Yes, it’s possible to teach preschool and elementary school-age children to enjoy museums. Apply these tips and watch kids enjoy art museums, historical museums, historic houses and other historic locations! These tips work well for parents and teachers.
- Go when it’s free. Many museums have free times. Some museums are always free, like the Smithsonian, but others are free for the last hour of the day, or Wednesdays after 3:00 pm, or something. Also, power companies and major corporations often sponsor free days. Another option: talk to your school and the local library. They sometimes have free tickets and passes to local attractions.
- Plan your visit. Begin the planning at home by using the website or at the museum by visiting the information booth. Ask staff at the information booth for advice on kid-friendly exhibits. Staff members love to see kids enjoy museums, and they will be happy to help. Study the museum map and make decisions. While you’re at it, teach some map-reading skills. Kids only mildly interested in the actual museum might be very interested in planning your visit and reading the map. The map and orientation materials might pique your child’s interest in the exhibits—that’s what those materials are designed to do.
- Dress for the occasion. I recommend nice clothes and comfortable shoes. When you and your kids dress for the museum, you convey that the visit is a special occasion. Well-dressed kids tend to be well-behaved kids—children really will step it up if they’re all decked out. Kids who love to dress up will be thrilled to have a chance to wear their favorite duds. Seriously, though, stick to comfortable shoes. They’re essential!
- Talk to your child’s teacher. You might score some extra credit, a fun project to do during or after the museum visit—who knows? The teacher might ask your child to tell the class about the visit afterwards, just to raise the museum’s profile and entice other students to learn more. Your child’s teacher might want to arrange a field trip and will ask for your opinion of the museum. A side benefit: your child’s teacher will know that you do cultural activities with your family. Can’t hurt.
- Reward and bribe. Whatever works! Set standards and goals for good behavior, and reward your child for reaching them. This doesn’t have to be a setup wherein your child associates museum visits with drudgery. Set a goal to learn ten things, draw ten things (nicely), take notes, teach someone about what you learned, help a siblings behave and learn—whatever you value. The reward could be a snack, a souvenir, you name it.
Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:
Part one: lay the groundwork