Museums with Kids

Wednesday was Veteran’s Day and the kids had the day off from school. There were several exhibits at our local art museum that I wanted to check out and decided this was the time. In the past, just the idea of taking my kids to any museum, but especially an art museum, would have given me the nervous sweats. But with some handy tips I’ve worked out over the years, it was a breeze! Now I’m the one who gets impatient to keep moving.

Don’t think your kids can cut it at the museum? Try out these 6 tips and see how they do.

Prepare your minds. 

If you know you are going to want to go to an art museum on your next trip, explore before you go. Planning a trip to the Louvre? (We are!) Go to your local library and see what they’ve got on the museum. Most of the large museums are covered. I checked out this book a few weeks ago and the girls and I have been looking through it choosing some favorite pieces. Tracing, journaling, or doing some internet research on the piece/artist, will let your family feel connected to the piece so when they finally see it in person it’s like a wish come true.

Two years ago, my oldest was studying Pointillism at school. She got super excited when her teacher told her that the Georges Seurat piece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte was at the Art Institute of Chicago. She immediately wanted to go there. Although it did take us a year, we made her day when we finally got to see it last November.

georges and nica
Nica thrilled to see the George Seurat.

Prepare your bodies.

We like to get to the museum early. Less crowds. Make sure to fuel up with a good breakfast or lunch before you go. Most museums won’t allow food or drink, so having full bellies is a must.  I like to take the girls to the museum cafe after we are done. It’s a nice reward, a good way to wind down after all the visual stimulation, and sometimes they even have the cafe near some pretty cool art. Here in Portland the cafe is beside some of our favorite pieces in an outdoor sculpture area. You can check the cafe menu online before you go.

driftwood horse
Outside the Portland Art Museum cafe.

Prepare your bag. 

Sketchbooks, pencils, and crayons always come in handy on a trip to a museum. My girls love to plop down near an eye-catching work and sketch their own interpretation.

Quinby with a friend sketching.

A camera is a sure bet to be on your own packing list. Let your kiddos behind the lens to take pictures of artwork to learn about later. If your kids are too young for photography, put them in the shot. When energy levels start winding down, have each child choose a favorite piece in each room then take their picture with it. It keeps them entertained and lets you continue to see stuff as while you work your way out of the museum.

forbidden fruit exhibit
Nice taking pictures at the Forbidden Fruit exhibit in Portland.
Quinby’s favorite piece at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Our most recent visit to the Portland Art Museum.

Prepare your plan.

Do some online research before you go and work out a loose route. Unless you are just a fan of torture, it is highly unlikely than you will see the entire museum in one trip. Picking a few must-see areas will keep you from feeling bereft when your kiddo is done 45 minutes into your visit. Is your kid into martial arts? Maybe there’s an armor exhibit. Princesses? Try the Renaissance period pieces. Skateboarding? Perhaps there is a graphitti exhibit they might appreciate. Knowing the current featured exhibits before you arrive will allow you to find a correlation and give you time to talk it up.

IMG_6449 (1)
Kenny Scharf exhibit at Portland Art Museum.

Most museums are going to have a children’s area or interactive exhibits, but plan to see your must-see piece first. The kid-centric exhibits can be a real time suck on your museum day and perhaps can be a reward for good behavior throughout the museum.

Even better, if there are two or more adults, take turns hanging out with the kids while the other explores the museum on their own. My husband was nice enough to do this for me in Chicago. The girls fell in love with an interactive piece at the Art Institute. Franz let me explore on my own some as he and the girls slowly walked through the hanging strands of this artwork.

theartinstitute ofchicago
Penetrable de Chicago by Jesus Rafael Soto at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Prepare to have fun.  

With the right attitude and a little patience, a trip to an art museum can be a great time. Museum  maps can be a wonderful way for kids with little art interest to have some fun. Give your child a turn at navigating as they lead you from one end of the museum to the other. Marking bathrooms and elevators could be just the distraction you need to get a few minutes with that painting you’ve been dying to see in person.

Look for postcards in the museum store or print pictures before you arrive and have a scavenger hunt. Let your little social butterflies chat with the museum docents. They always know the best exhibits to entertain kids and are full of great information. We never would have known about the Thorne Miniature Room if it weren’t for a helpful docent at the Art Institute of Chicago.


Sometimes your kids just need to get the wiggles out. Check to see if there is an outdoor area. Some museums will have sculpture gardens that might be just the breath of fresh air your family needed.


Finally, go as often as you can. Check for free days and family times, tour groups and special exhibits. The only way your kids will really get good at paying attention and behaving well for hours is practice. Go to local museums, not just art, but also science, halls of fame, music, history, whatever you can find. Spending time as a family, learning, being exposed to culture and new ideas, these are the reasons we travel. Share it with your kids!

