Yes, it’s possible to teach preschool and elementary school-age children to enjoy museums. Apply these tips and watch students enjoy art museums, historical museums, historic houses and other historic locations! These tips work well for parents and teachers.
- Bring supplies so kids can draw what they see. (Bonus points if you convince a child to take notes!) Even preschool children will enjoy sitting down right in the middle of a gallery to draw what they see. This technique works especially well at art museums, but also enhances visits to historical museums and locations. Once, at a museum, I chatted with a mom who was calmly enjoying the gallery while her preschool-age children sat silently on the floor and sketched the artwork. She told me that she created a special bag of art supplies—that the kids are ONLY allowed to use at museums. She gave each of her preschool-age children their own box of crayons. (VERY important!) Each child had her own sketchbook. You can create a kit like this for less than five dollars, using basic crayons and a spiral notebook.
- Take a docent-led tour. Docents work long and hard to learn about the collection, and they love to share. Join a docent tour. Most docents will tailor the tour to the guests, so a tour with well-behaved children will feature highlights that appeal to them. Docents give fascinating talks, and you might be pleasantly surprised by how much your child enjoys the experience. Encourage your children to behave, perhaps by arranging to take a break right afterward.
- Take the audio tour. Many museums have audio tours. Some museums provide their own audio equipment; others provide info you can access through your phone. Some museums offer special kids audio tours, curated for kids’ tastes. Imagine your child, silently absorbed in an audio tour. Ahhh, museum bliss!
- Encourage children to read the exhibit descriptions. I’m talking about the plaques and cards many museums use to describe pieces. Older children can read these on their own. Younger children will enjoy highlights. Reading the exhibit descriptors GREATLY enhances the educational value of any exhibit.
- Use the museum’s resources. Many museums have special website sections for kids, coloring pages, kids’ tours, activity rooms, orientation films, kids’ audio tours, and kid-friendly plaques describing exhibits. Take advantage of these resources!
- Don’t miss the gift shop. Museum gift shops have cool merchandise you can’t find elsewhere. They can be pricey, but there are also bargains. Postcards of famous artwork are some of the cheapest souvenirs. Make a big deal out of letting each kid pick 4 or 5 (a dollar’s worth.) They’ll have fun evaluating the choices and deciding on their favorites.
Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:
Part two: structure your visit