Visiting the Museum With Your Child

Every day is a good day to visit the museum! The LNS faculty and the deCordova Department of Learning and Engagement gathered recently to discuss the children’s experiences with and reactions to the current Sheila Pepe exhibit. Over the course of our discussion, we found ourselves considering the museum through the lens of a parent. Here is what we have learned, collectively, through years of experience in bringing preschoolers to the museum.

Each visit can be very brief – quick pop-ins may be more productive than longer visits, with the goal of familiarizing your child with the museum. You might simply enter the front door, go up the stairs/elevator, take a quick peek at a few things and head out the back door. (Then wonder with your child: How do we get back to the parking lot/school/cafe?)

Children (like adults) often make a connection to familiar items that  they can relate to (e.g., in Pepe’s exhibit: trains, hammock, spiderwebs). If your child finds something they relate to, plop yourself down on the floor to take a look alongside your child.

Anne Lamott has this pithy reminder: W.A.I.T.: Why Am I Talking? (She tweets: “Four best letters in Some Assembly Required are WAIT: Why Am I Talking? Today I had 4 WAITS w/ Sam [her son], when I almost shared Good Ideas: was silent instead. So got major credits, and started exactly zero stupid arguments.”) Notice if you’re talking and asking a lot of questions. Leave your phone in the car.

If there is a brochure (maybe with a map on it), your child might enjoy carrying one around.

Art may not be it – maybe it’s the layout of the building, the acoustics, or the way air comes out of the grate on the floor. The museum is such a strange creation, unlike home, school, or a supermarket – it might do to just marvel at the plethora of rooms, floors, doors and hallways. The water fountain or bathroom can be a source of fascination.

Create a focus: “Let’s look at…” bring materials for the children to engage with to extend the focus. Check with the receptionist, there may be activity kits prepared by Learning & Engagement.

Preview with your children what they might see or look for.