Taking kids to museums and attractions can be a family hit or a huge fiasco. There are ways to help kids enjoy culture, experience things bigger than themselves and explore their world around them without derailing everyone else’s day.
Recently we took our kids to the Newport Aquarium and let them explore the world below the water. The aquarium took us about 2 ½ hours to tour. The kids were awed by the sharks, impressed by the colors and diversity of the fish, engaged by the exhibits and fully absorbed by the whole experience. We followed our unwritten rules that helped guarantee the day was enjoyed by our family and those who intersected our path through the day. http://www.newportaquarium.com/
We have taken our kids to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, ridden the rails at the Big South Fork Scenic Railway and toured many historical houses such as My Old Kentucky Home and Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate. We’ve come away from experiences like these with some tricks to make it enjoyable for all.
- Don’t start the adventure hungry. Hungry kids are whiny kids and no one wants to listen to whining. Eat a good snack or meal before the tour and everyone will be happier.
- Use the restrooms before the activity. There probably will be restrooms at the location, but take care of business before you get started and your fun will last longer. If your children are still in diapers, make sure you carry a backup.
- Keep hands to yourself. Unless you are going to a kid’s exhibit, hands don’t belong on the exhibits. Kids should be taught before you walk in the door and then reminded as you go through the tour, that hands belong in your pockets.
- Inside voices are a must. If you’re at the zoo or park you can use your outside voice but on public tours and exhibits, other guests don’t want to hear you yell. This tip is not just for the kids. Everyone gets uncomfortable when they have to listen to parents screaming at their kids.
- n Talk about souvenir shops before you arrive. Many tours end in the souvenir shop. That’s a definite place where you often see kids experience meltdowns. They are tired by then and can get overwhelmed with the “gimmes” when they see all the amazing souvenirs for sale. Make a plan before you ever start the tour. Will you buy anything? Do the kids know this? Do you have a spending limit? If there are two adults and you plan to make a purchase, will one adult take the kids outside while the other finishes the transaction? Have a plan and prevent the meltdowns.
- Ask about in-house scavenger hunt forms. Art museums and historical exhibits often have checklists or scavenger hunt forms that help keep kids occupied and engaged throughout the tour. Sometimes the docents even have stickers to reward the children who complete the tasks.
- Check for kids’ nights. Check the event schedule for special programs geared toward children. Often, these nights include discounts for admission.
- Don’t be afraid to offer a bribe. If the event is not geared specifically toward children but you want to expose them anyway, be prepared to offer a reward for good behavior. “After the art museum, we’ll go get an ice-cream cone” or “We’ll go to a special park if you’re good.” Small children still are learning the rules of behavior and often need a tangible reward for their actions.
By following these simple common sense rules, everyone sharing the exhibit hall or tour will be able to enjoy their time. We shouldn’t keep our kids from exploring life just because they are young. Let’s just make sure we get prepared before we show up so we can all enjoy our time.
Sharon Williams blogs about hobbies, saving money and life at Hobbies on a Budget (www.hobbiesonabudget.com).