Tips For Visiting a Museum With Kids

One of the greatest experiences in life is witnessing a child’s excitement about the world. And museums hold some of the world’s greatest treasures, offering countless opportunities to ignite that wonder. Exploring museums with children can be enriching and educational experiences for the whole family. But, they can also be stressful and challenging to plan. In this post, you will find lots of valuable tips for visiting a museum with kids to keep it fun, engaging, educational, and low stress.

I am a travel education specialist and have over three decades of experience as an educator, spanning roles as a public school teacher, director of a private school, and as a homeschool parent, teacher, and program founder. I am also the founder of Trip Scholars and have a deep passion for learning through travel. 

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Museum visits can be highlights of many trips, even more so when they are shared as a family. I’ve visited many museums with kids of all ages and want to offer my best tips to help you craft a visit that is not only stress-free and enjoyable but also profoundly meaningful. I’ve also done the research so that I can share practical tips for visiting a museum with kids that are applicable before, during, and after your excursion.

These tips are meant to make your trip easier and more impactful, but don’t feel like you need to include all of these tips. Find the ones that work for your family and plan your visit. The most important thing is just to go visit a museum and enjoy yourselves!

This post is specific to families. Check out the article Museum Tips: How To Make the Most of Visiting a Museum for lots of ideas for saving money, skipping the line, deciding on tours, and much more.

Before You Go: Tips for Visiting a Museum With Kids

Choose Your Museum

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Keep in mind your child’s interests and your own hopes for the visit. Many large cities have children’s museums that are specifically created for kids. These can be a great place to start because children are free to interact with the exhibits and their enthusiasm is welcome. 

After these initial visits, look for museums that match up well with what your child is interested in. Whether it is science, nature, history, music, pinball machines, or spies– there is an amazing array of museums to choose from! Starting with museums that will naturally engage your child sets the tone for museums being treasured and important outings in your family.

Once your family has a culture of museums being joyful and interesting excursions, you can branch out to other types of museums that might stretch family members a little more. 

Of course, if you still have a babe in arms, you can enjoy museum visits as you have in the past, just maybe a little shorter!

Visit the Website

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Before heading to the museum, take some time to plan your visit. Identify a few age-appropriate sections for your children and consider creating an itinerary. This not only helps in managing time but also ensures that the visit aligns with your kids’ interests.

You will also alleviate stress by planning in advance  things like parking, public transportation options, food options, ticket costs and discounts, and avoiding crowds and lines.

Build Interest and Excitement

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One of the best tips for visiting a museum with kids is to get them on board with the museum visit by nurturing their curiosity and excitement before you even arrive.

Many museums have a section of their website for educators and parents. You will likely find activities you can do at home and at the museum. Even if you don’t want to do these activities, you will get some great ideas about questions to ask your kids (and yourself!) to enhance the experience. 

Use books, movies, games, timelines, art projects, and more to help them learn about some of the exhibits. As their interest grows, ask them what they want to see in person and, for older kids, let them help with some of the planning. Trip Scholars is dedicated to helping travelers find these resources and you will find many ideas for families throughout the site.

We also have a free guide for parents offering step-by-step suggestions for making this as enjoyable and engaging as possible. You can get your free copy here.

Set the Stage

Discuss the visit with your children before you arrive and set realistic expectations. Explain the importance of following the guidelines of the museum. For example, if they are not allowed to touch exhibits, tell them you will also visit the kid’s section where they have lots of items to play with. Or ,let them know that you are excited to talk with them about what you see, but that you will all need to talk quietly while in the building. 

Pack Essentials

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For the most stress free visit, make sure everyone is well rested and well fed before you arrive. As busy parents, we’ve all been there! Especially when we are traveling and are trying to pack a lot into a short time. But, and I speak from experience, it is much better to shorten the museum trip than to try and get tired or hungry kids to have a peaceful visit. 

To minimize these challenges, grab snacks in the car or take advantage of the museum’s cafe. Let younger kids nap in their sling or stroller while visiting.

Arrive Well Rested and Fed

Improve your visit by packing essentials such as water and snacks. Some museums offer a place for visitors to enjoy their own food from home, which can save a lot of money.  Also pack any necessary items for young children like diapers or a change of clothes. Ensure you have a comfortable stroller if needed, just double check the size stroller that is allowed. 

While You Are There: Tips for Visiting a Museum With Kids

Enjoy Your Visit

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While you are visiting the museum, enjoy the wonder and curiosity of your child. If you have done some planning in advance, head to those areas of the museum. Otherwise, let your child lead for a while and see what interests them.

If they are disinterested, there are a number of things to try. First consider finding interactive areas of the museum where children can move their bodies to touch and experience the exhibits with multiple senses. Consider some of the questions below, allowing them to naturally lead to further questions or areas at the museum to visit. You can also try one or more of the activities shared below. 

Ask Questions

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Encourage curiosity by asking open-ended questions about the exhibits. This not only enhances your child’s critical thinking skills, creativity, and empathy but also fosters a deeper connection between you. 

For  young children you can ask questions like what do you see and can you find something red? As children get older, consider some of the open ended questions below. Keep it relaxed, there is no right answer. Enjoy the thoughtful conversation and connections that it brings.

Questions for Museums with Kids

  1. How does this piece make you feel?
  2. What does it remind you of?
  3. What do you think the artist was feeling or thinking when they made the piece?
  4. If you were a character in this painting/exhibit, what would your story be?
  5. What caught your attention the most in this exhibit?
  6. How do you think this was used in the past?
  7. What do you imagine life was like during the time period depicted in this display? 
  8. How do you think (a particular scientific phenomenon) works based on what we’ve seen here?
  9. Can you help me better understand this?
  10. What questions do you have about (a specific topic) now that we’ve seen this?
  11. How does this exhibit relate to what we’ve been talking about in school or at home?
  12. What has been your favorite so far?
  13. Why do you think this is important for people to see and learn from?

