I’m not sure whose attention span I’m catering to when we go to museums. Kids are my wonderful excuse to keep museum trips short and sweet. It’s not that I don’t love museums, I do. It’s just that the kids and I retain SO much more when we do it in doses. Watch “Night at the Museum” for inspiration. In that movie, they bring exhibits to life by packaging the information into stories. Kids adore stories. Whether it’s about science, art, history, they just need something to keep it interesting. Here are a few strategies for exploring the world’s museums:
Time: Understand that you can’t possibly see everything! Don’t get frustrated. Relax and pick one to two exhibits to see. We plan one hour in any museum. Then, if everything is going well, we stay longer, breaking the time up with snacks or outdoor play to give the kids a mental break.
Preview: By looking online ahead of time, you can pick the one or two exhibits that your kids find most exciting and eliminate the ones that don’t interest them. You can also find daily kids-oriented activities offered by most major museums across the globe as they try creative ways to connect with the younger generation. Some, like the Smithsonian and Natural History Museum in New York, have even developed interactive kid’s section on their web sites. The Smithsonian also has a great article about encouraging learning at museums.
Games: Two fun activities that we use are treasure hunts and quizzes. Kids love to find things and treasure hunts are easy to think up while walking through a museum. Depending on their ages and interests, pick an animal, a color, or something more complex to search for along your way. You can also stop by the gift shop and buy a handful of postcards of the exhibits, then hunt for those.
For the “quizzes,” have fun making up silly and educational questions throughout the visit. Then, the next time you are waiting, at a meal, in a line, etc, go through the questions. This helps increase attention and information retention, but be sure to have a stash of treats like M&M’s or tic-tacs to dispense for the right answer.
Note: For some of the huge museums (British Museum, Louve, Vatican Museum) you can book private tours especially designed for families.