limited itinerary. It should allow time for potty or snack breaks and enough time to REALLY enjoy the exhibits you’ve decided to see.

Try not to let yourself get caught up in thinking that you have to see E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G because most likely your kids won’t really understand or enjoy all of the rushing around. It’s OK to have a few  “Wow, look at that!” experiences but if you can have a tentative plan of action, a specific exhibit(s) in mind and things (or cool facts) you can discuss with your kids regarding your choices, it will help to keep them engaged.

Relax and Have Fun

I know the idea, and sometimes even the atmosphere, of a museum can seem serious or “stuffy” but it’s OK to relax and have a little fun. My kids and I often laugh about what an artist must of been thinking when they did the work and sometimes even try to think up crazy scenarios. I actually think that this type of silly and light conversation helps the art work to become more “real” and memorable for the kids. It puts a story, whether partly factual or all fictional, behind each piece and helps keep smiles on their faces. It also gives us some good memories and things to talk about long after we’ve left, and that’s a good thing!

If you have any other ideas that you use when visiting a museum with kids, we’d love to hear about those too!

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Belonging to the rare breed known as native Floridian, Mary Ellen is a wife, mother and freelance writer, currently living in Sarasota, on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast….

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