Museum Activities with Kids

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To ensure your visit is not just educational but also full of fun, we’ve curated a list of playful activities to captivate your little ones throughout the museum journey.

Many museums will have a section of the website dedicated to educators and parents. You will likely find some engaging activities on this page. When you arrive at the museum, you can also ask at the front desk about activities. Some will have a booklet or game for kids, often with different versions for different ages. 

Here are some other options.

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1. Museum Scavenger Hunt

Transform the museum visit into a quest by creating a scavenger hunt. Before arriving, prepare a list of items or features to find within the exhibits. It could be as simple as spotting specific colors, shapes, or themes. Provide each child with their scavenger hunt list and watch as their curiosity grows with each discovery.

2. Sketching

Encourage your budding artists to bring along a sketchpad and pencils. Set aside time in various rooms for them to sketch what captures their imagination. This can be a valuable activity to continue at home.

3. Nature Journaling

If your budding naturalist is already using a nature journal, natural history museums and gardens can be a wonderful place to continue the practice. If you are interested in getting started here is a great article.

4. Storytelling 

Engage your children’s creativity by encouraging them to craft stories inspired by the exhibits. What tales might unfold behind ancient artifacts or paintings? This activity not only stimulates imagination but also deepens their connection to the historical or artistic elements on display.

5. Museum Bingo

Create a customized Bingo card featuring sites commonly found in the museum, such as a specific artifact, a type of artwork, or a particular theme. As you explore, children can mark off items on their cards. 

6. Photography

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Bring along a camera or use your smartphone to capture memorable moments throughout the museum. Encourage your children to take photos of their favorite exhibits or interesting artifacts. Back home, they can share their photos and stories with an online photo album, a slide show to share with the family, or through their favorite creative endeavor.

10. Expressive Movement

Depending on the museum, consider encouraging expressive movement. Encourage them to mimic the poses of statues or imitate the motions suggested by artworks. This not only releases pent-up energy but also fosters a kinesthetic connection to the exhibits. You might want to check with a docent first– we were once told to stop!

Making Memories in Museums

By combining education with entertainment, you’ll not only spark curiosity but also create lasting memories for your children. 

Beware of Sensory Overload

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Museums, especially children’s museums, can be overstimulating for many kids and grownups. If this is a concern, check the museum’s website to see if they offer low stimulation times where extraneous sounds are removed, lighting is dimmed, and crowds are kept to a minimum. Some even offer headphones, earplugs, and other helpful items.

If that isn’t an option, plan your visit to avoid peak times so there are fewer people. Often this will be mid-week and outside of holiday seasons. Keep in mind that many school groups take field trips to museums and bring large crowds. By arriving in the early afternoon on a school day, you will likely get there just as those groups are leaving. School field trips are often much more frequent at the end of the school year rather than the beginning, so fall is better than late spring.

Take Breaks 

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Recognize the attention span of your children and plan breaks. Many museums have outdoor spaces or designated rest areas. Some cafes are especially child friendly. Use this time to review what you’ve seen, have a snack, and let the kids stretch their legs.

Another option for breaks are presentations, films, planetarium shows, and other events where you can all sit down for a while. Check the schedule when you arrive. 

When you notice energy flagging or stress building, it’s likely time to leave and save the rest for next time.

After Your Visit: Tips for Visiting a Museum with Kids

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Extend Curiosity at Home

Once you’ve left the museum, take some time to reflect on the visit with your children. Discuss their favorite exhibits, what they learned, and answer any questions they may have. 

Continue the learning experience at home by exploring more about the topics covered in the museum. This is a primary focus at Trip Scholars and you can find many engaging ideas in my free guide: the Busy Parent’s 5 Step Guide to More Meaningful Trips. Although it is intended for extended trips, most of the advice is great for visiting individual sites and museums too!  Another great place for ideas is this post. Finally, I serve families as a certified travel education coach and love supporting parents in finding ways to kindle their children’s curiosity. You can learn more here.

Camps, Classes, Overnights, Memberships, and Volunteering

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Most museums offer camps, classes, and memberships. If the trip was exceptionally inspiring, consider deepening your relationship with the museum if you live nearby. 

Camps and classes are often highly engaging for motivated kids. The costs can be high, so always consider applying for scholarships if they are prohibitive. 

Many museums also offer memberships so you can revisit multiple times in a year, letting your kids dive deep into exhibits and spend a long time with what is most interesting to them. Membership often includes special events such as previews of new exhibits, guest lectures, and sleepovers. These events help kids genuinely treasure the museum and can create lifelong memories for families. 

Finally, if your older child is exceptionally interested and you live nearby, consider becoming a volunteer. Some museums will have an established program available for teens and some may require the parent to be the main volunteer with the child assisting. This is a much bigger undertaking, but can be transformative in a child’s life.

Visiting a Museum With Kids

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Looking for more tips about visiting museums like how to save money, skip the line, decide on tours, and much more? Check out the article Museum Tips: How To Make the Most of Visiting a Museum.

By following these tips about visiting a museum with kids, you can turn a visit to the museum into a memorable and educational adventure for your family. The key is to plan ahead, engage actively during the visit, and reflect on the experience afterward. With the right approach, a trip to the museum can be a transformative and enjoyable experience for both parents and kids alike.

What are your favorite things about visiting a museum with children? What have been your challenges? Let us know in the comments, I’d love to hear and help you find solutions if you have questions!

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