* The art of taking kids to museums
If I’m honest, museums with our kids can go 1 of 2 ways: 1) “What a fun and exiting trip to the museum!” OR 2) “What were we thinking bringing 2 babies in there?” Ok, they actually almost always do great on our museum escapades but we have learned a few things that help the endeavor go smoothly. So, I thought I would share my “keep the kids quiet and happy” museum tips with you.
For really large museums like The Louvre, or The Rijksmuseum, etc. there is just no way to see the whole thing when you are counting on the attention span of a 2-year-old. Thus, we have discovered the magic of having a Top 10 List of the things you want to see inside. Take some time and look up what’s there before you go. When you arrive, ask information to show you where all of your “must see” items are located on a museum map and make a game plan to see them. You’ll see plenty of other things as you wander from one destination to the next but you won’t waste precious, well-behaved kid, time in the process. We’ve made the mistake before of thinking that we could meander through a huge museum with little kids. What ends up happening is we get to hour 4, our kids start to shut down, and we have to miss out on some the pieces we wanted to see most. It’s all about priority.
There is usually a pretty strict “no food” policy in museums so I would highly recommend that you eat before you go. My kids are always better behaved when they are not hungry. I know it seems like a little thing but it makes a big difference. You also might want to pack a snack and find the café half way through for a break. Most places allow re-admittance as well, so you can leave entirely and come back later. We have also found an employee once or twice and asked really nicely “would it be ok if our kids ate these fruit snacks in here?” and they are usually really good about it.
I am unashamed to tell you that I often bribe my kids for good behavior. During the last hour of a museum trip, I probably say “If you’re good, we’ll go get a treat after this” at least 10 times. If they can look forward to a little reward, even if it’s just a piece of candy, it helps them hold just a little longer.
Depending on how your kids take naps, it can be good or bad idea to go at nap time. For us, our kids will sleep just about anywhere so we actually prefer to go when they are tired. It’s SO nice when they sleep for 2 hours as we stroller them through spatters of paint or dead men’s houses. But that’s just us. If your kids don’t roll like that, I imagine that nap time might be a rough experience at a museum. In general, places are less crowded in the early morning and as it nears closing time. So, knowing your kids will help you pick the right time of day to go.
Another thing that can make a big difference is to see what the museum offers for children. Talk to the front desk when you get there. A lot of places will have an activity book or an “I spy” type game or something fun to give them. Also, we’ve seen that many museums rent out strollers for free. If you know us at all, then you know that we carry our babies around on our backs pretty much everywhere. So, the stroller is a welcomed break. Even if your kids are a little too old for a stroller on a regular basis (you know, like 30), it still might be fun to take them for a spin and let their legs rest for a bit.
We also try to help the kids experience the museum right along with us. I ask my 2-year-old what colors she can see in the paintings or what shapes she can find. We say things like “can you find the horse in this picture”, etc. Even if they can’t appreciate the brush stokes they will find plenty of things that they can understand and enjoy. For older kids you could let them bring a sketch pad so they can recreate some of the art they see. Maybe have them research a specific piece before you go and have them tell you about it when you find it. There are all sorts or creative ways to help them explore. Feel free to share with us if you have other ideas and suggestions.
There are often some pretty amazing benefits to taking your kids with you. For example, if you look in the background of this last picture you can see the 4 hour line that we got to skip at the entrance of The Louvre just because we had kids. May you find as many perks as we do when we travel with our children!