Tips for Bringing Children to Museums
Think museums aren’t made for young kids? Think again.
Visit the websites of even some of the grandest institutions— New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles—and you’ll find that most are to great lengths to gently encourage curiosity and interest from a tender age.
Some museums provide simple things like kid-friendly pamphlets. Others have elaborate programs that include storytelling, family rooms, and art workshops.
So go ahead, take the chance to introduce your child to the wonders of a museum. We have some tips to help:
- Start with children’s museums. Children’s museums are designed for young children. Their exhibits are made for playful discovery and exploration.
- Visit the museum’s website ahead. Nothing derails a visit like the unwelcome surprise of, for example, discovering only after you walk in the door that strollers aren’t allowed.
- Go on the cheap. To keep trial runs from being pricey, look for discounts. Many museums offer once-weekly free or low-price nights. Some, in the interest of encouraging family visits, have generous admission policies that welcome visitors under age 12 for free. Your local library may offer discounted passes to are museums.
- Expand your idea of museum. Don’t limit yourself to the traditional 'indoor gallery' variety. Young children, for example, might be more interested in the textures and colors found at an outdoor sculpture garden. The fringe benefit: you’ll also have fewer worries if they make a little noise.
- Talk to the pros. Docents aren’t there just to relay dates and times. They also have the scoop about which tours are appropriate for children, when you might find a family event, and even precisely which gallery tends to be the most popular among similarly aged children.
- Look for the family rooms. Museum family rooms make great launch pads for creative exploration. Many have media and hands-on exploration tools. Some go all out, providing art activities and even costumes so kids can dress up as famous paintings--a great place to start your visit.
- Start small. There are infinite jokes about tourists flying through the Louvre in an hour. But in real life, there’s no reason to try and do a whole museum in a day. Start by limiting yourself to a single gallery. If it’s a hit, you can always go back and do more.
- Know your limit. Go in the morning, for example, when your child’s rested and energized. Bring snacks and drinks, and leave while it’s still fun (before your child is worn out).