6 tips for surviving a museum visit with kids

Want to make the most of visiting museum with your kids? Alison, from the Museum Travelers and a Swiss Museums Pass ambassador, shares with us her 6 top tips to maximise the fun. 

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A long time ago before I had children, I dreaded encountering kids in museums. I worked at the National Museum of Australia for nine years, mainly on the team that installed and maintained exhibitions. Kids were noisy, full of too much energy, and they usually broke things. The “Out of Order” sign frequently made appearances on the museum interactives that my teammates or I ended up having to fix! 

Looking back, at least the kids were having fun and learning something while visiting. Museums are fun places full of mysteries, new adventures and amazing things to see. Four years later, with young twins of my own, I now appreciate museums as a place for children to enjoy learning about history, science and art, in a fun, safe environment. 

As the cooler months approach, museums become a great place to take kids on a rainy or snowy afternoon. And since most museums have a café as well, parents can even look forward to a little treat at the end of the trip, too. 

Going to the museum with your kids doesn’t have to be stressful, and can be a fun learning experience for your little ones. Below I’ve assembled some tips based on my years of experience for you to get the most out of your museum adventure

1. Dinosaurs verses the Decorative Arts

Although you might want to see the collection of decorative arts from the early 19th century, it’s probably not going to be of much interest your kids. For the sake of everyone, choose a museum that is kid friendly in subject matter and display. Most towns have a natural history museum, which is a great place to take kids. Save the places on your personal must-see list for a date with a friend or a solo visit, where you can relax and truly enjoy the art.

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2. Let’s Split!

If you’re visiting as a family, sometimes it’s a good idea for the parents to split the kids into groups. Mum can take the teens to see art, and Dad might enjoy playing with the interactives with the younger children. 

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3. Interactives are a parents best friend

Interactives are designed for a reason, to to get your kids involved! They provide  a friendly hands-on learning experience. And big kids love a good interactive just as much as the youngest of visitors. Usually museums, especially those with a science or sport focus, have a high number of interactive exhibits, and you’ll find that they’re also a great way to burn up energy. 

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4. The Great Outdoors

Many museums and galleries have outdoor spaces, either featuring a sculpture collection, sprawling gardens (especially if the museum is located in a grand villa) or a park that relates to the museum. Always explore the outdoor spaces first, use up some of that kid energy before heading indoors to explore the museum gallery spaces.

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5. Fun & Games!

Some museums have education and public program teams who, amongst other duties, develop maps or treasure hunts especially for kids. For example, this can include a small character that can be found on the wall, pointing to key objects or works of art. 

You can always create your own treasure hunt by using the free museum map (which usually feature images of key works) or make your own treasure hunt using postcards from the gift store.

Simply purchase several postcards at the beginning of your visit and then hunt for the pieces depicted on the card! (To reinforce what they’ve learned you can then have the kids send those cards off to Grandma to tell her all about what they saw.)

And although a museum visit is a chance to get the kids away from their screens, some museums are now offering in house apps that incorporate Google Street View or the Google Art & Culture app into their mobile guides. So in this case, they can combine their screens with a wonderful interactive experience that the museum offers.

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6. Make the most of what’s on offer

Many museums also offer weekend or Wednesday afternoon workshops for kids or holiday programs during the school breaks. Do your research before you go, as these types of workshops tend to fill up quickly. This is a win-win for everyone: the kids get to hang out with a trained instructor, as well as with other kids, and you can have a break to explore the museum in peace.

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Visiting a museum with kids doesn't need to be painful