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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!