Make the Most of Summer Family Outings

2685 c.1980: Anne & Family at Olvera Street

Trips to museums, the zoo, and outdoor concerts are fantastic summertime experiences for the entire family.  Taking the entire family to a fine art museum or concert in the park can be a formative and positive experience.  Many of my favorite childhood memories are of visiting museums and local landmarks with my family.  I’ve worked in museums, theme parks, and theaters for most of my career and I hope these simple tips can help you make the most of your family outings.

Be flexible.  You don't have to see it all in the first visit.  You really don't.  Being flexible and choosing just a few things to see based on your child's attention span will leave them wanting more. Build from your child’s interest and begin by having them direct which works of art or exhibits they want to visit.  If you know you are going to visit a venue on more than one trip, add new attraction to your plans each time you visit.  Creating an experience that peaks your child’s interest will drive deeper engagement in future outings. 

Turn your phone off.  Also, many museums and live performances discourage video and photo taking while in the venue. In this day in age we feel a lot of pressure to capture every moment.  Unfortunately, in our fervor to capture the perfect moment…we lose the opportunity to live the moment.  Each outing is an opportunity to create memories with your family, not just of your family.

Be Physically Prepared.  Nobody has fun when they are uncomfortable.  Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.  Leave the big heavy bags at home (some museums and venues even don’t allow large bags, so grab just a few essentials).  If you know you are going to be out for a while remember to drink plenty of water, HYDRATE!  Slather with sunscreen before leaving the house.  And…Use the potty before getting started.

Check venue policies BEFORE you go. The more informed you are the better you can prepare for your visit.  Museums, theaters and other public venues are special places where certain rules must be followed so that all visitors can have a great time.  If you are approached about a set of rules, remember: you’re not a bad person for not knowing the rules, the employee or docent who is just doing their job isn’t a bad person…but once we know the rules, it’s important to follow them. 

Practice being a good audience. As parents, you have an opportunity to model great audience behavior by showing respect for other people around you and the work of the artist/event/exhibit you are viewing.  If this is a new experience for your little one, they will be looking to you for non-verbal cues on how to behave in this new situation.  Help remind young visitors not to touch works of art and help them understand why this is important.  If you are viewing a concert or performance, respect the performer's personal space and the stage during the performance.  When possible, many performers are more than happy to visit with you once the performance is over and would love to interact and take pictures with you after the show.

Get your wiggles out. Many museums and similar venues have outdoor sculptures, gardens, or other open spaces where children can get their wiggles out.  Be willing to take a break and enjoy these active spaces with your family!

Have a plan.  Discuss with your child what to do if you get separated.  Most places you visit will have a “missing parent” protocol.  When a child knows their parents first and last name and what the parent was wearing, staff can get you reunited faster.  Take a moment and make note of what your child is wearing when you leave the house.  If your child is old enough, learning your phone number is extremely useful.

Ask questions and listen to the answers.  Prompt kids to look closely at artwork or an exhibit by asking open-ended and specific questions. “What do you think is going on here? What questions do you have? What does it remind you of”?  Be mindful of the time it may take to formulate and express an answer…be patient and you’ll be amazed by what they will say!  If you are visiting with a toddler, remember to narrate and talk about what you are experiencing as it is happening.  Your child might be pre-verbal, but they are listening!  Talking to your child in the moment is an amazingly effective way to develop those important literacy skills.

Summer adventures await you and your family.  What will you explore today?

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Blog by:

Anne Pierce, Art Specialist, has been with Kidspace Children’s Museum since 2010. She participated in the Master Planning committee and assisted in the development of the Imagination Workshop.  As a theater professional Anne has worked for the Walt Disney Resorts, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Sid & Marty Krofft.  Anne is currently serving on the board of the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry