Make the Most of a Trip to the Museum

The sun isn’t up yet when my three-year-old runs into my room. He hands me Little Bear and Marshall to give me the false hope that this morning he might actually fall asleep then climbs up into the bed and takes over my pillow before bouncing up and down. “What we doing today Mommy?” I look up at him and admit defeat. “I was thinking we could go to the museum.”

“Yay!” He hops back off the bed and b-lines for the door. “Ready!” he calls as he bounds down the stairs.

When I first had a child, I was pretty nervous about taking him to art galleries or museums or anything that involved walking around the halls and staring at exhibits. But I loved museum and gallery visits and didn’t want to give that up.

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Now that I’m three kids and countless museum and art gallery trips in, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned to make the experience enjoyable for everyone.

Be prepared for the museum.

My son is usually pretty happy to run out the door in his pajamas, but I like to take some time to get ready so we can set ourselves up for a good day.

For starters, I pack a lot of snacks. My kids are hungry after running or crawling through the exhibits. Food isn’t allowed in most exhibits, so we find somewhere outside the exhibit area where they can eat their snacks. We like to eat food twice: once right when we arrive, and then again after we’ve had a chance to explore.

We also take some time to go over the ground rules. Like no yelling, being careful with the exhibits they’re allowed to touch, and sticking together as a group.

Finally, I take a few moments to plan our route when we get there. Like I said, when we get to the museum, we usually have a snack, then we tour the museum before sitting down for our second snack, and then we finish off any of the other exhibits we’ve missed.

Go to the museum when it’s quieter.

It’s not always possible, but if you can, try to go when it’s a bit quieter. It’s easier to keep track of roaming children when there are less people milling about. You also won’t have to worry about feeling like your children are being disruptive and ruining someone else’s enjoyment of the museum, and anything that prevents extra mom guilt is a plus.

Tour at a toddler’s pace.

You will be exploring the museum at a toddler’s pace, so plan to be there a while (hence all the snacks you’re bringing). But that doesn’t mean they’ll toddle slowly from one place to the next letting you read every sign you pass. Sometimes they will stop when there are things to play with, but other times they’ll simply rush from one thing to the next.

Side note, if you actually do want to read something or look closely at one exhibit that your kids have decided isn’t worth their time, remind your children that they agreed to stay close to you. Just remember to stay close to them if they want to spend more time than you would like to at a different exhibit.

Don’t overstay your welcome.

Sometimes, it’s just not a good day to be at a museum. The last time we went my youngest did not nap on my back like I hoped he would, and he desperately needed a nap. We were also with a small group of other toddlers and preschoolers and we knew we were quickly approaching their naptime too, which meant no amount of snacks would stop the crying once it started. So we hurried through the last exhibit to get them out and on the way home before the tears began to fall.

It might not always be the perfect experience you’re hoping for, but it probably won’t be the horror story you’re imagining either. Just remember, with a bit of preparation, you really can enjoy a trip to the museum with your young children. So the next time they wake you up far too early to ask what you’re doing that day, why not say “I was thinking we could go to the museum?”

Christina Van Starkenberg
Christina Van Starkenberg
Christina Van Starkenburg lives in Victoria with her husband, children, and cat. She is the author of One Tiny Turtle: A Story You Can Colour and many articles. To read more of her work and learn about her upcoming books, check out her website at