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Tips and tricks for visiting museums with children

Kids are fed. They are watered. And they napped. Ready to go to a museum?  

These days, a museum visit is awe-inspiring. Once a place to warehouse dusty old things, modern museums aimed at families are lively, interactive and stimulating.  

That’s if everything goes according to plan. But as parents or caregiver knows, kids often run their own agenda. They become bored, overstimulated to the point of a meltdown, just too tired to enjoy the moment. 

Here are some helpful tips for making the most out of your visit to the museum with children. 

Plan your trip around naps and mealtimes

Being well-rested and fed means little ones are less likely to feel overwhelmed. Pack some snacks for the trip to keep them energized and engaged. Many museums will have cafés, but typically, they may not have a kid-friendly selection. It’s also a good idea to go to the washroom immediately before exploring. 

Visit the top exhibit your kids want to see first


Plan out which exhibits you want to see and rate them based on appeal and access. It might mean that you are walking around the museum less efficiently, but if suddenly your children become tired, you will have seen the high-priority items on your list. Check if the museum has a children’s area to visit when they lose interest in the other exhibits. 

Pack snacks and review the rules around outside food

Some museums have designated eating and beverage areas, while others don’t permit outside food. If you can’t bring anything to eat, pack a tailgate snack and enjoy your short break in the parking lot or a nearby picnic area. Many museums have water fountains, so you can bring your water bottle to refill as needed.   

Bring your gear

Children come with many accessories: comfort toys, extra clothing, water bottles, snacks, and diapers. Check if the museum allows you to bring a stroller or a wagon to hold the gear. If not, they may supply museum-approved wheels. Alternatively, consider a baby carrier that fits into a small bag. 

Take photos from the start


Your museum visit is going to be a whirlwind. It is a good idea to take family photos upon arrival to capture everyone’s happy and rested faces. You could even ask a staff member to take a picture of you with the kids. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to capture every look of delight on your children’s faces, but you risk missing out on your own enjoyment and quality time together. 

Be a role model

Children often mirror their parents or caregivers’ behaviour and attitudes, so let your inner child out! If the museum has interactive play and demonstrations, this is your moment to really have fun, ask questions and show interest. Some museums create a scavenger hunt activity for little ones, or you can make up your own of things they need to find to keep them engaged. 

Break it up


Young children may have shorter attention spans, so consider splitting your visit into smaller chunks. CAA Members get 10% off memberships at the three Ingenium Museums, making it economical and easy to make multiple visits. Alternatively, you could take breaks in between exhibits or explore different sections of the museum. It’s okay if you miss some things or go at a faster pace; you probably won’t see every corner of the museum like you would if the trip were for adults only

Follow their interests

Pay attention to what captures your child’s attention the most and spend extra time exploring those sections. Doing this allows them to delve deeper into subjects they find fascinating and makes the visit more engaging for them. You may guide them, but be wary of assuming they’d find your choices interesting.  

Decide on your gift shop strategy

Have a strategy for the gift shop before you get there and let your kids know — right down to budget and number of items. Gift shops can be pricier than toy stores because of the specialty nature of the merchandise, so rather than dealing with crying and whining on your way out of the museum, set your expectations before arriving.   

If the gift shop is not in your plans or budget for the day, avoid it altogether or go to a dollar store and pick up a related toy — then your child still gets something special, but you spend a fraction of the price.   

Save on Canadian museum visits

Don’t forget to bring your CAA Membership card if you’re visiting the Canada Agriculture And Food Museum, Canada Aviation And Space Museum, and Canada Science And Technology Museum. Members save 25% on single entry tickets and 10% off Ingenium memberships. 

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