Want to take the grandkids to a museum? An ideal rainy-day adventure, museums don’t need to be stuffy or boring. They provide a space for creativity, experimentation, play and inspiration outside the traditional classroom. Here are the tips you’ll need to deliver plenty of family fun when heading to a museum with kids.
Do Your Homework Before You Go
When you’re visiting museums with kids, the last thing you want to do is arrive and discover there’s nothing suitable for their interests. Obviously, if you choose a children’s museum this won’t be an issue. But you’ll still want to do a little homework ahead of time to determine what will likely interest your grandkids whether they’re toddlers or tweens. A plan of action is always a good idea.
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Currently, with lingering COVID restrictions, researching ahead of time is crucial. Museum hours may be altered. Many museums shifted to contactless admission with tickets only available online. Temporary closures of must-visit permanent exhibits during the pandemic potentially affect your experience, so be sure to review everything in advance. Don’t forget to check out special museum offers too.
Consider Your Grandkids’ Interests
As you browse the museum website, involve the grandkids. They may surprise you with the interests they express. If you’re considering taking them to an art museum, look for paintings and artifacts online and then set up your own scavenger hunt to locate the pieces at the museum.
Think outside the box with nature centers, science museums and aircraft carriers turned museums. Both of my grandsons loved touring the USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, and checking out the flight simulators. While visiting me in New York, Katherine and Marshall thoroughly enjoyed checking out the aircraft on the roof of The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and romping through the submarine.
My grandson, Marshall (11), loves football. While in Atlanta, he visited the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame where he scurried around looking for legends and memorabilia from his favorite team, the Florida Gators. He couldn’t have been happier.
On the other hand, my grandson, Benjamin (10), needs a museum with plenty of interactive exhibits. On a recent trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, we spent a day exploring the Greensboro Science Center. Part science museum, aquarium and zoological park, exotic animals like the red panda and a Komodo dragon fascinated both of us. The variety yielded plenty of fun things to do. He even touched a snake—something this grandmom will not do.
Read More: Best Kid-Friendly Museums in Dallas
Don’t Expect to Stay All Day
Take my husband to a train museum and you’re in for an 8-hour day. That man reads every plaque and touches every train in sight. We took my grandson Benjamin with us to the Pennsylvania Train Museum in Strasbourg when he was about three years old. While Benjamin loved seeing all the big trains on display and playing with the train sets in the children’s section, his attention waned after an hour or two. A concept difficult for Grandpa Greg to grasp, but I assured him the last thing you want is a bored three-year-old on your hands. It’s not pretty!
Consider Museums with Outdoor Space
Choose a museum with outdoor space for exploration and you’ll likely get a few more hours of museum time for your money. An excellent example, The Wild Center in New York’s Adirondack Mountains features indoor interactive exhibits introducing visitors to the forests and wildlife living in the region. But beyond the walls, even more interactive fun beckons on the “Wild Walk.”
Follow a trail of bridges to the treetops of the Adirondack forest designed to provide a new perspective on nature for kids of all ages. When I visited with two of my grandkids, Katherine and Marshall (ages 11 and 9 at the time), this was a true highlight. They scurried back and forth across the bridges, walked up to the “eagle’s nest” for a bird’s eye view of the towering Adirondack trees and sampled life as a spider in a giant web. The Wild Center even offers guided canoe trips exploring more nature from the water. I allotted about four hours for this museum visit and we ended up staying all day!
Read More: Fun Outdoor Museums in the US
Don’t Be Afraid to Play with the Grandkids at a Children’s Museum
Grandkids don’t just want you to watch them play, they want you to join them. When mine were toddlers, I joined them in the TotSpot at the Houston Children’s Museum to experiment with water play. When they outgrew the TotSpot, Kidtropolis became a favorite exhibit. Older kids run the city as leaders, voters, workers, shoppers and business owners. They were running the show but sharing all their adventures with me along the way. As with most kid-friendly museums, plenty of play spaces provided ample opportunities to play together.
Housed in a 472,900 square foot facility across 29 acres, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis claims the top spot as the largest children’s museum in the United States. With the addition of the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legend, 7.5 additional acres combine physical fitness, health education and sports history in a variety of family-fun indoor and outdoor experiences. Race the grandkids in the Pedal Car Experience on a replica of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Or check out the Indianapolis Colts Football Experience where you and the grandkids learn to safely pass, catch, run and kick field goals. There’s even a nine hole golf course where you and the grandkids can work on your game. You’ll find some serious play time with the grandkids here and fun for the whole family.
What About the Grown-Up Museums?
Long established cultural institutions like New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art might seem less than kid friendly. But spend a few minutes on the website ahead of time and you’ll quickly see that’s not the case. A digital feature, #MetKids, created for, with and by kids, includes a virtual time machine, fun facts about works of art and behind-the-scenes videos. The Nolen Library welcomes kids from 18-months to 7 years for storytime. Other family programs include art studio activities and family guides that do the scavenger hunt planning for you.
For tweens and teens, bringing pop culture trivia into the mix enhances their experience. For example, share the story about Ferris Bueller visiting the Chicago Museum of Art while skipping school. Watch the movie before you take the grandkids then make a scavenger hunt out of finding things Ferris saw. The same works for New York’s American Museum of Natural History which served as the location for the film “A Night at the Museum.” Also consider scheduling a guided tour to discover the stories behind the artifacts.
The Best Tip: Have Fun
Going to museums with kids exposes them to new ideas and the shared experience of learning new things together deepens the grandkid / grandparent bond. Make a plan, round up the grandkids and go have fun – whatever type of museum you choose!