Try as I may, the words “We’re going to a museum!” never inspire quite the excitement I’m hoping for among my three boys. Oldest, a freshman, is finally at the stage where he actually enjoys learning outside the classroom. Youngest just likes car trips. Middle Son?
You’d think I was suggesting a root canal.
It’s not like we just started making museum treks, we’ve been taking the kids to historical places their entire lives. The key to keeping your sanity as you tug kids through museums?
Scavenger hunts and audio tours.
Every museum curator understands that kids and old breakable things don’t mix well. Remember, they deal with large school groups daily so your small family is no biggie. Most museums offer preprinted scavenger hunts. Want to ensure your kids do a good job of filling in the answers? Offer a small prize at the end. Lollipops are easy to carry in your purse. After all, everything else known to man lives in there, why not candy?
State and national parks also offer scavenger hunts, as well as geocaching and unit studies for teachers. Check out their websites and print out relevant worksheets and information before your visit.
After spending money on the entrance fee to a museum, the last thing you want to do is dish out more dough for an audio tour, right? I used to think like that. Until I was trudging around the grounds of the Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee in 100 degree weather. I am positive I have less gray hair for spending the five dollars.
Many museums that offer audio tours have adult and child versions. The younger counterparts offer funny characters and anecdotes that will keep your child interested and engaged. Even the more mature audio tours help elementary age kiddos stayed tuned-in.
Ever notice how your reluctant reader opens a book, spies the small type and lack of pictures, then promptly slams the book closed? Those same children are not going to be willing to read every. single. word. posted under a museum display. The first word they encounter that is unpronounceable will undoubtedly destroy any interest they may have had, so let them explore. You’ll be surprised what those keen little eyes wills spy. It’s okay to skip displays or view them out of order. No matter what, your kids will come out knowing more than they did before.
Seeing and experiencing history teaches a child about the past much faster than reading about it in a book. Remember that children experience their surroundings as they learn how to navigate their world. If you ask a kid to describe what’s around them, they will inevitably use smells, sounds, sights, and even tastes (much to your dismay) to answer. History is much richer when learned this way, even for adults, so let your inner kid come out!
We spent Veteran’s Day at the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The artifacts in the main hall are divided by north and south. The displays quickly show the economic differences between the armies. The scavenger hunt is really interesting and kept the attention of our two youngest for over two hours. The clues sent them all over the museum searching for answers to the riddles. The riddles offered enough information to keep them from becoming frustrated while still requiring them to read the short descriptions of the artifacts. And they give lollipops to kids who turn in their scavenger hunt forms.
Allowing you to eat the ones in your purse:)
Some of our favorite field trips/trailer trips:
- Roscoe Village Chosocton, Ohio
- The Hermitage Nashville, Tennessee
- Yellowstone Historic Center West Yellowstone, Montana
- Carlsbad Caverns Carlsbad, New Mexico
- Dallas Heritage Village Dallas, Texas
- Space Center Houston, Texas
- San Jacinto Battleground Historic Site LaPorte, Texas
- Gettysburg National Military Park Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Bullock Museum of Texas History Austin, Texas
- Texas Military Forces Museum Austin, Texas
- USS Lexington Corpus Christie, Texas
- Fort Richardson Jacksboro, Texas