In researching schools for my Master’s degree, I was pleasantly surprised to learn there is a Master’s Degree specifically for children’s programs and education in Museums. This week I visited the Museum of Modern Art ( http://www.moma.org/) in NYC and the Metropolitan Museum (http://www.metmuseum.org/) to take a look at what they have to offer for children.
Museums truly house some of the greatest treasures in the world. Meandering through the halls of the Met (or your local favorite) could be the catalyst for discussions on everything from art to Ancient Egypt. Did you know they actually took a temple from the banks of the Nile and rebuilt it inside the Met?! Spending a little time exploring museums isn’t just educational, it’s an adventure! You may find that some room or exhibit really piques your child’s interest. A trip to the museum may just be the spark that ignites a passion for art, architecture, archeology or some other lifelong passion.
So, how can museums be incorporated into your child’s life? Here are Five Rules to Making Museums Fun:
- Get a read on your child – In my family, there are those like my artist Mom, who could spend a whole trip on one floor or artist and those like my husband who wants to see the “big stuff” and then head out. You know your child best, get a read on their patience level and interest and build your plan. This trip is for your child. There is no rule that says your must see every room and every floor in one trip. Go in and just check out a particular wing. It will keep museums fun and there will always be more to explore.
- Use what the Museum creates: classes and guides – Using the Met and MOMA as examples, I explored the guides and what is available for children. When you arrive at a museum, head straight for the information desk. There are typically free guides, made by experts to make your trip educational and fun. For example the MOMA has a Ford Family Activity Guide – Shapes. There are simple activities related to specific shapes that your children can find in paintings as you move through the museum. The Met offers a Family Guide with tips for kids, things to look for and some fun activities. They also have family audio guides. A quick look at the museums websites will give you a list of classes and group activities for children. The Met has storytime, sketching, films, “how did they do that” classes and more for children from 3 up.
- Let your child be the tour guide – Once you have made a few trips. Your child will have his/her favorites. Make it a play date and let the kids be the guides (with you as the GPS of course.) This is a great way to share excitement, build confidence and a whole new exciting adventure.
- Take coloring materials – If you wander into the sculpture garden at the Met you will see artists of all ages with pens, pencil and pads of paper. They sit at tables and on the floor sketching out sculptures and works of art from all over the world. Bring along some crayons and an art pad and join the fun. Busy parents, this may be a great time to get off your feet and catch up on some reading or periodicals that have piled up.
- It doesn’t have to be a production: Getting to a museum doesn’t have to be a big, official production. Just as you would get ready for the grocery store or the mall…pack up and go. As I mentioned in rule 1, nothing says you have to spend the whole day or see every masterpiece. Baby steps…
Bonus Rule: Make it budget friendly. If you find your children enjoy trips to the museum, it may pay to research family membership. Museums offer discounted or free admission with membership.
Action Step: If this sounds fun and do-able, get it on your calendar. Instead of saying, “we should do that someday” pick a day within the next two months to give it a try. Get it on your calendar and your family calendar. Enjoy!
If you make it to a musuem, please feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.
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