Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tips for visiting a children's museum

Looking down on the Atrium/Entrance of the
Children's Museum of Indianapolis
A few weeks ago, the arrow and I visited the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. It's the world's largest children's museum (and while this might not be measurable, I would also argue the world's best). This weekend, we visited the children's museum here in Columbus, Indiana called Kidscommons (much smaller, but still lots of fun). I have several posts planned to share all the fun we had during our visits, but I'd like to start with some tips that are applicable for many museums.

1) Know your limits. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is so large we could have spent three days there. But like most kids, the arrow is at his best when he's rested and fed. So we planned to only be there for a couple of hours. We can always go back and see some of what we missed another time.

2) Research the exhibits in advance. Because this museum is so large, I wanted to be thoughtful about which exhibits to visit since I knew we couldn't see them all. What's age appropriate? What interests your kids? Also, check to see if an exhibit is scheduled to end soon. If it is, and your kids would like it, make that a priority.

3) Plan ahead. Many museums have at least one day a week when they are closed. For the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, that day is Monday.

4) Food. I'm not a huge fan of museum cafeterias. I think it's a little like eating at an airport--overpriced, few options, nothing special. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis has a perfectly decent cafeteria, but you can also bring your lunch. We were ready to leave by the time lunch rolled around, so we just went somewhere outside the museum. You might try to figure out what options you have in advance. No one makes wise choices on an empty stomach.

5) Go early. The first two exhibits we visited, the arrow basically had the place to himself. Our final two stops were much more crowded (although still very fun). I was glad to have that quiet, special time with him for the first hour we were there. (Let's face it, if you're like me, your kid is up at 7 a.m. anyway. What are you waiting for?)

6) Buy tickets in advance. This is particularly true if you don't arrive early (see above). Many museums offer this option on their websites, including the Children's Museum of Indianapolis (click here). We all know kids don't like to wait in line, so save them one less experience doing that.

7) Think about ticket options. Depending on how often you plan to visit a museum and how many people are in your family, a membership might make a lot of sense. Many museums have free days or times, but it's often crowded during those periods. If you buy tickets just for the day, but decide you want a membership later, many museums will apply that day's admission toward the membership. So save your receipt. We planned our visit to Kidscommons when my mom's group organized a group outing, so we saved a lot that way.

My mom and the arrow pretend
to bake bread in the Egypt exhibit at the
Children's Museum of Indianapolis.
8) Meet or bring a friend. My mom joined us the day we visited the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. While I certainly could have handled the trip alone without any trouble, it was nice to have a second set of hands to take pictures and such. It was clear at this museum that many moms had met up so that they could spend some time together while their kids had fun, too. Great idea.

9) Pack light. My trusty backpack was stocked with hand sanitizer, diapers, wipes, snacks, etc. The arrow was so fascinated by all there was to see and do that we didn't need a thing. There was sanitizer all over the place, which I'm sure is common in most children's museums.

10) Have fun. Bring a good attitude and a childhood wonderment and you'll have a great time. There's nothing like watching your child learn and experience new things.

If you plan to visit the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, you might save a few bucks by reading this post from Indy's own Queen of Free. She's often asked how to save money at this museum. Much of her advice is applicable to any museum.

Do you have any tips to share to make a trip to a museum more enjoyable for all?

This post is a part of Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda.


  1. This is a great list - I'm an especially big fan of planning ahead to focus on the exhibits that would be of most interest to my kids. That and going first thing in the morning are our two "secrets" for success. I usually bring along an extra set of clothes, too. You never know what might happen!

  2. Great suggestion, Debi! Both children's museums we've visited recently had a "water" play area. An extra shirt or change of clothes would be really helpful to have!

  3. Great list! We just went to a local children's museum last week and it would have helped to remember several of these! :)

  4. Excellent advice! I especially agree with "go early." Our family tries to avoid crowds, and this is one of the best ways to do that.

    A while ago, I created a list of "rules for parents at children's museums" that I was reminded of when I read your post. http://minnemom.com/2009/04/07/rules-parents-childrens-museums/

  5. Great tips! Knowing your limits is crucial with kids - whether you're visiting a museum, a theme park or just strolling around a city. It stops being fun when the kids are tired and there is no upside to pushing them to try and take in more.