Museums are wondrous places for young children to explore and to develop skills that will help them as they go to school later in life. When you visit a museum kids get to see real objects that they don’t usually see in their everyday lives. Museums are also great places to share stories. While many people don’t think to take their very young children to museums they are great places for kids.
The Smithsonian has long believed that museums are great places for kids. In 1900, Secretary Langley created a Children's Room in the original Smithsonian Institution Building to inspire children to study the natural world. With low cases, an aquarium full of colorful fish, and other exciting exhibits, the Children's Room was a place of wonder and learning. Since the Children's Room closed in 1939, individual museums have looked for ways to welcome and include kids. Here at Wonderplace, we are carrying on the Smithsonian tradition by creating a special place where families can learn, explore, and wonder...together!
Exploring a museum with a baby should not be an all-day affair. Choose one or two places to explore and really spend time looking at the objects in that space. It is important that babies hear language, so talk about what you see and what is happening around you as you explore.
Toddlers will want to explore places where they can move and touch. If you are visiting a space where they can’t touch the objects, bring items with you for kids to hold while they are looking at the exhibits in the museum. Talk about what you see and do lots of naming and identification as you explore the space.
Encourage your preschooler to talk to you about what they see as you move through the museum. Ask them simple questions like “What do you see?” or “Can you tell me a story about that?” to encourage language and complex thinking skills. Be sure to help your preschool child link what they see in the museum to something in their everyday life as this helps build flexible thinking skills and the ability to make connections.