Avoiding a Museum Meltdown


If you're bringing your kids to New York City, there's a good chance you'll want to take them to a museum during your travels -- and with good reason. Visiting a museum is a wonderful way to expose your children to art and culture! Here are some tips to make visiting a museum better for everyone.

1.  Keep Your Expectations Realistic

It's unlikely that even the calmest of children are going to walk quietly through the galleries of the museum and let you take your time looking at the pieces you find most interesting for as long as you like. (Welcome to parenthood!) Plan to spend about forty-five minutes enjoying each of two different areas and accept that you'll have to return to see the rest of the collection.

2.  Choose Your Destination Wisely

Of course, New York City has some wonderful Children's Museums where your brood can really go wild, but if you want to sample something with a bit more adult-appeal, you want to make sure your children will feel welcome. The American Museum of Natural History, MoMA, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are great destinations with exhibits that will appeal to children and adults alike. There are even a number of great programs for families at NYC museums, which will keep your kids engaged and allow you to learn about art together. Some museums, like the Frick Collection, don't even allow children under 12, so keep that in mind if you've got young ones with you.

3.  Do Your Homework

Spend a little time exploring the museum's website before you visit, so you can identify exhibits and programs that might be particularly suitable for your family. Many museums offer special family tours and programs -- if you know about them in advance, you can pick the best day/time for your visit to take advantage of these offerings.

Most of the time, these programs are free with admission. Many New York City museums offer sections of their website geared toward children, which offer a great opportunity to get your kids excited for their visit before you arrive.

4.  The Coat Check is Your Friend

Many New York City museums include coat check services with the cost of admission, but even when they don't, it's a great way to lighten the load while you explore the museum. You might want to check coats, strollers, diaper bags and even your lunch to leave your hands free while you explore.

5.  Bring a Stroller or Carrier

The best way to contain a toddler in a museum is in a carrier or stroller. It will allow you to both enjoy the museum more, and perhaps even provide a suitable place for them to nap so you can explore while they rest. I was surprised at how much my young toddler enjoyed a visit to the MoMA perched in my Ergo -- she spent a lot of time pointing out which paintings she wanted to look at and I think the higher vantage point added to her enjoyment of the museum. Even older kids might enjoy the chance to rest in a stroller while visiting a museum. (Some museums don't allow strollers in the galleries, so check in advance.)

6.  Take a Break

I recommend picking two areas to explore and planning to take a snack break in between at the museum cafe. It gives you a chance to talk to your kids about what you've seen, let's them burn off some steam, and everyone can rest their feet. In my experience, kids behave better when they're well-fed. Some smaller museums don't have cafes, so check before you go. Some places even allow families to bring their own food, which is a bonus if you've got picky eaters or are trying to save money.


Heather Cross