Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part Four—Practical tips and suggestions

MixedUpFilesYes, 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.

  1. Think about your purse or bag. Some museums won’t let you carry a large bag.  A diaper bag or Mom backpack won’t cut it.  Think about how you’ll carry your wallet and keys.  Maybe you want a small purse that’s easy to carry.  Also, bring some quarters for the locker.  Many museums’ lockers are free these days, but not all.  It’s good to be prepared.
  2. Remember that children have short attention spans.  A teacher’s rule of thumb: a child can focus intently for the same number of minutes as his age in years.  Of course, if you can truly engage the child, he will focus for much longer.  Just keep this in mind for those times when you want to linger over an exhibit, but your child is done quickly.  That’s how kids are.
  3. Hydrate!   Bathroom!  These two go hand-in-hand.  When you feel your energy lag at the museum, it’s time to hydrate.  A nice big glass (or bottle) of water will restore you pretty quickly.  Then hit the bathrooms—or plan to go soon—because you don’t want bathroom emergencies.  I recommend you locate the bathrooms when you first enter the museum so you’re ready for a crisis.
  4. Eat something. Hungry kids are cranky kids.  Eat something filling before you go, and find a snack while you’re there.  Musuem cafes often have tasty offerings.  Some cafes are on the expensive side, but they often have reasonably priced offerings for kids.  If the café isn’t in your budget, bring a snack from home.  Good Old Raisins and Peanuts (GORP) is an easy snack to bring.  Add some M&M’s if you’re feeling generous.  That plus water from the water fountain will get you pretty far.
  5. Take breaks.  Many museums have beautiful grounds or a nice patio.  Take breaks every so often and let the kids run around.  Grab a snack from the café or head to the car to enjoy a brown-bag snack.  In a pinch, get kids away from the exhibits and do a few yoga stretches or simple exercises.
  6. When all else fails, play I Spy. A game of I Spy can keep a child going even if she is not particularly interested in the exhibits.  Alternatively, I Spy might help your child focus on the details.  Sit on the bench in the middle of the gallery.  Ahhh…that feels good!  Now, play I Spy.  Challenge your child (or students) to find the green this or that, an unexpected symbol, an artifact, etc.

Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:

Part one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions


 

Juneteenth (June 19th)

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”—Read by Major General Granger to the people of Texas, June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865, the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war was over and the slaves were now free.

I wish this date fell during the school year, because it would be so meaningful for students. Still, we can learn and celebrate today, take the lessons with us back to school.

How can you celebrate Juneteenth? Learn about the history and search for Juneteenth events in your area.

I highly recommend visiting Juneteenth.com, the comprehensive source for all things Juneteenth. You can learn more about Juneteenth at the Smithsonian, in this article that complements a special exhibit.

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jun 17, 2016

 

Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part Three—Learn all you can

NightAtTheMuseum2Yes, 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.

  1. Connect the past to the present.  Ask thought-provoking questions.  How do the activities in the painting/exhibit remind you of modern life?  How do the artifacts, tools, and daily-life objects compare to now?  Compare and contrast.  Think about whether the people in the paintings look like someone you know.  You might see some familiar faces!
  2. Start a collection.  Give your child a purpose in attending the museum: adding to a collection.  The collection could be postcards with pictures or reprints of art, magnets, scrapbook pages, facts, whatever.  Kids love to collect, and they love to learn more about their collections.
  3. Make a museum-movie connection.  Watch movies with fun museum scenes or a connection to the historical location.  Some of my favorites are Night at the Museum and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off features iconic scenes from The Art Institute of Chicago.  Your older kids will love it.  Heist movies are fun, too.  Edgy parents might let their kids think about how a heist might go down at the museum—or how they could prevent one.  Historical fiction movies pair well with historical visits.  For example, watch Felicity – An American Girl Adventure if you’re visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  Parts of the movie were filmed there, and the plot takes place in Williamsburg.
  4. Make a museum-book connection.  Before or after your visit, hit the library, Internet, bookstore, whatever!  Look for books set in museums, like From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or the delightful  Katie’s Picture Showand other picture books about Katie, a girl who can step into paintings. Another idea: read books set in the time of paintings or exhibits you saw.  Your child might develop an interest in a certain location or time period.  Encourage that!
  5. Build a frame of reference.  Many people say, “I know what I like,” but the truth is that we like what we know.  Often kids don’t like museums because they don’t have a clue what they’re seeing.  No clue, no appreciation. Many museum and historical exhibits go over a child’s head unless you build a frame of reference. Here’s a fun, easy technique that educators call K-W-L. (Knows, Wonders or Wants to know, Learned)
      • Find out what your child already knows about the location or topic.  You might be surprised at what your child already knows—or you might uncover misconceptions.
      • Make a list (or just discuss) what your child wonders about the topic.  What does she want to learn?  You can offer some knowledge here, but don’t spill everything, because…
      • After the visit, you will list (or discuss) what your child learned.  Bonus points if you can turn a discussion on what you learned into a discussion about what you now wonder.  After all, learning makes us realize how much there is to know, and how much we don’t know.  Ideally, you can entice your child (or students) to do some research (or just visit the museum website) after the visit.

Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:

Part one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions


 

Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part Two–Structure your visit

NightAtTheMuseumYes, 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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 one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions