Photo: Elise Billiard
Una Mamma Green is an Italian journalist, author and mum of two.
She writes about environmental sustainability, parenthood, culture and travels
Children at the museum? Impossible! A granitic prejudice that still dwells in the minds of many adults, including parents. Museums and, in general, cultural sites, in fact, are often considered as “inappropriate” places for children, at high risk of boredom and, consequently, of chaos and problems. In reality, with good preparation, it is possible to take the children to the museum with very little difficulty, but rather with the satisfaction of the whole family. Here are some suggestions.
First thing: choose well
The concept of “museum” has evolved over the last few decades: although in the common imagination it is often associated with dusty and boring places, the reality today is that exhibition techniques, productions and museum itineraries have changed over time, and now offer varied and exciting experiences for visitors of all ages. To bring children to museums, especially if they are the first experiences, you can for example focus on interactive museums that allow young visitors to make practical experiences of various kinds (scientific experiments, digital experiences, multisensory paths, etc.), much more engaging than a simple “walk among works of art”. In choosing, given the wide range offered, one can also be guided by the tastes and interests of the child, focusing for example on a naturalistic, archaeological or historical museum according to the child’s specific inclinations.
Prepare them well
Before the visit, it may be useful to prepare the children for the experience that awaits them. You do not need to give them a “lesson”, but some simple information on what they will see and do, or a few words on the topic of the visit or exhibition. Even flipping through a theme book can help you “enter the atmosphere”. This will allow, on the one hand, to create expectation and expectation in the child and, on the other, to make sure that his experience can be reassuring and fulfilling.
Sharing is key
As with many other situations, the key to the success of a visit to the museum with children is sharing the experience: accompanying children means not only physically escort them, but also involve them in the visit, stimulating them with questions, parallels, imagination games. Looking at a picture together can become a real journey with the imagination, the beginning of an invented story, a hunt for hidden objects, or the opportunity to remember past experiences or to discuss something (“Which character do you prefer? What is the colour you like best? “). In short, the actual experience of sharing will allow you and the child to know each other better and accumulate indelible and priceless memories. Always answer the children’s questions honestly, and if you do not know the answer say so and look up the information requested by the child together. Feed their curiosity, do not leave them alone!
Theater and laboratories: child-friendly spaces
To make the first visit to a museum more exciting, focus on experiences such as theatrical routes or those with people in costumes, or let the children participate in creative and educational workshops now proposed by many cultural and historical sites in Malta. Moreover, numerous museums offer routes for families, with information points designed specifically for younger visitors, spaces for playing, and audio guides for children.
Rules of the museum are important: respect others
Of course, the first thing to keep in mind when deciding to take children to the museum is to respect the artistic heritage and other visitors: no screaming and no noise, no rushes, no harassing behaviour. Choose, if possible, days and hours that are not too crowded, and moments of the day when the children are not tired or hungry. And if your child is particularly restless or shows that s/he does not like the experience, better go out and try again at another time, or take a sandwich break at a bar or a walk to the swings, and return to the museum when the child is ready.