Hey Kids, Lets…Take A Visit to the Art Museum! A successful outing in 3 steps, plus a bonus SECRET tip!

“Hey Kids, Let’s Take a Visit to the Art Museum” is an article by Jamie Hershberger. Click here to read a random post.

The First Visit to the Art Auseum – AKA, Regretting Being “Out In Public With My Kids”

Our first family visit to the art museum was pretty much a disaster.

My children were born two years apart, which was terrific when we were all at home, because the children had each other to play with, and my husband and I could enjoy one another. However, we struggled during our first few outings together as a family, including one miserable rainy day when we decided on an impromptu visit to the art museum.

It turns out, herding three children through a place as “grown up” as an art museum is a pretty significant challenge – at least the first time! I had no idea what to expect, either from my children or the facility, which lead to my overwhelm and frustration.

A Visit to the Art Museum With Kids – An Outing the Whole Family Will Enjoy? 

“Impossible!” You may say; but learning from the mistakes of my first disastrous outing, I implemented a bit of strategy to ensure our next visit would be amazing – and it was! Today, I’ll pass these tips on to you! My strategy and three-step plan will help you pull off a successful outing. Plus, I have a bonus “secret” tip to event success (and it isn’t even playing the “because I said so,” card – this time)!

Overall Strategy – The “Thanksgiving Dinner” Mindset

My general approach to a successful outing to the Art Museum could be called the “The Thanksgiving Dinner Mindset.” (I’m an American, so of course you can/should substitute your feasting day of choice.) Much in the way a one begins preparations for this colossal meal a month or more in advance, you can start preparing well in advance for your visit to the art museum with kids.

“Well, smarty pants,” I hear you snark, “I cook a mean giblet gravy, but that’s nothing at all like getting my son to look at a statue without pointing out its exposed genitals, then snort-laughing loud enough to draw a stink-eyed glare out of every old biddy in the room.”

To this, I respond with a nervous chuckle and the following disclaimer: while I can’t guarantee your son won’t point or laugh at the art (and kind of hope he does, actually – that means he’s present and engaged, after all!) I can help you out with some basic strategies for getting your kiddos to at least have tolerable attitudes during the outing.

The Three Steps to a Successful Visit to the Art Museum with Kids In Tow

1. Physical Building Reconnaissance

Check the museum’s website for all relevant details such as what exhibits will be showing, whether strollers are allowed, and what are the options for food. Find and print out any maps, noting locations of restrooms, snack areas, playgrounds, and smoking areas. (Check to see if sack lunches are okay; the potential for savings here is HUGE!)

If you live close enough, stop in, if possible. A human connection sometimes goes a long way to ease your mind, and you’ll get a good idea about what type of environment you’ll be taking the kids into (ie. how “stuffy” the place is). If you can’t manage an actual advanced visit to the art museum, some afternoon when everyone else has passed out, drive through the parking lot of the place so that it is familiar to you on the day of the trip. This is especially helpful for those with larger vehicles or concerns about accessibility parking. 

2. Research the Artist

Which artists’ work will be on display during your anticipated visit? Find this information on the museum’s website. Write down these names. Later, take the time to look up each one. Sift through all the “boring” information and find some fascinating facts to share with your family about each artist. This website has some excellent examples to inspire you. Casually show your children and spouse pictures of the artist and their art. Talk about the facts you learned in step two. Text them images of the art, on occasion (bonus if you are handy enough to create some memes from them!)

3. Be An Example – Practice Art Appreciation “In the Wild”

Art is everywhere, if you know how to look for it. Be an example for your partner and children; pay more attention to art when you are out and about. Point out paintings on walls at hotels or other places of business, or pictures in well-illustrated children’s books.

Ask your children and/or partner what they like or do not like about each observed piece of art. Listen. Do not respond with anything but acceptance. Wait longer than you think is “normal” for the answer. If gentle prompting seems required, ask things such as, “does the painting make you happy or sad?” even if the answer seems obvious to you. Again, it is important to accept any and all answers – even “inappropriate” ones. Always Remember – The bad behavior will stop if ignored. This is why we practice!

ADVANCED: Start to point out features of the artist’s work in everyday life – “hey, kids, do you see the Art Deco architecture?” or “Can you see the influence of Cubism on this advertisement?” 

BONUS Tip: The “Secret” to a Successful Outing – Enjoy Yourself!

Finally, I will reveal to you my number one tip to having a successful visit to the Art Museum with kids. The key “secret” this time (and really, every time!) for a successful outing, is for you (yes, YOU!!) to have a good time! I know it seems impossible – your the person “in charge,” after all; but the good news is, whether or not you enjoy yourself on the outing is entirely up to you!

I understand the temptation to succumb to the pressure of keeping everyone fed (and clothed!) while in public; I’ve been there! I have! But, whether you like it or not, you are the adult, which makes you the leader of the group. Your attitude will set the tone for the entire day.

So, keep it positive! Remind your partner of this fact as well. In fact, feel free to print this page and present it as a part of your pre-visit strategy – as a gentle reminder for his/her best possible behavior to “show up” on “gameday”.

Rest appropriately the few days prior to the event.

You will not want “I’m tired,” to be a handle to grab on when your pleasant and positive attitude is sinking. Do not skip this part, and protect this time; the moment you commit to a couple of days resting up, you will surely be invited to help locate your neighbor’s lost dog or to go help your sister declutter her garage. You need this extra preparatory rest. Remember – your goal is to turn up cheerful for your family on museum day, and be ready gush about watercolors while wrangling a toddler and a 45 lb. wagon stuffed with diapers and goldfish crackers. Rest will have you better prepared for this challenge, physically and mentally.

Remember that whether your family actually enjoys the outing is up to them – not you.

Museum day is for YOU to enjoy, as well, and chances are you will be primed to go, especially if you’ve done all the advanced research I’ve suggested. This is when the bad attitudes of others on the outing can threaten your serenity; but remember, you’ve done all you can to ensure a great day.

When “The Spirit of Old Sour Puss” threatens to show up and take someone in your family over, they need a firm reminder of the fact that they have been given all the resources they need for an enjoyable day, and that it is only their attitude about the situation that needs changing. I have actually said to my children on such occasions, “You are here now, and are staying until I am ready to leave. Whether you have a good time, or a bad time is entirely up to you.” 

Stick to your commitment not to worry about everyone else’s happiness, and you’ll be free to receive the messages of other human beings’ efforts to connect with you across time and space. Bask in the pure wonder of it! Get lost in the colors! Enjoy yourself! Your kids will pick up on your energy and enthusiasm for the work. Remember – more is “caught” than “taught!”


Hopefully, my three tips have taken some of the stress out of the idea of visiting the art museum with your kids. I hope you feel inspired to venture out, and that my “secret” success tip will help ensure everyone has an amazing time! If you do venture out, I’d love to hear about your results – even if they are tales of “pointing and laughing.”

“Hey Kids, Let’s Take a Visit to the Art Museum” is an article by Jamie Hershberger. Click here to read a random post.