Exploring museums is part of travel and kids are a great excuse to keep museum visits short and sweet. We all appreciate what we are seeing much more when our museum excursions are in small doses.
We watch the Night at the Museum for inspiration. In the movie, the exhibits are bought to life through stories. My kids love this! It doesn’t matter if the museum is about science, art, or history—the key to engage kids is to keep the information interesting and tailored for them.
Here are a few of our museum strategies:
One hour plan. Instead of worrying about what we see and don’t see, we plan on spending an hour in any museum and pick just one or two exhibits to see. At that point, if all is going well we stay longer. We always break the visit up with snacks and outdoor time too.
Spend time online. We look at the museum online ahead of time and together pick the exhibits that are the most interesting. You can also find daily kids-oriented activities at many museums given that they want to find creative ways to engage younger generations. The Museum of Natural History  in New York and the Smithsonian  in Washington DC have interactive kids’ sections on their web sites.
Create games. We use treasure hunts and quizzes as a way to make visits more fun. Kids love to find things and treasure hunts are an easy way motivate kids explore the museum. Based on their age and interest, pick and animal, color, or artist to find along the way. We also use postcards from the museums to identify exhibits and then hunt for them.
For quizzes, have fun making up silly and educational questions throughout the visit. Then, the next time you have some downtime, go through the list of questions. This increases attention and information retention. We also have treats on hand for the right answer.
Tours. Private or group tours can be an excellent way to engage kids in large and/or sophisticated museums. More and more tour companies these days are family-oriented and customize their content for kids of all ages.
There are many great blog posts on the web written by parents that have experienced a variety of museums with their kids. This is a great way to get relevant perspective on what kids enjoy. We have a few great articles like this published on Ciao Bambino including Visiting the Natural History Museum in NYC with Toddlers , Free Family-Friendly Museums in London , and Seven Great Museums to Explore with Kids in New York City .
By Nancy Solomon of Ciao Bambino!