Tips for visiting museums with children

As I fetched the morning paper from my driveway, I got a wonderful Northern California vibe from the misty rain that’s so rare in these parts. Perfect inspiration for a phone call made just a short time later to San Francisco author Janie Havemeyer.

A little something for those of you who share my fondness for giving beautiful books as holiday gifts

Havemeyer recently authored “Catherine de’ Medici The Black Queen,” illustrated by Peter Malone — which is part of a Goosebottom Books series titled “The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames.” Havemeyer’s passion is bringing history alive for youth, something she’s accomplished not only in her writings — but also in time spent teaching social studies to elementary age children and years spent working in museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Hoping Valley families will find refuge from the rain in some of our own amazing museums, I asked Havemeyer for tips about enjoying museums with children. We assume too often that museums are boring places that couldn’t possibly interest our children or teens, but today’s museums are full of hands-on activities that bring art and history alive. And there’s plenty parents can do to up the fun factor.

First, suggests Havemeyer, pick an exhibit. There’s no need to explore an entire museum, and choosing exhibits well-matched to your children’s ages and interests assures they’ll find things of genuine appeal.

Suggest things ahead of time that your children might enjoy looking for, a technique Havemeyer calls “guided exploration.” In a museum full of paintings, for example, ask your children how many paintings they can find with images of children in them. “Make it a bit of a game,” suggests Havemeyer.

Stop by the museum information desk when you arrive at the museum, says Havemeyer, and ask about gallery handouts for kids — which are booklets of activities that often feature suggestions about things children can look for during their visit. Some museums put this information on their website so you’ll have it before you go.

Havemeyer also recommends checking with museums about their children’s programming. Ask about guided tours for youth, special youth activities and free youth programs offered by the museum. Some museums feature dedicated youth areas full of hands-on activities and exhibit spaces sized for children.

If your favorite museum is closed today, try making these cookies from the Facebook page for Goosebottom Books

Consider bringing a notebook or sketch pad along, adds Havemeyer, so your children can write about what they’re seeing or draw some of their favorite works. Ask your children about themes they see in various works, suggest Havemeyer, then ask what they think an artist might be trying to do or convey with a specific work.

The key, says Havemeyer, is making the museum experience “interactive.”

— Lynn

Note: Always check museum hours/admission fees before heading out to enjoy them with your children. Click here to read this month’s “On Exhibit” listing in the Raising Arizona Kids calendar. Click here to enjoy the teaching guide for “The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames.”

Coming up: More musings from “Dastadly Dames” authors, Roses are blue…


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