Museums are community centers designed to inform and teach the public. When we ask what is the educational benefit of a museum, the immediate response is academic learning. Absorbing academic information, however, is scratching the surface of what museums offer families and specifically children.
It can be challenging to bring young children to a museum when they can have short attention spans, inability to read, and no prior knowledge of the subject. By introducing bite size trips to your children, it is actually doing more than just teaching them information on a subject.
10 Educational Benefits for Bringing Children
to a Museum
Encourages a Love of History
Museums are the caretakers of history as much as they offer connections to history that can easily be overlooked in traditional classrooms. Whether you bring your child to a children’s museum, art gallery, or science museum, history has made a huge impact on the innovation they are witnessing. As parents we don’t have to be experts on subject matters, however reading out the plaques in the exhibit and motivating your child to ask questions will encourage a love of history.
Listening to Stories
While interning at the National Museum of the American Indian (NAMI), I had the opportunity to visit dozens of museums the summer I graduated from college. From the Museum of Modern Art to the Whitney to the Air and Space Museum to Holocaust Memorial Museum, I was able to walk through hundreds of exhibits and learn the importance of storytelling. Museums are full of stories, and it is critical for our children to hear those stories. Stories told at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. not only teach our children history but also encourage empathy.
Compare and Contrast
Museums offer opportunities for children to compare and contrast what is important for them which leads to higher critical thinking skills. An art museum will contain various types of artwork and as they stroll through an exhibit there will be differences in the style, subject matter, and techniques demonstrated in the artwork which can foster interesting conversations.
Visiting a museum opens the door for your child’s curiosity in the form of questions. Some of these will be questions that have answers, questions that should be encouraged, questions that make you think, and questions that may not have answers. All of these questions should be encouraged, and don’t worry if you don’t know the answers. Ask your child what they believe the answer is and listen to their reasoning.
Boosts Language Development
At Mommy University, we always look for opportunities to boost language development and it is no surprise that visiting a museum will assist in this process for not only your child but you as well. Visiting the Rubik’s Cube exhibit at Liberty Science Center last year, I was exposed to videos about non-linear problem solving which has now weaved itself into my vocabulary. For young children, boosting language development revolves around identifying words while for older children the exposure to new concepts and ideas will carry higher level vocabulary.
Encourages New Ideas
An interesting challenge we attempt each year is to visit a museum or exhibit that doesn’t immediately captivate our interest. We actually will walk through an exhibit that we lack prior knowledge. The purpose behind this is to expose ourselves as well as our children to new ideas and concepts. My husband and I will make a point to discuss what we see, how we interpret it, and ask our children questions. We are modeling for them how we interact with the exhibit and information but more importantly that we are open to new things whether we are familiar with it or not.
When you walk into a museum that contains the skeleton of an animal that is taller than your house and has not walked this planet in millions of years, your mind begins to wonder. When you walk into a museum that has a planetarium that provides light shows about the solar system, your mind begins to dream of the night sky. Museums inspire us to wonder, imagine and dream of possibilities that are beyond what we know.
When visiting museums, we always stop off at the information desk for a list of activities that are taking place that day and attempt to structure our visit to include some of the scheduled programs. At Liberty Science Center, we have been lucky to see animals up close and interacted in programs on math in football. The Morris Museum incorporates stations at some of their special day events, such as Dino Day, where children can make their own fossils. The Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts Art Splash in the summer where children can learn about what has inspired artists and through activities can have a deeper appreciation of art. Through museum programs and activities, children are exposed to opportunities that spark creative moments.
Fosters Family Bonding
In addition to exhibits that might appeal to your family, some museums like Montclair Art Museum have specific activities and days dedicated to families. Museums don’t just want to appeal to the more mature visitor because they know that children who enjoy museums will become adults who will want to return. Visiting a museum as a family also gives everyone on opportunity to get to know each other better and engage in meaningful conversations.
Creates Lifelong Learners
By encouraging your children to play and visit museums, it is creating lifelong learners. While most careers require a specific type of education, the reality in our changing world is that we need to be lifelong learners to continue to grow as the demands change. Museums encourage curiosity which is necessary for children to become lifelong learners. Museums seek out unique links and relationships that are not always readily present which offers us, the viewer, something new each time we visit. There is always the possibility for an “ah ha” moment to occur.