Taking your children out to the museum can be a stressful and expensive endeavor. You have to get them all packed up and loaded into the car, figure out how to get to the place and park, wait in a line or seven, fork over untold amounts of hard-earned cash, keep the little monsters from setting the place on fire, try not to murder the other parents, change diapers in unfamiliar locations, stuff food down their gullet, and get back home without wanting to pluck out your own toenails.
It all makes you wonder why us parents even bother at all.
Well, I’m happy to say that with a little planning and forethought, you too can take your little rapscallions to the museum with your toenails in tact. So, without further ado, here are my 7 time-tested tips to museum success.
Tip #1: Look for Deals
Don’t be a sucker and pay for full price if you can avoid it. With a little research you can greatly increase your chances of decreasing that nasty ticket price. Sometimes you can find these deals in obvious places, such as the museum’s website. But they can be found in more obscure places as well.
Lately I’ve taken to using my local library for just this purpose. In addition to providing my family with an endless source of free children’s books, they also have a discount pass for over two dozen museums in the area, many of which drop the price in half or even permit free admission on certain days of the week or month. The trick is that you need to reserve your pass in advance. So don’t wait until the last minute! Look for deals and plan your next excursion today.
Tip #2: Go Early
I’m not a morning person. But my daughter is. She’s up before 7am near every day. So why wait around to go to the museum? Why dawdle at all? Take advantage of being up so early and hit the road. The earlier you arrive, the fewer the other obnoxious monsters and meddling parents. And, as we all know, the number of other families has a direct relationship to your own stress levels.
So push out the jive and bring in the love. Go early.
Tip #3: Engage the Other Parents
All that said, there will be other parents there and you will need to deal with them. So don’t shoot them the stink eye when their kid interferes with your child’s enjoyment of an exhibit. Talk to them instead. They share a lot of the same experiences with raising children that you do, and finding a common ground should not be a difficult endeavor at all.
Now, I must admit, however, I am a pretty introverted person. Usually I don’t talk to anyone I don’t know. I’m not one for small talk at all and find living life that much easier when you don’t open your heart and mouth to others. But I’m starting to learn the foolishness in doing so, especially in places geared for young children. Parents are typically very stressed out in places such as these and it’s easy for the bad vibes to come through.
So don’t let them. Talk to the other parents. Find that common ground. You’ll enjoy yourself so much more if you do. I promise.
Tip #4: Engage Your Child Too
Let’s face it: actively parenting your child is hard. Especially in a public place. It’s much easier to simply stand with your back against the wall and let him or her go nuts independently. But to do so would be a mistake.
You see, your child wants you to participate with her. (At least until she’s a teenager.) So don’t deprive her of that. Talk to her about what she’s doing, seeing, or learning about. Play with the exhibits. Join in on the fun. Strengthen that bond. It sounds so obvious, I know, but I rarely see it in action. And that’s too bad.
Tip #5: Take Your Time
It’s easy to get bored in children’s museums if you’re a parent or guardian. After all, the magic of bubbles doesn’t have the same effect on you anymore. Neither do springs. Or bouncy balls. But to a young child, bubbles, springs, and balls are AMAZING. So are rocks, sticks, buttons, coins, and pretty much anything else kids can get their hands on.
So don’t rush them. Don’t let your boredom affect your child’s enjoyment of the exhibits. Sure, you might be counting all the floor tiles or wishing you could get home in time to see “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” That’s just natural. But you are there for your child. Allow them to stop and smell the roses.
After all, once you become a parent, it’s not really about you anymore. Is it?
Tip #6: Bring a Lunch
Not every museum has a café, but if there is one on hand it’s usually stocked with overpriced garbage. So avoid the trap. Pack a lunch instead. Not only does it give you more control over what you’re feeding you and your kiddo and save you some bucks, if you followed my second tip, it might also serve as a good transition for getting out of the place and back home. “Let’s go have lunch,” sounds a lot better to a child than “Let’s go home,” after all.
Tip #7: Be Prepared for Waterworks
Even if you follow all of my tips and your trip goes extremely well, every good time usually ends with tears. Lots of them. There may be a thousand reasons to leave, but if your child is having fun, he won’t want to leave. EVER.
Unfortunately there’s not much to be done about this. You just have to deal with it. So, when the time comes, treat it like a band-aid and pull it straight off. The tears will subside soon enough and your kid will be back to the lovable little monster you arrived with.