My Secret Strategy for Getting Kids to Love Museums

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“That’s boring.”

For most of their lives, my children happily visited our local air and space and natural history museums. However, any suggestion that we go to an art museum would be met with a chorus of “That’s boring.

Fast forward several years, and my boys enthusiastically spend hours exploring art museums. On a recent trip, they devoured the Musée D’Orsay, the Louvre, and the Rodin Museum in Paris, and I had to drag them out of the British Museum in London. So, how did we get from point A (total rejection) to point B (complaining when they have to LEAVE)? Here is my magic formula:

The Louvre, Paris
The Pyramid at the Louvre, Paris.

  1. Pick a free or low-cost museum

To manage parental stress, start out by selecting a free or low-cost museum. If you have invested a lot of money in a museum trip, you might end up pressuring your kids to stay longer than they want to or leave after a short visit feeling resentful that you have “wasted” money.

  1. Limit the time

If your family is resistant to the idea of a museum visit, communicate to them in advance that you are just going to look around for a few minutes and won’t be staying long. And, most importantly, stick to your word!

The Thinker at the Rodin Museum in Paris
Imitating The Thinker at the Rodin Museum in Paris
  1. Head straight for the gift shop

Museum gift shops will often have postcards of some of their most famous pieces, or you may find artwork depicted on merchandise. Based on what they have seen in the giftshop, have each member of the family (including the adults) pick one piece of artwork to find in the museum.

  1. Use technology or talk to a human

Call up the museum’s website on your phone or speak to a real live human at the information desk. Either way, you should be able to find out where your selected works are located.

Paul Gaugain's Arearea at Musee d'Orsay
Bingo! They found Gaugain’s “Arearea” at the Musee d’Orsay.
  1. Find your picks

Go in search of your picks. Along the way, other things are likely to catch your kids’ eye (which is the whole point). They may stop for a moment to look at something else, then continue on until their scavenger hunt is complete. Let them set the pace.

  1. Take a picture

Have each person pose for a victory photo with their selected painting.

National Gallery of Art
This was M’s pick at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
  1. Resist your temptation to “educate”

Your kid has just tracked down their favorite painting. Yay! You took a picture. There were high fives all around. Now, move on! This is NOT the time for a lengthy monologue on the life of the painter, the style of art, etc. Your goal is to make museum visits fun! Over time, with more exposure, your kids’ heads will fill with those facts, but that is not your purpose today.

National Gallery of Art
T’s Liechtenstein at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. was harder to find. We had to look up.
  1. Combine it with a favorite activity

After the final member of your family has found his/her pick, keep your promise and leave! Better yet, head to a nearby ice cream parlor or gelato shop to have a treat and talk about how much fun you had!

  1. Wash, rinse, repeat

Try this a few more times, being careful to spread out your visits so you don’t overdose on the experience. Hopefully you too will see a shift in your kids and find that they grow into happy art museum patrons.

What do you think? Worth a try? Please share below any great tips you may have for building art appreciation in your children!



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