Tips for a Museum Visit with Your Little One

Eliza Clark
June 21, 2016

There are a lot of things that parents of preschoolers don't do as often as they probably once did: going out to the movies, to see a play or a concert, to an elegant restaurant. And that's pretty much unavoidable. (Sigh.) But visiting museums doesn't have to be on that list. With just a minimum of forethought, a museum trip with your little one can make for a splendid, memorable outing.

So we're here to shoo you out the door, and say go! Take that small scribbler of yours to see what some of the master scribblers have made! 

Our best advice for a wonderful time: 

Do a little homework. The fun kind, like rereading Olivia, that museum-going piggy we love so.

For the first few times, if at all possible, make it a one-on-one experience. A little extra attention never hurts. And that way you'll really get to listen to the wacky things your young critic is sure to say.

Plan your visit for an off time. A little person can't appreciate a painting if all he can see is crowds of big people in front of it.

To quote E.M. Forster, "Only connect!" In this case meaning, connect your museum visit to your child's interests. Does your daughter love ballet? Take her to see Degas. Has your child discovered his shadow? Go dance around in Olafur Eliasson's light installations. Obsessed with royalty? Eighteenth-century decorative arts will fascinate. And on and on. The connections are everywhere.

Bring paper and crayons in case irrepressible inspiration strikes right then and there. Or a lovely coloring book from the Color Your Own (Still Life Masterpieces, Renoir Paintings, Abstract Art, etc.) series.

See what you came to see, then wander the galleries for a bit. And see where your little wanderer takes you. But do keep the visit short and sweet.

Speaking of which: stop at the cafe for a little something. And some more coloring.

Get postcards. To remember, discuss later, and to start your child's collection—another motivation for future museum visits.

Run around—before and after.

Now doesn't that sound perfectly lovely? Off you go!

From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    Art museums are harder..but visits to a natural history museum are always kids favorites. They can see real 'stuffed' animals, and see how big the creatures are that they know from their favorite picture books. Museums such as the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, the Field Museum in Chicago, or the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Boston/Cambridge have long been kids' favorites.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    For younger kids a scavenger hunt can make the trip more interesting. Make a list of shapes, animals or objects to find throughout the museum and keep a tally sheet with stickers as you go.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 3

    This is a great list - thanks. Another idea is to print out copies of 5 or so pictures of artwork for a museum treasure hunt and give them to your child beforehand. Then your little one can explore with purpose!

    over a year ago


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