I didn’t grow up spending much time in museums but as we’ve traveled more, I’ve realized how much I love them both for myself and for my kids. Seeing most things in real life cannot compare to seeing a picture, especially art! My kids are normally wild and constantly moving “in the wild” so people are sometimes surprised when I say that they can also spend all day in an art museum. I thought I’d write up our tested tips for taking kids to art museums successfully, let me know if I missed anything that you think would be helpful to share!
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Pin this round-up of family art museum tips with this link or collage image:
20+ tips for taking kids to art museums
This is a lot of information! Skim it and see which are new to you and what might help your kiddos best.
Before you go- drum up interest
Now’s the time to prep your kids for what a trip to the museum might look like, how they’ll be expected to behave, and get excited about what they’ll be able to do!
- look up virtual tours of the museum– many museums will have official video tours on their site; also check instagram with the location tag and youtube. This is a great way to see the space, give them a visual idea of how other people are acting, and help them have a mental picture.
- check out some books– there are books that talk generally about a trip to a generic art museum like Anna At The Art Museum . If you’ve already researched a specific piece of art or artist that will be at the museum, search for a book on that artist or even that work of art like The Fantastic Frame series.
- share some of your experiences- If you have some, share about a piece of art that you remember seeing in person and why it impacted you! Also consider asking family or friends the same question.
- play pretend- Once they grasp the general concept of a museum, invite them to create one themselves! Maybe their stuffed animals want to play pretend?
Before you go – prepare for success
Research is key here! I always love researching trips but I think it is especially important if you’re going to a museum and I’ll share why below. Don’t google on your phone as you drive over!
- Investigate what specific kids programming and/or options they have- I am forever excited by all the different angles art museums take to get kids hands-on and engaged! Look on their website or call and ask – many museums have a specific kids area with the opportunity to make art, scavenger hunts, or interactive kits to borrow while you visit.
- Decide if you want to join or hire a tour- Many larger museums have outside tour operators specifically geared at families and kids and most museums have free family tours periodically if you plan ahead.
- Figure out what the food options are– My kids’ moods are extremely influenced by their blood sugar so I always check out if there is a cafe or lunchroom in the museum itself. If not, boot up Yelp and Google to see what other options are nearby so you’re not scrambling to find something with hangry kids in tow!
- Make a flexible plan– sketch out a loose idea of what the trip might look like, making sure to carve out times for snacks and bathroom breaks and being cognizant of naptime if your kids still take one. I definitely want to let kids linger if they’re into a certain area and cut things short if need be but a rough framework makes it easier to plan the rest of the day.
- Find a place to burn gross motor energy before you go inside– Whether it’s a playground, yoga at home, or open grassy area, let kids whoop and run before you ask them to be quiet and walk slowly.
- Check out the museum’s rules– some place don’t allow backpacks, some have strollers to rent, etc. Look up what you can bring and what to expect.
- Identify one “must see” for each person visiting– museums often lay out lists of their most popular pieces so you can start there. You don’t necessarily need to hunt something down for everyone ahead of time but if there are works that someone really wants to experience, write them down so they aren’t missed.
- Look at their calendar– Many museums have ‘free days’ or days that more field trips come. If you want to avoid the crowds, avoid those!
- Buy tickets ahead of time– skip long lines and buy tickets ahead of time if possible.
- Decide on “extras”– Many museums have audio tours, which can be hit or miss but my kids love them even if they’re not “for kids”. All museums have gift shops! Are you going to go in? Letting kids pick a postcard is an easy way to choose a cheap souvenir but lay out the expectations ahead of time.
- Skim reviews- I like to read reviews on Tripadvisor and Google (Facebook has some too but I don’t find them as useful) and skim for any people with kids saying “I wish I’d known” and take heed.
Before you go – pack accordingly
Repeating myself to make sure that the museum doesn’t restrict backpacks before you get everything packed! Depending on how far the parking lot is to the museum and if you have another adult to tag team supervision, consider having some emergency stuff like layers in the car instead of on your person.
- pack a sketchbook– double check the rules to make sure they allow it, but sketching in galleries is usually encouraged and a great way to get kids engaged.
- pack a sensory fidget– if you want to keep kids’ hands busy, make sure they have a bracelet or little toy in their pocket so they can mess with that and keep their hands where they belong!
- bring a kid’s camera– make sure the flash is off but kids will love capturing their own perspective.
- comfy clothes– people usually think of comfy footwear for hiking but lots of walking on hard tile or marble can lead to ouchy feet too, make sure everyone has shoes great for walking.
- snacks– assuming that they’re allowed, pack snacks to keep everyone fed. While you can’t eat near the art, you can usually eat them in a courtyard outside or potentially in their cafeteria depending on the rules.
While you’re there- how to have fun
- remind kids of ground rules before you go in and periodically while inside– phrase them in positive ways i.e. “keep your hands to yourself” instead of “don’t touch anything”. It’s easier to process what TO do than what not to do.
- ask at the front desk if there’s any recommended family itineraries or must-sees for kids- employees often have the inside scoop on what kids like!
- get a map– kids love holding maps and make sure you have one too; check where the bathrooms are in case of emergency!
- play games- I Spy is an obvious one, or hopefully check out scavenger hunts and interactive activities from the museum itself.
- keep in mind what they can see– kids are often much shorter than adults, so kneel down and make sure they aren’t missing anything or join in and see what they’re seeing that you can’t!
- if your kids aren’t asking questions on their own, you can prompt them with some open-ended ones– be sure to answer the questions yourself, too!
- What does this remind you of?
- How do you feel when you look at it?
- What do you feel when you’re looking at this?
- Would you like making something like this? How would you do it?
- Can you mimic how the subject is moving or posing? (Obviously be aware of the space and other patrons and don’t use this prompt if the artwork is going to encourage your kids to be wild unless the space is explicitly okay with that).
- What would you title this work?
- If this piece could talk, what would it say?
- If you could climb into one piece of artwork in this room, which would you choose?
- try to time leaving before things fall apart– don’t get so wrapped up in the art that you miss kids’ warning signs. Leave on a positive note! Also consider taking a break outside or to get lunch and coming back if it seems right.
After the visit
- encourage kids to journal their experience- look back through the photos you and they took, make more art at home, and look up books about their favorite artists now that they’ve seen their work in person!
- leave a review- consider leaving a review on Facebook, Tripadvisor, or Google that shares any information you wish you’d had before visiting with kids. Help other families plan better!