With a master’s in Museum Science, museum-going has been a love of mine for a long time. Even the museums with the dullest of content tend to fascinate me. When I go into a museum, I am reading humidity gauges and identifying text type and size. I can often name a few glass manufacturers, and I know how much money they spent on what display. I find it interesting because I know that information from school, but my children do not. When we are state-side, I get asked regularly how I could possibly enjoy a museum with kids, and the answer is quite simple; I just do. As creatures of learning, they get used to the museum atmosphere and eventually learn what is appropriate and not appropriate, but there’s more to it sometimes.
Choose the Right Museum
When planning a visit to a museum with kids, I do try to choose museums that dangle terms like interactive, young explorers, or junior artists on their websites because they tend to have some activities — even floors — dedicated to children, but that’s not always possible.
When exploring a museum with kids that mama is greatly interested in or a museum I know will involve a lot of reading on my part, “school” starts immediately as opposed to the next day. For example, I really wanted to go to Rosenborg Castle. It seemed like a great option for the kids as well for a few reasons.
- Every kid loves a good castle.
- The kids are free.
- There is weaponry on the brochure.
That alone could have been enough, but when I saw the amount of things to discover upon entering, I immediately began to engage them in my world.
Use Games for Learning
We played the I Spy game in almost every room. I spy four ostrich eggs. It forced them to focus their attention on a few of the hundreds of items and then proceed to question those items as opposed to being overwhelmed and not questioning anything at all.
“Does anyone see a game that looks similar to something you own?” Now granted, ours is not gold and bejeweled, but a year ago I created a military strategy table top for the boys with Civil War soldiers and horses. It could be anything really!
They answer, “Yes! Did a kid play with this like we do with our Army men?”
“Yes, these were the crown prince’s game pieces to help him learn military strategy. Do you notice anything special about them? What are they made of?” I reply.
“Yes, those are called gemstones.” And then we identify the gemstones. We inevitably figure out our birthstones.
“Why are they riding camels?”
“Because these pieces are supposed to represent the Africans and the Romans. What does the camel tell you about Africa?”
“There’s sand, and it’s super hot.”
And on and on and on — simple, effective, engaged.
Ask for Your Child’s Opinion
“What do you think this is?” I asked.
“A hole to hide your sword!” said with such conviction.
“Not quite, but that might have happened a time or two. It’s an early intercom system. The person using this could communicate with people on the other side of the castle if they needed something. Do you remember seeing another communication system like this?”
“How about the tin-can telephones on Sesame Street? Do you think that has the same effect?”
“Oh…yeah! They’re both super cool, but I think this one should be for hiding your sword.”
If you have the resources, this is a good one to take home, so to speak. You could easily make a tin telephone system.
Make the Museum a Place of Child-Led Learning
History museums are a perfect place to teach about organic materials. There are a lot of things that were once used to make regular objects that have since been done away with. For example, the statement “The queen’s throne is made entirely out of narwhal tusk,” naturally prompts a ton of questions.
“The tusk of what?”
“A narwhal — like a small whale with a really long horn. The horn is ivory, and they hunted it for its horn.”
“Just like rhinos and elephants?”
“Yep, exactly. The king’s throne is made from solid silver. Where does silver come from?” I asked, expecting mines as the answer.
Same for the last photo — we had a great discussion about amber. How it’s made, what it is in its liquid form, and then it turned into a conversation on dinosaur fossils. The possibilities are really endless if you choose the right items.
I am here to tell you, from one mother of crazy children to another, there is never a good time to introduce your children to museums, but you are doing no one justice by withholding. If you haven’t noticed, my husband and I live in this slightly delusional, yet achievable, reality where we believe that there is nowhere our small children can’t go. It is not because they are so well behaved. They are not always. It is because we believe that everything worth seeing should be witnessed by them as well. Bite the bullet and visit your first museum with kids. Then, go from there. There is so much world, culture, and learning to be had.
Nothing says you can’t enjoy a museum with kids. And, nothing says you can’t do it in Denmark. Read up on the ultimate Denmark Legoland Experience.
Photo Credits: Lydia Bradbury