Why should you take your children to museums? Find out the top five reasons from our Director Jackie Spainhour!
5 Reasons You Should Take your Children to Museums
If you’re like me, some days the furthest thing from your mind is dressing your screaming child, packing the diaper bag full of endless supplies, and jetting off to a supposedly fun destination as a solo caregiver. As a parent with a partner, I cannot even fathom how much more difficult it would be as a single parent. So, what I am about to suggest may seem impossible, but hear me out. I vote that you start taking your child, no matter the age, to museums. Yes, we all love the convenience of mall play centers and the park, but how many of us really take the time to introduce our children to our local gems of history, art, and culture? Really, why should we? Here are a few of my reasons why you should take that leap and adventure to your closest museum with your lovable, frustrating child.
- Live Through Their Eyes (Or Wandering Fingers…)
(Two of our younger guests with their moms at the witch’s tea October 2016)
Every time I take a child through the museum, I am able to view our collection in new and exciting ways. Children have a talent for pointing out the mundane and making it revolutionary. I once gave a tour to a kindergartner who had an obsession with trees and the color green. So, she proceeded to call my attention to every shade of green throughout the museum and every instance where a tree was in a pattern- on the wallpaper, on a book cover, on the upholstery and draperies- until I was convinced I was actually touring a lush forest rather than a nineteenth century house museum. This tour, and others like it with children, allowed me to appreciate surroundings that have become so familiar to me that they sometimes feel ordinary rather than extraordinary.
My child is too small at this point to really interact with museum collections, but every time I have toured a museum with a friend or family member’s child, I find the same idea holds true- they notice things you would otherwise overlook as commonplace. Children ask the best questions too, like why do the mommy and daddy sleep in different rooms? What is that chair with the opening in the seat used for anyway? Where is the television and DVD player? You can really get your money’s worth with children engaging in a Q&A with your tour guide. Of course, we can’t forget the amount of bonding you will do with your child that isn’t focused on yet another episode of Sesame Street or Bubble Guppies. That should be reason enough to get out of the house and visit a museum, but I digress.
So, in order to shed your adult haughtiness and sensibilities bring a child to a museum to find your own sense of wonder and appreciation once again.
- Have an Adult Conversation (With an Actual Adult)
I find that one of the most difficult parts of parenting, especially in those first few months, is getting used to being void of the normal amounts of adult human contact to which you were accustomed prior to the birth of your little one. I spent entire days having conversations aloud with a tiny person, whose only response was a dirty diaper, crying, or confused blinking. Honestly, the lack of mature conversation is enough to drive any educated person insane. I found myself watching Ancient Aliens and other ‘historical’ programs just so I could argue aloud, rather intelligently and enthusiastically, with another adult. I guess you could say getting back to work couldn’t come fast enough.
(Gloria, Kristen, and Patsy volunteers from the Hunter House 2016)
The great thing about museums is that the majority employ a volunteer or paid docent staff, most of whom are intelligent adults. Taking your three month old son to a museum may sound insane, but it really is the perfect opportunity to watch him sleep in his buggy while you engage in articulate, adult conversation over a Monet or Van Gogh. In many instances, this may be the only adult conversation you have for a while that does not focus on your baby. In-laws, parents, and even your partner generally only engage in conversation with you to discuss the baby in some way, shape, or form. So, if you are craving adult interaction and your brain hasn’t yet turned to mush, take your little one to a museum to give yourself a much needed adult intervention.
- Save Money
Let’s face it- a movie will cost you and your little one $20 easily. Add in a fast food lunch or a sit down meal at Panera and your afternoon could cost close to $40- and that’s just for the two of you! Many museums offer free admission, are donation only, or offer very low-priced rates for visitors. Most of the museums in our area (with the zoo, aquarium, and Nauticus as the exceptions) cost $5 or less per person, with some offering children’s rates as low as $1. Places like the Chrysler Museum are free, thanks to the generous patronage of their members. The Hunter House charges $5 per guest, with a $1 child rate. Children under 5 are free. While I cannot argue that a museum is always a more economical outing than one to the beach, park, or mall, I do think the benefits of such a trip outweigh the nominal costs.
- Be a Tourist in Your Town
(Tourists visiting the Hunter House Fall 2016)
Travelling with young children can be difficult and sometimes impossible. As a result, the last time you had a vacation was probably a few years before they were born and most likely involved expensive dinners and copious amounts of alcohol. Gone are those days, my friend. Still, you can find time to have new experiences like you would have on vacation if you choose to visit places in your town that are not necessarily new, but new to you. Grab a Visitor’s Guide to your city or contact the local welcome center to discover places you may not have even known existed. People tell us all of the time, and I mean ALL of the time, that they have lived their entire lives in Norfolk and never heard of the Hunter House. Private entities like ours are not affiliated with the city and often do not get as much exposure as a result, but you can find us in Visitor’s Guides and centers because that is where we are most likely to spend our limited advertising dollars. So, plan a weekend of discovery in your town by plotting a course to visit museums and cultural centers you never knew existed. It will be much less expensive and more educational than that weekend in Cabo.
- Experience New Children’s Programming
Children’s programming at museums has come a long way from drawing pictures or simply touring facilities. Many museums now offer programs designed specifically for children that focus on educational milestones, STEAM education, and more. The Hunter House offers a patch with the Girl Scouts that is designed specifically around our collection. The Chrysler Museum has educators who will engage with children on their level to interpret the historical artifacts in their collection. Some museums offer puppet shows, outdoor movies, craft classes, and more for nominal or no costs. You can often subscribe to websites like http://hamptonroads.myactivechild.com/ to learn about all of the children’s programming happening in your area. Libraries are also treasure troves for children’s programming, but for an equally educational but different experience, take your child to a local museum and watch them learn first-hand.
There are so many more reasons to take children to museums, but in the interest of not talking you to death I will end here. What are your reasons for taking children to museums? What are your favorite local spots or children’s programs? Leave us feedback in the comments- maybe we can try to incorporate some of your favorites into our programming!