If you have learned anything about me by now, it’s probably that (1) I don’t like to sit at home and (2) I’m obsessed with showing my kids this beautiful planet. And since I haven’t convinced Jimmy to sell our house and all our possessions in order travel the world for a year (I’m working on it!), I still want to be intentional about exposing my children to different parts of this big world, both past, and present.
So when we aren’t off traveling and exploring a new place, we are still trying to be intentional about constantly teaching our kids about…well….everything! Some days it’s studying trees during a hike in the woods; other days we head to a museum for more formal information. Museums are a great way to learn about people and places without traveling far. Their galleries become classrooms to educate and inspire.
There are art museums, science museums, children’s museums, all kinds of history museums, including one of our favorites the Museum of Natural History.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is an AWESOME museum. It’s very hands-on. It has rotating exhibits so there is always something new to investigate and explore. There is also an entire outdoor section complete with a canopy walk and several animals to study up close. It’s great for kids of all ages, my 16-month-old (at the time) twins had plenty to see and do, and my 7-year-old was completely engaged the entire visit. There is also a kid’s discovery center in the basement that is one of our favorite parts of our visit each time.
If it’s your first time heading to a museum here are a few things to consider:
- Visit the museum’s website ahead of time: see what is allowed and not allowed. I’d hate for you to get there and find out you can’t bring in bags (lots of art museums have this rule), or food, or sometimes even a stroller. Better to be prepared ahead of time.
- Go cheap the first time: Lots of museums have specials or “free-days” or discounts days. Pick a day where your costs will be low, so if for some reason it is a disaster, you don’t lose much when you decide to leave. National Museums and several art museums are always free of cost for entry.
- Expand your idea of a museum. Think outdoor sculpture garden, old ship tours, or farm tours.
- Know your limits. Your child might only last an hour or two before they have had enough. Don’t push them to spend the whole day if they’ve reached their capacity. You don’t want their first museum experience to have a negative connotation because you’ve pushed too far past naps and snack time.
People seem to have this notion that museums are a don’t touch-be-quiet kind of place. I think you will find that most museums are going to great lengths to encourage curiosity and engagement from young children.
If you think museums are boring, I’m telling you: you are doing it wrong. You are in charge at a museum. You can spend as much or as little time at each exhibit. Follow what your kids are drawn to. “The best museums and exhibits give you the feeling that, hey, this is interesting but maybe I could do something here, too” (Paul Allen). Engage in your child’s curiosity. Bring up the tough questions. Challenge them to think outside of the box. Inspire them to learn, create, and explore.
All of my kids really enjoy museums, but since we had been to this particular museum before I was a little worried that my oldest wouldn’t find anything new to spark his interest. Silly me. But nonetheless, I had this idea to make a game out of it. Anything is better in game form, am I right? So I created a scavenger hunt to keep him engaged on our trip. I had hand made the hunt that morning, but I took some extra time and saved you a step. You can find the free download for the PDF here: Museum of Natural History Scavenger Hunt.
The morning of our adventure to the museum I gave Cam the scavenger hunt, a blank notebook, and this message:
You don’t have to make extraordinary outings for your kids. My goal is to take common occasions and make them great.
I love how each time we go to a museum, even if we have been there before, it is a new experience. The exhibits and our interactions shape our conversations for the day and can challenge our thought process. It encourages my children to ponder and ask questions. And I’ll be honest, sometimes I don’t know the answers – but it opens up the door for a genuine deep conversation about a number of topics that wouldn’t be brought up without the time spent at the museum.
“It is so important to introduce children to museums because museums open up a world of imagination and exploration. It is even more important to introduce children to museums at a young age because our youth is our future and museums broaden our knowledge of the world.” –Jennifer Peters, Director of Exhibits and Education, Muncie Children’s Museum.
What are some of your favorite museums to visit? I always have a running list of places we need to visit, and I’m always looking for places to add to it.