Museums are fantastic places for learning and exploring the world around us. Where else can you find a dinosaur soaring 100 feet and a starry night indoors? Often times, bringing young kids to museums can be daunting. Here are some tips to make your next museum experience a stress-free adventure.
1. Seek Out Museums with Family Friendly Galleries
Many museums offer spaces especially designed for young children. The Discovery Room at the American Museum of Natural History and Family Labs at MOMA provide fun-filled, safe spaces for little one to explore the wonders of the museum. Some museums like the Cooper-Hewitt, Guggenheim, Noguchi Museum, and The Jewish Museum also offer drop-in art programming in the galleries on set days of the week so make sure to check the calendar in advance.
2. Attend a Family Program
Family programs are designed with kids in mind. These programs are offered during the week and on weekends. At the Museum at Eldridge Street, kids become preservation detectives and sleuth their way through history each Sunday. During Arty Facts at the Brooklyn Museum families make all sorts of exciting discoveries.
3. Don’t Try to See the Whole Museum
Avoid the temptation to see it all! Instead, pick one exhibit to explore. Check out what’s on view on museums’ websites to make a selection in advance. Leaving happily after an hour-long museum visit will make everyone want to come for another visit.
4. Plan the Practical
Make sure to research the museum’s stroller policy before your visit. Also find out about the location of entrances with ramps, restrooms equipped with changing tables, and places where snacks can be shared. Print maps in advance so that you know where to go upon arrival.
5. Pack an Activity Bag
Bring a sketchpad and colored pencils. Drawing and writing is a great way to engage with art. Encourage kids to draw that they see, write a story about the artwork or the people pictured. Some museums like the Met and MOMA also have exhibition activity guides online that you can print and bring along for extra fun.
Games like “I Spy” are great to help young kids focus in on a work of art or exhibit. Take turns choosing an object, shape, or color in a gallery and describing it to other family members.
7. Get Curious
Look closely at a chosen work of art. Ask your kids questions such as, “What do you notice?” Deepen the conversation with follow-up questions like, “What do you see in the work that makes you say that?” Encourage kids to use their imagination and describe what it would be like to enter the work. What would you see, smell and hear?
8. Find the Free
Thanks to Target, many museums have a free day. On Sundays, visit the Studio Museum of Harlem, on Tuesday mornings explore Wave Hill, on Thursdays head to The Museum of the Chinese in Americas. Every Friday afternoon at 4pm MOMA is free and on the first Friday of the month you can play at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum and Super Sabado at El Museo del Barrio on the third Saturday are filled with family fun. Although there will be more crowds, you won’t have the pressure to spend the day. Stay as long as your little ones can handle and leave with a clear conscience and some good memories.
By Miriam Bader, Museum Education Specialist