These are the Best Museum Tips with Kids!!
We want our kids to have the enriching experiences of visiting museums and exploring new places, but day trips with young kids can also be a LOT. Museums can also be pricey, and it might feel tough to make the most of the experience.
Best museum tips with kids for a great experience!
I have you covered with money saving museum tips, advice on how to prepare, and tips for at the museum!! Read on for museum tips for your next trip to the science museum, history museum, children’s museum, or any other spot you’re dying to take your kids!
These museum tips can make any museum day trip easier!
Top 20 Best Museum Tips with Kids
We are uniquely qualified to share museum tips, because we are self proclaimed museum rats. 😉 When we lived in Chicago I would take all 3 kids to multiple museums every week, because it’s where my kids and I thrived – we love to be busy, learning, and seeing new things on the go! I know not everyone wants to be a museum rat – and that’s ok, too!! Regardless of whether this is your first museum trip or 20th, these museum tips with kids will make museum days more fun for everyone.
Best Museum Tips with Kids: Saving Money
Museum can be expensive. Like, really expensive. Especially if you have a large family with multiple kids. Here’s how you can save some money when visiting a museum.
1) Look up free days ahead of time. Many museums offer free days – it’ll be more crowded on these days, but it may be worth it to go for free. Check the website and see if there’s a free day that fits your schedule!
2) Check if your library offers free passes to check out. Chicago Public Library has free passes to all of the major city museums – the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, etc. Many city libraries have passes that can get you in for free or with a discount to your local museums – check your library!
3) Consider purchasing a family membership. Depending on the size of your family it might be cheaper to buy a family membership than pay to get everyone into the museum, especially if you will visit more than once a year. The membership may also include other benefits (like free parking or discounts for special attractions) that could save you money as well.
4) Ask for museum memberships as gifts. For most holidays we ask for memberships/passes as gifts for our kids when someone asks what the kids want. We have so many toys, and we’d rather our kids have more experiences than more stuff. Also, it can be fun for the person giving the membership to go to the museum with your family as well. Experiences > things.
Money Saving Museum Tips – Minimize Extra Costs
5) Pack snacks and lunches for the museum. Museum food is expensive!! While many have a food court or vending machines, plan ahead to bring lots of snacks and even a full lunch to save money. The museum will likely have tables where you can eat, and all of the museums we go to welcome you to bring in your own food – just don’t eat in the exhibits of course! 😉
6) Be aware that special exhibits often cost extra. We typically just do the things included in the basic admission, because there’s always so much to see as it is! If we’ve gone to a museum a few times and we want to add a special experience, then we may splurge for the 3D movie or special exhibit. Just be aware that there can be additional fees, so you may want to check out those prices ahead of time!
7) Take pictures in the gift shop of things kids want that you won’t be buying today. If your kids want everything in the gift shop (hello, it’s me as a child!!), offer to take pictures so you can remember it for their next birthday or upcoming holiday. Often kids want the validation of knowing we hear that this thing is important to them and they really like it. And typically they never ask me about the item again.
Best Museum Tips with Kids: Prep Ahead of Time
Here’s everything you need to know to get prepared for a successful museum day trip ahead of time!
How to Prepare as a Mom!
8) Check out the museum website ahead of time. Get a brief overview of what you’ll want to see, what extra fees might be required, or any other important info (like mask or vaccine requirements). You don’t want to be far from home, caught off guard, and hauling a bunch of kids.
9) Identify any must see exhibits ahead of time. Museums can be massive, and you usually can’t do everything in a day. You may want to ask each child to each pick the top exhibit they want to see ahead of time. Or maybe you want to identify 3 things you know the kids will love and plan to hit those exhibits. City museums are huge and can be tricky to navigate when it’s your first time – while you don’t have to hammer out a full itinerary, it’s probably worth it to check out the website and notice what exhibits catch your eye.
How to Prepare Kids!
10) Prep your kids by showing them pictures and videos of the museum. Help prepare your child by showing them YouTube videos or pictures of the museum from Google Image search. Tell them what the museum will be like, and show them some of the exhibits they will see. This builds excitement, and helps your child understand where they will be going.
