Today’s blog post is inspired by my answer on Quora about why people take young kids to Museums. This post is about why we should take kids to all kinds of museums: science, arts, natural history, industry and so on. The benefits for kids and grown ups are many, and not just limited to the actual topic the institution might be about.
Kids are like sponges, absorbing copious amounts of information. What better than a museum to give them knowledge about varying topics in a fun and engaging way? Plus, children learn to associate and relate information to the world around us.
Museums visits are a must for kids and adults simply for the experience. We learn that there is a world far bigger, richer and varied than what we experience in our day to day lives. Whether looking at foreign cultures or gazing at different expressions of art, or admiring the many types of automobiles, we learn that ‘there is still so much to learn’! Humbling and educational.
No matter what the geography or nature of a museum or the quality of your encounter, one thing is guaranteed: you will learn something or the other. Whether a tidbit [octopuses have three hearts] or a rule [“See with your eyes”] or revelation [Can’t understand/ stand modern art], be assured, learning is guaranteed.
Definitely the most important but often overlooked part of museum visits. By adults! This is one error whose fault lies entirely with grown ups. We bring our stuffy selves to museums and make the experience unpleasant for kids. I am not saying we have to be silly around antiques or be goofy around ancient relics. But, a bit more curiosity and increased enthusiasm never hurt anyone. Adopt the ‘what are we going to learn today?’ mindset and enter the premises into a realm of fun. For the skeptics who still need convincing that fun and education are possible, just visit any kindergarten class to view a fun yet scholastic environment!
Seriously, one of the best lessons to be learn at museums. It’s a fact that we all like different things. Music, books, clothes, cuisines, celebrities, seasons, colors, TV programs, character traits. One of the best mindsets we can teach children is to accept others as they are even as we embrace our own unique selves. And what better place than a vast space full of myriad curios and objects. No one likes everything at a museum, but we all like something. Maybe a sculpture, a quote, a mascot, a show, a trifle, the kid’s discovery room or even the cafeteria.
To cite my family’s example in Chicago’s Art Institute. I loved the landscapes, Hubs liked the digital Black and White Photographs while our then three month infant was happy to be in Grandma’s arms and listen to her delight over the Impressionist paintings and Asian sculptures. We all had to wait for our favorite sections and even the smallest of children can imbibe these skills. That patience, acceptance and tolerance being instilled bit by bit in our future citizens (and present too) are well worth a trip to museums.
6. Social Etiquette
Queue etiquette, waiting for turns, speaking softly, and more are lessons in civility even the littlest of people abide by [or at least try to!]. What is amazing is how quickly children in galleries and museums grasp the concept of ‘Look with your eyes’, ‘No touching’! Sure, little darlings do need reminders or reprimands when deliberately flouting basic niceties in a fit of temper, but they do get it. These are the same rules we urge on at libraries, during work From Home days, in upscale boutiques, in Electronics Stores/Sections. As parents/ supervising adults, we do not skip taking kids to such places because of the “rules”, then why make Museums an exception?
Similar to the above point, discernment and discipline are other valuable lessons learnt in museums, historical sites and galleries. Or more accurately, demonstrated in such places. Walking feet : say in a tour versus running in the garden/ lawns of the same place, restraint while viewing the valuable items as opposed to touching and exploring in the discovery sections, learning to exercise judgement depending on the place and value is a vital concept for kids. These almost contrarian rules at these institutions are not very different from most public spaces or even our homes.
One of my favorite reasons to visit Museums: to make memories. Whether it is your first trip to an art gallery or last family outing before school or a trip away from home, museums make for wonderful, out-of-the-ordinary memories. No matter what the age or stage or budget, we can always gift kids our time, love, and attention and make memories. And out of the ordinary places like museums and similar institutions definitely offer plenty of opportunities to spend awed and happy moments and make priceless memories. [Even hilarious ones like our whole family being equally clueless over Picasso’s famed creation!]
This is one trick I adopted from a children’s magazine. Ask each family member to recall their favorite/ memorable part from a visit or vacation. Start from the youngest to avoid influencing. It will really open your eyes to all the points you missed. Different things appeal to different people, so, you’ll gain an interesting perspective of the place you visited, especially with regards to the kids. Besides, the novel viewpoints will keep your eyes and mind open on your next visit. Plus, everyone can benefit from being sharpening their observation skills.
Museums are excellent topic starters. They can take conversations to all sorts of angles: likes, dislikes, experiences, specific items, countries, cultures, ticket prices, exorbitant but not very palatable food, those tidbits you learnt! What about chatting with kids? Well, ask them what they liked or remembered? How their experience was? A simple: ‘what was your favorite part of the outing’ can get you started? Or ‘were you allowed to touch anything?’ and ‘Do they allow snacks while you view?’ can work great too! It works great for gauging their preferences and working on the vocabulary skills too!
Hopefully, this post illustrated the importance of museums and galleries; how they serve not only as record keepers of human race and accomplishments but also as fabulous places to learn and grow. What are your views on museums? What are your favorite parts and places? Have you had any Eureka moments about the benefits of visiting museums? Share with me in the comments below.