Kenny Scharf exhibit.



Rockaway Beach Highlights

Dear fellow travelers,

We’ve lived in Portland, OR for almost 17 years now and although we go to the coast at least once a year, we always find a new gem. This trip was to Rockaway Beach, OR. It is near Tillamook and so small that if you blink you might miss it.

rockaway beach

Ah, adventure. What better way to spend a sunny November morning than on the beach in your new flannel pjs? New pjs because we had to go luggage free for a bit while getting our Sportsrack key sorted out (someone left it in Portland) and the Tillamook Fred Meyers (the biggest and best I’ve ever been to) had some cozy ones in stock.

flannelpjsLater that morning, Nica got to help a baker friend we were staying with bake over 200 cupcakes for a wedding that evening. Maple Bacon and Lemon Blueberry just in case you were wondering. Talk about awesome! The town of Garibaldi has a nice dock area and Franz and I went to get some fresh seafood. We got live crab and then headed to The Spot for some prawns and clams. Live crab and we didn’t have a cooler! I was a little nervous, but felt much better about them once they were cooked.

On Saturday, it was back to normal Oregon Coast. Raining and windy, we kept dry by going to lunch at the Old Oregon Smokehouse. Fancy it isn’t, just a few tables, a register, and a deli counter behind which lies the food prep. But man, it sure tasted good! I had the crab cake and chips meal which came with a dipping sauce and coleslaw. They don’t have a kid’s menu, but will do half orders. Q devoured her cheeseburger and Nica saw the bottom of her styrofoam bowl of clam chowder.

Next was the Tillamook Cheese Factory Tour. They have cheese sample tastings, ice cream, and a gift store, but we dodged all of these. We spent our 20 minutes peering down at all the machines on the factory floor and figuring out each one’s job. Great people watching. We all felt really drawn to one worker and made up a whole drama surrounding her. It’s amazing the attention to detail each one has to have. Educational and fun for all ages.

Just a block from our airbnb on the beach, was a really cool little art studio/shop called Ring of Fire Glassworks. There Nica was able to work with the artist to make an egg-shaped glass paperweight with a flower design inside. John let her do most of the work herself and it was really neat to see what a good listener she is. This was her favorite part of the trip without a doubt. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend this experience.

glass blowing

Next door to Ring of Fire, there was another interesting shop called Oregon’s Du Drops. They have come up with a very romantic way of celebrating life events or a special someone. Chronologically collected Oregon rain water contained in a recycled light bulb and held with a bell and ribbon colored by the birthstone of each month. This would be good for families or couples.

Saturday evening the girls watched movies while we chilled with our friends/housemates. Sunday I think everyone was sad to leave our little Rockaway Beach hideaway. We picked up Nica’s piece and then headed on to the beautiful, though rainy, drive home. Thanks Oregon Coast! See you next time!

glass egg


The Planning Stages


We like to travel. A lot! Planes, trains, and automobiles, we do it all! This year alone we’ve gotten to go on several short trips around our home state of Oregon.

Mt Hood
Ecola State Park
rockaway beach
Rockaway Beach

We’ve also taken longer trips to Lake Chautauqua and Niagara Falls in upstate NY, Cleveland, OH, and Seattle, WA to visit family.

The Chautauqua Institue (oldest summer camp in USA) 
chautauqua more
Lake Chautauqua with Nana
Niagara Falls on the Maid in the Mist
Niagara Falls
Cleveland Rocks!
Seattle Ferry

Mesa Verde and Arches National Park to take advantage of President Obama’s National Parks free for fourth graders event, (If you have a fourth grader check this out!), and San Fransisco to celebrate Quinby’s 7th birthday.

Arches National Park 
Mesa Verde National Park
Quinby in Golden Gate Park in San Fransisco, CA

Now, we are in the planning stages for another trip. Fall of 2016 will see this family Flippin Out in the UK and Europe. We are so excited!

This trip will take crazy amounts of planning because we’ll be traveling for at least three months. I’ve got to figure out luggage, languages, and on-the-road learning, which is where you come in. I know some of you out there have taken the plunge already and I’d love to hear about your experiences traveling as a family, extended travel, European travel, traveling tips, etc. I’m going to compile what I learn from you guys and from my own research and put it all here. It’ll be a mini adventure just getting it all planned before the big adventure begins.

I will of course write about any shorter trips we take before then and continue blogging throughout all our travels so any who want to can keep up. Please subscribe to join us for all our adventures and I’ll keep you posted!