10 Tips For Conquering the Art Museum with Preschoolers and Toddlers

Lately I’ve been stuck in a cycle with my kids with our activities. You know the drill. Breakfast, school, errands, school pick up, lunch, nap, park time, school pick up again, dinner, homework, show, bedtime routine. Repeat x7 to make the week work.

Now, I’m all about having a routine. Trust me, I protect my two year old’s nap time like it’s my only hope of survival (Okay, it totally may be just that.). But lately I’ve been wanting to make sure they experience unique outings that will broaden their lens of the world.

And something within me itched for a challenge. We often keep our kids in family friendly environments, but I wanted them to move past the blocks, unbreakable furniture, and acceptable decibles. One of my favorite places that always seemed rather enchanted as a child was the art museum, specifically the Minneapolis Institute of Art. We only went one time a year, sometimes just with school, but there was something about the experience that put me in awe. And, okay, some years it bored me. But that’s okay, because I remember it and overtime learned to appreciate it. Some things take time to cultivate an appreciation, and I wanted so badly for my kids to have the opportunity.Minneapolis Institute of Art, Art Education, Children, Preschooler, Toddler, family fun, Twin Cities, Minnesota, Minneapolis

We had fun, and the trip was successful because I prepared both mentally and physically for the endeavor (Even did burprees and squats prior to our departure). Trust me, navigating the grounds of a fancy art museum with a 6 year old, 5 year old, and 2 year old was indeed an endeavor.

Here are the 10 tips I used to make the trip memorable and a positive experience for both myself, my hubby, and my children:

  • 1) Choose a local art museum for your first go, preferably one you have visited before. This is not a trip for you. Now, please understand that I’m not saying the world should revolve around your children. In fact, I think it’s important for you to have some general goals of what you’d like to see before walking through those museum doors. But it’s also important to be flexible and have reasonable expectations. Don’t expect to be able to linger more than a few moments at your favorite piece. In order to instill an appreciation for new experiences—especially art—it’s important to acknowledge any interest your child is expressing. If they want to check out Egyptian art when modern art is really the one that captures your heart, I highly advise spending more time in the Egyptian art area. Still swoop through modern art so you can see a piece that steals your heart, but remember that this is about cultivating an interest in different arts and cultures for your kids, not a time that’s about renewing your own interests (This should be done on a mom’s night out with friends, followed up with an outing for cake and wine).

    I stole a moment to snap a photo of an ink press piece that captured my attention for obvious, book-nerdish reasons
    I stole a moment to snap a photo of an ink press piece that captured my attention for obvious, book-nerdish reasons
  • 2) Have reasonable expectations on time and attention. This many not be a trip where lingering is a possibility. Let them move through the exhibits at a pace that holds their attention. We walked into the museum not expecting to stay more than an hour and a half and, like the best television shows, we ended the trip while we were still on top. We knew their limits and didn’t dare drag them on through the museum to the point where they would be whining or worse.


  • 3) Give them something to hold! Pick up a few disposable cameras or slap on those Otterboxes or Lifeboxes and let them have your cell phones to snag their own photos of the experience. [I will spare you my 100 photos of blurry painting, objects, and the floor]


  • 4) Wear a messenger bag. Backpacks are not advised in museums because you can knock a statue or painting while turning around.


  • 5) Route their brains the right direction. Saying “Don’t touch” only makes them want to touch. Instead, take the “keep hands to yourself” approach. The “Walk please” instead of “don’t run!” etc.Art Appreciation, Toddler, Preschooler, Education, Art Education


  • 6) Point out simple concepts that they can appreciate. This isn’t the time to talk about pointillism or what each hieroglyphic stands for. “Look at those colors.” “This was made a long, long time ago.” “Guys, this is supposed to be a tree. Look how the painter changed it! Isn’t it cool?”
  • Modern Art, Art Appreciation, Kids Art Education
  • 7) Have back up. This isn’t exactly an outing I would do on my own with my three children. There is no perfect ratio for adult to child that can be advised. We all know our own kids. You’ll know if it’s a stretch for you to accomplish this with or without help. Knowing my two year old, backup was essential for me to make this trip fun for everyone.


  • 8) Snacks. This is sort of no brainer with this age group. Have a few crumb free snacks packed up. Those cheese wheels from BabyBell work great and a package of fruit snacks is a nice way to reward the kids every few rooms with a nice treat!


  • 9) Dress them for success. There’s something about wearing “holiday” clothing or “fancy clothes” that indicates to the kids that they will have to be slightly more mannered. Toss on those dress up shoes and avoid their favorite pair of sweatpants. It’s sort of fun to see their confidence soar because they know they look  know they look darn good. (Now, say they HATE their dress up shoes, then skip it. But maybe toss on a nice button down shirt. One article of clothing or an accessory that makes them feel sharp!)


  • 10) It’s okay if your kids’ favorite part of the trip is the kid’s area or seeing the field trip school buses lining up curbside. This is all about exposing your kids to new experiences!

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    Children’s Reading and Play Room
  • BONUS Tip #11) If you have an older child, like our six year old, it’s nice to have one adult nearby to answer their questions and point out more detail. She moved around the same pace as my younger kids, but I found she had many more questions about relics and the past. It was so cool to see her interest growing and I promised her we’d make a 1:1 trip soon, as I’m certain she would have enjoyed at least 2 hours to explore.

Expanding your kids’ view of what’s fun–even when it’s not fun for the parents–isn’t always easy, but it can be worth it! Glad we took the challenge and we’ll do it again next year. Admittedly, for my next outing I’ll be grabbing a chai and bringing my kiddos to the park.

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