Updated: Jan 16
I LOVE museums (Art History major over here!), and have made it a point to bring my kids to museums on a pretty regular basis over the years. Some kids are naturally going to enjoy museums more than others (my daughter literally said that 'museums are her favorite' recently. Cue my heart melting!), while my son struggles a bit more with the constraints of visiting museums.
I think the reason my daughter loves museums, and that my more active son tolerates them, is that I have found some ways to make them FUN for the kids, so that I can get some expos in with minimal complaining, and hopefully help develop a lifelong love of visiting cultural institutions.
Always try to choose museums that are a bit more on the kid-friendly side when possible - that might mean going to a smaller collection like the Orangerie versus the Louvre. If you do tackle a large collection, consider getting a kid-friendly guide to make the visit less stressful and more educational while being fun! Some museums will have a fun hands' on activity, or some documentation for kids (always ask - they are often not offered up. Even if it is in a foreign language, kids will still enjoy having their own brochure!). Also - I personally LOVE seeking out the free collections, like the Petit Palais in Paris. That way, there is no pressure to stay a long time to get your money's worth, and you won't be upset if you only spend 30 minutes there:)
I hope these little activities and tips will come in handy for you too!
1.Come prepared! I always make sure that I come armed with a little sketchbook and colored pencils (be careful not to bring markers or pens - many museums won’t let kids use them around the artwork!). I find most kids love sketching their favorite works, or if your child does not like drawing, taking notes might be their jam!
2. Play this game : each person chooses something in the room - a sculpture or something they see in a painting - and then trace it on someone else’s back. The person then has to guess what object is being drawn. My kids love this game, and it easily buys us more time in an exposition.
3.Let kids take photos of their favorite artworks! Turns out that kids are like us adults - they also love documenting what they see. You could either lend them your phone, let them use a kids’ camera like this, or bring an old phone along with you just for photos:)
4.Play the living sculpture game - kids get to mimic the poses of various people in paintings or sculptures.
5. Lastly, always pair an indoors, quiet activity like museums with something outdoors and active! For instance, the Orangerie museum in Paris pairs perfectly with a post-museum romp around the Tuileries Gardens. There is a playground and snacks, plus plenty of space to be loud and get the pent up energy out.
Always make sure you manage expectations - I try have the mindset that if we get a good 45 minutes in - GREAT! Anything above that is a bonus.
Setting yourself up for museum success requires slightly more forethought and energy at the museum, but it is so worth it - both for you and your kids!
Please share if you have any other tips, or if any of these have worked for you. I'd love to hear!