Visiting iconic museums and art galleries is a great way to soak up the culture of a place — and a must-do for lots of travelers. But when vacationing with the family, galleries (even the most esteemed) might not make it so high up on your kids’ bucket list. While many of the world’s best galleries aren’t necessarily designed with kids in mind, there are lots of ways to make sure they get the most out of your visit. Here are 5 tips to keep the kids happy and entertained when you’re visiting a museum.
1. Give them a map and include them in planning
The best way to make an art gallery fun for kids is to include them in how you decide to explore. Before you arrive or just after you enter the museum, sit down and explain each of the rooms and the types of works they’ll find there. Ask them what they’re interested in and that you need help plotting your exploration route (or go all out and let them guide you).
To make sure you’re seeing everything, tell them which rooms or artworks you should see, then leave them to decide the order. During your visit, don’t forget to stop and explain the most interesting works and tell them what they can expect to see next. While wandering around a museum and getting lost among art might sound great to you, it probably isn’t much fun for them.
2. Buy your tickets ahead of time to skip the line
Waiting in line, for the best of us, is a drag. For the smallest of us, it’s enough to sour a day. Start your gallery visit with kids on a high and avoid the boredom of long lines by buying skip-the-ticket-line passes ahead of your trip. Timed tickets (which give you entry at a designated time) are also a great option. That way, you can rock up, walk in, and get down to the business of art-hunting…
3. Make a game of it!
Every museum and gallery has its most prized works — and they’re probably the ones you’re going to make a beeline to. These are often marked on the museum’s complimentary maps (or come prepared and bring your own, just in case). Pick one up and have the kids find each work as if on a treasure hunt. Throw in a prize for when they’ve found them all (hello, museum gift shop), and you’ve got yourself a very invested gallery-goer.
4. Stop well, stop often
Uncomfortable kids are not happy travelers (let’s be honest: none of us are), so don’t forget to take lots of breaks. Pick the rooms you may want to linger in to sit down and let your kids rest. Make use of the cafés and restaurants for snacks and water. Taking a break is a great time to co-plan and explain the next rooms you visit. Plus, they’re the only place you can grab a bite without getting in trouble — eating and drinking in the halls is generally prohibited.
5. Go with a tour that’s kid-friendly
Sometimes, the best way to inspire interest in art — for kids and adults alike — is to leave it to the experts. Museum tour guides are the best people to explain the significance of important works. Many museums, from the Open Air Museum in Rome to the Susannah Place Museum in Sydney, offer guided tours designed to delight audiences that are fresh to the art world. The best part about museum tours for kids? We guarantee that you’ll learn something new, too.
Watch a kids’ tour of the Vatican Museum right now
For a taste of just how engaging (and enlightening!) a museum tour for kids can be, check out our kids’ Vatican tour and quiz with official tour guide Alessandra. Alessandra runs the wildly popular Vatican and Sistine Chapel Tour skip-the-ticket-line tour for kids in Rome.
Learn about some of the museum’s most famous works, discover the incredible stories behind the Roman gods, and imagine yourself in Roman times through stories about ancient customs. Get a taste of how museums can be for kids and use it to inspire future trips!
This virtual tour was made with the lovely Alessandra as a part of our World at Home Series. For more inspirational content for kids until you plan your next vacation, check out these 7 travel-inspired activities for the kids to do at home or these geography-themed games to play together.