Tips for Taking Your Children to the Museum Without The Stress

 

If your pre-baby dreams of parenthood included leisurely strolls through museums, sharing the wonders of the world with your child, and watching his impressionable young mind eagerly soak in knowledge, you may have been sorely disappointed the first time you attempted to take your child to a museum. Or, you may not have even tried it yet, out of fear of the potential chaos and mayhem that could ensue.  

Relax. For the vast majority of kids, a museum visit is not only entirely possible, but can actually be an enjoyable experience for all parties involved. Like anything else with kids, it just takes preparation and more than a little bit of patience.

Preparation is Key

The first thing you must do is prepare your child for the museum trip. Begin doing this in a positive manner; don’t jump straight into a lengthy recitation of rules. Getting your child excited about the trip first is absolutely crucial to the success of your mission. A child who is eagerly anticipating an event is a cooperative child. ¬†Pick a museum that has some exhibits that tie into his specific interests, such as transportation or dinosaurs, and tell him about all of the interesting things he will see ahead of time. Rick Steves has some great travel guides where you can give a little background on a particular painting which makes it even more exciting when you finally see the work in person.

After your child is excited about the trip and eager to go, remind him that there are certain rules in a museum. Stick to the obvious ones, like no running and keeping his voice low, and remember that you can always throw out quick reminders of smaller rules along the museum tour. A child should always have these rules in mind, yet not feel so overwhelmed by them that the whole experience sounds like a depressing nightmare. You want him to look forward to the trip, not dread it.

The most important part of preparing your child for a museum visit is giving him a schedule, so that he knows what to expect. Remind him that there will be some exhibits that are more interesting than others, and that if the trip goes smoothly you will surely have time to get to everything he wants to see.

Timing is Everything

Another very important aspect of planning is to choose a time that will work best for your child. Many children are overwhelmed by large crowds, so visiting the museum on a weekday, if possible, might be helpful. If you have a very young child who still needs an afternoon nap, obviously you will not want to schedule your museum visit during this time, and you will want to be out of the museum before the usual time he begins to feel cranky.

Another important thing to remember about timing is to restrict your visit to an appropriate time length, considering your child’s age. A three-year-old simply will not be able to tolerate a museum tour that lasts five hours, no matter how well you may plan the trip. Be reasonable in your expectations, so that the trip can end on a positive note and your child will be excited to visit another museum again in the future.

Utilize Technology

Many museums offer headphones for guided tours; if this is something your child would enjoy, then by all means use them. Others may have exhibits that interact with your smart phone, so remember to have your phone charged and ready to go. Most kids love any kind of technological gadget, and using these devices to interact with the exhibits will keep him engaged and ward off boredom.

If the particular museum you wish to visit doesn’t offer these types of options, then you could allow your child to be in charge of taking photos (where allowed) in order to keep him excited about the tour. Most kids like to feel as if they are in charge of something important, especially when it involves using some fun equipment.

Break it up

Many children will not be able to withstand a long museum tour of simply looking at one exhibit after another. Instead of attempting to tackle an entire museum all at once, break up your visit. Take frequent bathroom and water breaks, or schedule your visit to include lunch at the museum cafe halfway through your tour. If the museum is offering a hands-on activity, try to take part in this midway through your visit. If there are outdoor exhibits, work these into the middle of a long stretch of indoor ones, even if it entails a bit more walking back and forth. A brief change of scenery, as well as the opportunity to move around a bit, will help to refresh your child’s patience.

Choose Your Battles

As with anything else in parenting, you will not always get your way. Be realistic, and keep in mind that most children will not be able to keep their voices down and refrain from running an entire day. If the museum you plan to visit is a very large one, you probably will not get to see everything all in one trip. Remember those exhibits will be there again tomorrow, and you can always come back and see anything you missed on another visit. Make a list of the things you and your child most want to do, and consider the visit a success if you cover most of your list. This is a learning experience for your child, and it isn’t just about the exhibits. He is learning a new social situation, so be patient and remember that each museum trip will be easier than the last.

Reward Good Behavior

Finally, remember to reward good behavior. Being quiet and walking slowly is an enormous challenge for most children, so let him know how much you appreciate his effort. You want this to be a positive memory, so that he is willing to try it again in the future. A small souvenir from the gift shop may be in order, or even just a scoop of ice cream will suffice. After your museum tour has ended, take your child to a playground where he can run off his excess energy. He will need it by this time, and you can collapse onto a park bench and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

This article was written by Emily Hall Morag writes for withoutthestress.com. Without The Stress is a passport expediting service that specializes in same day US passport renewals and UK student visas.

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