Yes, I bring my young children (one having autism) to the art museum. Am I crazy…maybe, but I am an advocate that children should experience life as much as possible, even if that means my two young, full of life (and energy!!) kiddos brush shoulders with “the more mature folks” at a quiet, sophisticated art museum. Some tips for a successful visit that I have learned:
1) Go early in the morning. The kids are fresh, I am fresh, and typically it is less crowded than later in the day. We usually do the outdoor exhibits first when it is cooler (summer in Florida is HOT!).
2) Pack healthy snacks and drinks (if they are allowed). My kiddos are always hungry. For them, empty tummies equal meltdowns. The more tummies that are full with healthy snacks, the better…for all of us.
3) Pack a notebook, crayons, and pencils. Encourage your kids to draw pictures, take notes, illustrate their impression of the art, and/or write summaries of the various exhibits, paintings, artistic creations…anything they see and experience.
4) Remind your kids to look and enjoy with their eyes and not with their hands. This may save you from an embarrassing scene being scolded by the museum staff.
5) Take safety precautions. When I am with my kiddos where there are a lot of people, I typically put their wristbands on (this has my cell phone number on it), dress them in bright colors so they are easier to spot in a group, and remind them of a few of our personal safety rules (if they get separated from me, they are to stop where they are at and only talk with a police officer or staff member at the museum we are at. I have taught them to look for someone in a specific uniform that I point out when we enter the museum. We also have a “code word.” This is a word that only my kids and I know. Nobody else. If someone (beside a police officer, family member, or close friend) tells them to go with them, that person must know the code word. If they don’t know it, my kids know to run, scream, do anything to draw attention and get help).
6) Limit time. Don’t plan on spending a full day in a museum or you are likely to end up weary and exhausted. We typically stick to half a day per visit. Research whether the museum has any days or times when admission is free so that a short visit doesn’t feel like a waste of money.
My advice is to expose your children to as much culture and experiences as you possibly can. They are little sponges. They need to soak up this great, big world they live in. They may not enjoy a “boring art museum,” but perhaps…they may.