How to Take Your Grandmother to the Museum
When I was in high school I volunteered at my local library in the children’s section. Part of my job was putting the books back on the shelves. Every now and then a book would catch my eye and there was one I remember very specifically, How to Take Your Grandmother to the Museum by Lois Wyse. It is a charming story of an adventurous little girl and her willing and eager grandmother, and the things they discover during a museum outing together. They visit Apatosaurus, whose bones are even older than Grandma’s, and put on their pretend hiking boots for a trek to the Arctic. They imagine elephants trumpeting in the African Hall and travel through time to the Ice Age. Each year the Museum is visited by thousands of people, whether it is school groups, mommies and toddlers, or grandparents with young eager grandchildren. Whatever your age the Museum has a myriad of possibilities to enchant and inspire.
Quite often visitors will ask: “I have only two hours what can I do?” or “I am coming tomorrow what should I see?” As educators we know everyone has a different way of learning and there is no right formula. The day-of can be just as rewarding as planning months ahead, but the outcome is the same. We want you to walk away excited, full of happy memories, and wanting to come back.
Here are a few tips to make the most out of your Museum visit, no matter your age.
Before you visit
Visit the website and find out hours, program listings, and any special exhibits. To learn more about what we offer visit www.naturalsciences.org
Talk about what you will see in the Museum, especially if it’s your first visit. This conversation may include some basic information about museums and also how objects get there and why people collect objects in the first place. Or read a book about museums.
Find out what excites you and them. Are you interested in rocks or reptiles? Find out what floors have exhibits on these topics.
Relate what’s being learned in school to a Museum visit. Children can use the visit to do research or to find out more about a subject they’re currently studying. Even if you are in college you can always look at ways to enrich your classes or a class essay.
Review personal safety and behavior rules. Make a safety plan with your children or family in case you get separated, including the role of museum guards and other staff. Talk with your children about how to behave in the Museum by explaining that museums have rules of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
During the visit: You are here, what do you do now?
The Information Desk is a good “first stop” once you’re at the Museum. There you’ll find floor plans with the location of exhibits, restaurants, restrooms, gift shops, elevators, exits, as well as places to sit and event and program listings.
Be flexible and follow your child’s lead. Don’t be surprised if your planned visit to see the dinosaur bones is put on hold because the live fish have caught your children’s attention. You never know what will spark curiosity.
Play Games. Buy some postcards at the Museum gift shop. Then turn your children into detectives and ask them to find the pictured items. Have youngsters find an object in an exhibit and describe it to other family members so that each one can take a turn guessing what the object is. Where Is It? Ask your child to find something in the exhibit that is very soft…hard…strong…shiny…. Some of these can be done with all ages.
Visit the Museum Gift Shop. Families are sure to find books, posters, toys, games, postcards, and other mementos that remind you of what you saw and expand your knowledge.
Have Fun! I think this is self-explanatory.
If Lois Wyse taught me anything, it is that:
- Museums make you feel good.
- Museums make you smarter.
- Museums provide new ways of learning.
- Museums inspire.
- And most of all, museums are a great way to spend time with friends and family.
For more ideas on ways to make the most of your Museum visit, check out the Learning Resources section of our website which includes treasure hunts, coloring sheets, and much more.