Museum-going is a family hobby for us here at the House of David. But how did we get the kids involved, and how do we keep them interested?
First, I have to say, we have good kids. Probably Felicia deserves all the credit there. They’re naturally curious and have a broad range of interests. I think being dragged to museums from a very young age probably had something to do with it.
When they were babies, it didn’t matter where we went. The goal was usually to get out of the house. While you have to lug a lot of stuff along with you, babies are incredibly portable. They’ll occasionally get loud and it can echo in a large gallery (Marcus has tested the acoustics in more than one building), but if you plan ahead, you should be fine with a stroller or carrier (check the museum’s policy on strollers first, many don’t allow them) and one heavily stocked diaper bag.
As they get a little older and can toddle around, adjust your excursions accordingly. Let them run around outside beforehand to burn off some energy, and plan to do it again immediately upon leaving—BEFORE you get in the car or board that train. And bring food. Trust me on that one, especially if you have a ways to go or if you think you’ll hit traffic. Give them firm expectations for their behavior. Be prepared to leave or have consequences if those expectations aren’t met. My biggest piece of advice, though, is to know your audience. If your kid is a definitely a toucher, don’t go places where there are priceless antiques with just a rope—or even worse, nothing—around them. Take them to a children’s museum where it is OK to touch stuff. If they’re into space, or dinosaurs, or whatever, I promise there’s a museum for that. If they aren’t into anything you can work with, go to the library and ask a librarian for a popular kid’s book that you CAN work with. Although, in my experience, no kid can resist dinosaurs or space. Or bugs. Yuck.
Once they’re past the “stop touching everything!” phase, you can start to go back to the nice places. But it’s still important to include their interests when thinking of somewhere to go. Ask them. I’ve been to fashion exhibits, television museums, and seen more sports memorabilia than I care to remember. But the KIDS look forward to going, and that’s really the cool thing. They get excited. Now they do the research themselves to look for new places to go, which I really love. We take turns choosing, so everyone feels like they have a say. If you can’t do that, I highly recommend taking a vote. Anything you can do to make them feel like they’re part of the decision making process, and that their opinion matters, will go a long way. And if you can make it a competition, that helps, too. We’ve played games where we split into two teams and try to find the most interesting, or boring, or silly, item in a museum and then see what each has come up with. Winner gets to pick where we go for dinner.
Make it fun, and it can be a hobby for years to come.