Museum visits with children

How to give kids an awesome museum experience

Taking your kids to visit a museum or art gallery isn't the easiest thing for mums to get around to, but it can be a great and unforgettable experience for little inquisitive minds! New Zealand has an abundance of museums and galleries - some of which are free or have a small entry cost - that are fantastic for kids. You can find great museums and galleries to visit at Kidspot's Things To Do guide to family events.

Here are some trip tips to make the experience fun for everyone.

Museum trip tip one: Warm the kids up to the idea

Get the kids excited about their museum expedition by chatting to them about what they should expect ahead of time. When you're talking to them, think about where you're going and what, specifically, you'll see or do when you get there. Kids will only be as enthusiastic about the experience as you are! Let them know the rewards of a museum experience - discovery, learning, seeing new things.

Also, tell them how long you'll be at the museum before you go in an effort to control whining or tantrums that come on from either staying too long, or leaving the museum too soon.

Museum trip tip two: Have age-appropriate expectations

Discuss proper museum behaviour before you arrive. This will depend slightly on the type of place you're visiting. Some rules always apply like no running and no loud voices. Some experts suggest staying at a museum for just five minutes for every year of the child's age is a good idea for short attention spans. A half an hour is plenty for a five-year-old, but a teenager will probably enjoy at least two hours. For parents of toddlers, it might be worth a quick 15-minute trip straight after nap time.

Museum trip tip three: It's not about you!

Do what kids want to at the museum, not what you want them to learn about. If they're more interested in the lightening streak electricity ball than the history of electricity lecture that's going on in the next room, let them indulge their fascination in the ball. Ultimately, this trip is about them. If they like the museum, they'll be more likely to want to return and will get much more out of the experience. Who knows, they may even sit in on the lecture next time.

Museum trip tip four: Plan for a pain-free visit

Prepare before you go. If you are going to look at paintings of animals, know specifically where they can be found. Look at the museum directory, preferably ahead of time. You can usually do most of this research in advance online before you even leave the house. Keep little ones interested in the museum by deciding on only one or two exhibits to visit each time. You can always come back to see the others and kids will get more out of their visits if they look at each exhibit properly.

Museum trip tip five: Engage them

If you're visiting an art museum, tell kids to pretend they were the artist. Ask them questions like, “What gave you the inspiration for this work of art?”, and then thrust them a piece of paper and a pen and ask them to explain the masterpiece for you.

Museum trip tip six: Encourage more learning

When visiting a science or history museum, remember the name of one item or display that especially caught your child's interest. Follow up your visit to the museum with a trip to the library to check out a book on that subject, or do some online research. Don't forget to show them how much fun all this discovery is. If the kids see you having fun, they'll be much more likely to enjoy themselves.

Museum trip tip seven: Souvenirs

We all know those gift shops are a complete rip-off, but a souvenir of the visit will make the experience seem more tangible and real, long after they have left the museum. If cameras are allowed, let the kids take pictures of one or two of their favourite works. Or bring along some drawing gear so the kids can make their own picture of something they particularly like. Little ones also love picking out a postcard of their favourite exhibit or work of art from the museum gift shop. 

This article was written by Suze English for Kidspot, New Zealand's best parenting resource.

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