* Check out our comprehensive NYC museum guide for info on individual museums.
Explore the museum’s website together and find exhibits or pieces that interest your family – and make sure the museum is open when you want to go; many are closed on certain weekdays . Learn about family programs and kid-focused interactive spaces and maybe plan your visit around one. Go over the museum rules, and prepare your kid to use their eyes, not their hands to explore the art.
Find the information or visitors’ desks and get maps for everyone – occupied hands are less tempted to wander onto works of art. Some museums have printed or audio guides just for kids. Ask if there are any particularly kid-friendly areas to explore )or any R-rated areas to avoid in contemporary exhibits). Locate bathrooms (and changing tables if needed) in advance.
Turtles? Trains? One of your kid’s latest obsessions can probably be found within the galleries. Ask the information desk or have fun searching and playing ‘I Spy.’ Also look for fountains, great for resting by and making wishes in.
Ask (And Listen)
Encourage kids to use their imagination with evocative questions, and be amazed and amused at their often surprising answers. Some examples:
– If you were inside this painting, what would you hear? Smell? Feel?
– How does this sculpture change if we look at it up close? Far away?
– What shapes do you see? What colors? Why the artist choose them?
– Which piece would you want in your bedroom?
Don’t Get Hungry
Scope out the food situation beforehand. Many museums have kid-friendly cafeterias, or find a bakery or special restaurant in the area for a post-culture treat. Bring snacks and drinks, but be prepared to leave the galleries to consume them.
Don’t Get Tired
Keep visits short (depending on a kid’s age and personality, 45-90 minutes is best) and take breaks. In larger museums, pick one area or exhibit to focus on, then leave some time for wandering.
Consider becoming members at favorite museums. The tax-deductible annual fee can usually be recouped in a few visits and often includes perks such as museum-store discounts and members-only previews and viewing hours. Plus members get to skip lines and make short frequent visits attuned to kids’ schedules and attention spans.