Rainy day adventures: go to a museum

When outdoorsy adventures aren’t an option, consider exploring the world together on a family trip to a museum. From modern children’s centres for interactive learning to centuries-old museums suitable for all ages, and from world-renowned institutions to tiny community collections, educational outings come in different shapes and sizes – but all offer new and exciting ways to learn about the world we live in.

Here are some tips for your next museum visit, plus a few ways to keep the curiosity alive at home.

Two young children listen to audio tour devices
Audio tours can keep kids engaged at museums © BlueOrange Studio / Shutterstock

Practical tips for visiting a museum with kids

1) Do your kids love space, oceans, art or animals? When it comes to choosing a museum, see if you can find one that fits with your children’s interests or a topic they’re studying.

2) Aim to arrive as soon the museum opens, or turn up an hour or two before closing to beat the crowds.

3) Plan snack breaks in advance. Bring water and mess-free nibbles, and be aware of the refreshments available on site. It may be worth heading to a (potentially cheaper) cafe nearby, if your tickets allow for re-entry.

4) Museum fatigue is very real for kids and adults alike, and rushing around in order to see all the exhibits will only tire everybody out. Remember, less is more; pick one or two sections to explore thoroughly, watch out for signs of overstimulation in your kids and know when it’s time to head home.

5) Be prepared to exit through the gift shop…

Things to do at a museum

Take a tour

Lots of museums offer information online or in leaflet form to help you follow a self-guided tour or trail – put the kids in charge as tour guide and see where you end up! Paper maps and audio tours can be a wonderful way to engage little ones, who may not have the longest attention spans. Then there are family tours, which are designed with young learners in mind. Do your research beforehand so you know what to expect.

Join a workshop

Would your kids love to create their own map of Mars or learn to code? Many museums run kid-friendly activities and special events, from crafting workshops and expert-led talks to weekend-long family festivals! Check out your chosen museum’s website to see what they have coming up.

A close up of a child's hands using crayons to draw on lined paper
Encourage kids to take in all the details through drawing © karelnoppe / Shutterstock

Sketch what you see

Museum meandering can be a tiring business, so there’s no harm in slowing down and soaking up the atmosphere. Take paper and pencils along to the museum and encourage the kids to sketch their favourite element of an exhibition. They could draw an entire gallery or one particular piece – whatever it is, it should get them thinking about what they’ve learned, and produce a nice memento of your day together.

Collect five facts

Task your youngsters with remembering five interesting bits of information they discover during your time at the museum. They could write down their findings in a notebook or try to memorise them. Everyone can then share and compare their interesting facts on the journey home.

Stay over

Some museums run special sleepover events for children, inviting kids to bed down amongst dino bones and spy gadgets, or beneath entire galaxies. Enquire at your local museums to see if they have such an event scheduled, or plan a trip further afield for an unforgettable night away from home.

A child wearing gloves plays with bright yellow slime
Turn your kitchen into a science lab with household products © Luuuusa / Shutterstock

Things to do at home

Do an experiment

There are lots of ways to learn about science at home, using everyday items. You could try making slime, moving a can using static, or even creating art out of milk. Bill Nye (the science guy) has lots of ideas on his site.

Make an exhibition of your life

Challenge your kids to curate their very own exhibition. They could scour the house for items from their younger years – think old baby blankets, family photos, a special teddy bear or last year’s pencil case – and write information labels explaining why each piece is important to them.

A young child looks through a telescope through a window at night
Use a telescope if you can see the night sky from home © Stock-Asso / Shutterstock

Stargaze

Let the kids stay up late, wrap up warm and – if the weather permits by night-time – venture out into the garden or a local outside space to take a look at the stars. Take a pair of binoculars and download an app such as SkyView or Star Walk Kids to help you explore the night sky and identify constellations and planets. We hear hot chocolate has been proven to aid in astronomical observations...

Learn online

Extend your educational exploits with a little screen time. Get young ones thinking about our universe with this playlist for stargazers. Older kids might like the Sci Show, TedEd and Crash Course Kids YouTube channels. Lonely Planet Kids can help too!

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