11) Build background knowledge with library books and videos. If you have a chance, watch some video clips together about the topics covered at the museum. You can also get books about the topics from the library! Whether it’s Native American culture in North America or the U505 submarine from WWII, your child might not have much background knowledge about the things they will see at the museum. Giving them a bit of knowledge on those topics will make their time at the museum more meaningful and help them enjoy the experience, too!
12) Set expectations. Don’t assume your kids know how to act at a museum. Especially due to COVID closures, many kids have had minimal experiences in these types of spaces. You cannot over prepare your child for a new experience – set them up for success! As a teacher, I always talked to my class about the differences between a playground a museum before field trips. At a museum we walk, use quieter voices, and we stick together. Explicitly talk about the expectations, and you can even practice together if that’s helpful for your child!
13) Have a plan for if a child gets lost. Teach your child to: 1) stay where they are (don’t go roaming around), 2) look for a mom with kids (or an employee), 3) get loud and tell that mom or employee that they are lost. It can be scary to think about, but prepping your child ahead of time can make a big difference!
Tips for at the museum
14) Move at their pace. You might be surprised what interests your child. If they’re excited and engaged, let them linger where they’re drawn. It can be tempting to try to hustle them through all of the exhibits and show them what we think they should be interested in. Instead I try to remember that they’re learning the most when they’re excited, so lean into whatever that is for your child!
Tips for Large Families
15) Consider splitting up if needed (if you have multiple kids and more than one adult). As much as my husband and I love spending time together, sometimes it helps the kids to break up and get 1:1 time or see that exhibit that only sparked one child’s interest. Often one of us will break off with our oldest, while the other will do something else with the younger two. You know what’s best for your family, but consider splitting up for chunks of time if that will help things go smoother.
Tips for Nursing Mom and Kids with Disabilities
16) Ask about a nursing lounge, family lounge, or spaces for kids with sensory differences. Many museums we visit have private, quiet spaces for mothers who are nursing and kids who have special needs. The spaces aren’t always well marked or advertised, so feel free to ask an employee if these spaces exist! For example, I know the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier has a calming space for kids who need it, the Museum of Science and Industry has a family lounge for members, and the Field Museum has nursing rooms – just to name a few!
17) Stay flexible. Whenever it comes to traveling and day trips with kids, STAY FLEXIBLE. It might not look how you expected and that’s ok. I’ve had some wacky, rough trips. Like that time I ran out of diapers and ran around the Field Museum with 3 under 3 asking anyone with a baby if they had a size 2, 3, or 4 diaper I could have for my daughter. It happens. Find the good in the trip, and know that nothing will be “perfect” or exactly how you expected it to be with young kids.
18) Take off the pressure. Know that you won’t be able to see everything. Accept that you’ll see what you can, and that’s ok! Your child is making memories with you as a family and gaining amazing exposure to the world – just being there is a win for them!
How to End Well
19) Leave before it’s time. If you see your kids starting to melt, know that it’s ok to call it a day and leave. I much prefer to leave on a good note than to push ourselves past the brink and leave when everyone is melting down.
20) Start small – do what you’re comfortable with. If you’re not comfortable taking your kids an hour from home for a day trip, then don’t! Don’t do anything that brings you more stress or feels too overwhelming. If library story time is more your speed, awesome! Do that! Maybe there’s a smaller, local nature center that feels more doable than a big city museum!! Different adventures will be a match for different families. Do what brings you joy – because a happy, less stressed parent is what will make the day special!
How to Extend Museum Learning!
21) Consider snapping photos and making a small $1 photo book! Print the pictures from the day and put them in a $1 album from your local dollar store. It’s a great way to make the day extra meaningful and revisit memories from the day often. We like to keep our mini albums in the car.
What did I forget?! Leave your museum tips in the caption!
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Thank you for reading, and I hope you found the “Best Museum Tips with Kids” helpful for your next museum trip!