Everyday Museums


I remain an unashamed advocate of taking kids to museums (babies, toddlers, big kids….all kids).  If you are feeling nervous because you aren’t sure if they will like it or don’t know what to do when you are there…that is ok!  Comment here, post to Facebook or Twitter and I will help you through it.  I don’t want those reasons to stop you from going.

However, I do realize that some obstacles really are deal breakers. Maybe you don’t live close to a museum, maybe the ones near you are expensive or some other obstacle really makes it impractical to go frequently. If that is the case, you can still give your family the museum “experience” in your everyday life.

Draw a mental map of your neighborhood.  Is there any public art? Accessible nature (whether its a single tree or a mountain you can climb)? Buildings with really unique architecture?  Right there you have a substitute for an  art museum, natural history museum and history museum.

Think about how you act in a museum. Mostly, it is about observation.  You look at stuff, point out things to each other, debate the purpose of something you don’t recognize, draw attention to an object.  All of this you can do at the Post Office, grocery store or library.!

You can even give them a hands-on/interactive learning experience in your “everyday museum.”  My friend David, who inspired this post, sent me a really good write-up of the adventures he and his daughter have at the hardware store.

“So I have seen your curiosities column, and I have an idea for you (are you taking ideas??) My idea/suggestion is the adventures at Home Depot/Lowes/etc. I know it isn’t classy, but just wait, hear me out.

I take A to home stores for 4 reasons: 1. She is loud, no matter where you are in the house, so the only way to have a quiet house is to remove A. 2. Unlike most stores, home stores are not marketed to kids, so they aren’t always grabbing for flashy little toys. 3. At least up here, we haven’t had suitable weather to go outside for weeks, and toddlers cooped up for that long is a bad thing and home stores have big open areas to run and walk. 4. I always have projects I need to go to the store for.

We usually go early in the morning, when we really won’t disturb anyone. She can run around. When she picks something up, there is little risk of “you broke it, you bought it”. And there are tons of fun things to learn. There are textures: tile, carpet, wood. Colors in paint and carpet. Windows that crank, shades that pull, things to step up into.”

David, not only do I think it is classy…but it sounds like fun! Yes, museums definitely provide something that one-of-a-kind, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a meaningful, museum-like experience no matter what your circumstances are.

Now that this is on my mind, I will try to highlight some “everyday museum” ideas as they come up in my life.I’d also love to hear about yours!

***If you are a teacher, this is something you can really apply in your classroom! I’ve done some workshops  at conferences and in preschools on applying museum education strategies in the classroom and would be happy to come to you.  Also, if you are going to the 2014 Southern Early Childhood Conference, come to my session on it (Everyday Museums- 7:30am on Saturday…I didn’t pick the time). ***

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