Visiting a Museum

by Deb on July 9, 2010

Rocks and flowers

On our trip to Perth we visited the main WA Museum, so this is partly a specific review and partly some ideas about how to get the most out of a visit to your local museum.  The first is obvious – go when your kids are well fed and rested!  We found it unavoidable because of holiday scheduling, but we knew it would be a short visit and they still had a good time.

Forget what they are ‘supposed’ to be interested in.

Just because it’s a display about geology doesn’t mean little kids will be interested in that aspect, and I’m firmly in the camp that the most important thing is for them to enjoy the visit.  So go with what they want to do.  Our first activity was to climb all over said geology display and find beautiful flowers from the garden to decorate it with, as shown in the above photo.  But along the way the big girl did notice differences in the rocks and interesting features, and what more could you want from a 4 year old?

Choose a small section you want to see.

Don’t try to do too much.  The WA museum covers both science and WA history, so we knew we were only going to see part of it.  This is easy to accept because entry is free with a $2 donation encouraged, so there is no pressure to get your money’s worth.  They have a paid exhibition on at the moment about Pompeii which would be fascinating, but not for a two year old.  So we spent some time in the Discovery Centre, then moved up to the geology/palaeontology section.

Go for the hands on.

Tyrannosaurus rex floor puzzle

Most museums have a section you can get into and play with.  The big girl and I spent a fascinating hour in the Powerhouse Museum playing with electricity and magnets, and the NT Art Gallery and Museum generally has microscopes and puzzles on the go.  At the WA Museum the giant wooden Tyrannosaurus Rex floor puzzle was a hit, as were the puppets (in the background) and patting the birds.

There were live reptiles and frogs, as well as hundreds of drawers of everything from insects to fish to historical shoes.  The girls enjoyed pulling out the drawers to see what was in them, a bit like a lucky dip, but overall there was a lot of looking rather than doing.  It would be brilliant for schoolkids doing a project with very clear explanations, but not so much for younger ones.  Although it was hard to convince the little girl to leave the frog puppet there!

Go at their pace and follow their interests.

Some sections I would have loved to spend more time in, but if the kids are moving quickly, keep up!  There is a great geology section with examples of tektites (tiny glass droplets caused by meteorites) and all sorts of minerals from WA, including diamonds 🙂  I loved the way it was put together to show that the same minerals could come in different forms, and I was surprised the big girl wasn’t too interested – she likes being able to push buttons rather than just look.  The fossils were a big hit with a nod to the dinosaurs, but the most interest was in the things they understood a bit better.  So the head shields from armoured fish, diprotodons and giant kangaroos were popular.  They aren’t the same as anything they’ve seen but are close enough they can imagine what they would have been like, which was far more interesting than something unfamiliar.  It’s a great learning principal to start with the known and extend to the unknown, so keep in mind if you are visiting a museum to find some displays your kids will be able to relate to rather than something completely new.  Or if you are going to a special exhibition, find out a bit about it first so it is a little familiar to them.

Overall we had a great time by following their lead and not trying to set our own agenda.  I would like the opportunity to go back and take things in in lots of small chunks, especially as it’s a free outing, but I’d consider becoming a friend of the museum if we lived in Perth.  The more often you go back, the more things will move from the unknown to the known, so kids will spend time looking at different displays as they become familiar.  It’s also a resource to keep in mind for older kids doing school projects, with both the history and science sections.  It’s definitely a change from the internet and will give kids a different experience.

Have you taken your kids to a museum?  What are your experiences?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

amandab July 9, 2010 at 10:48 am

Since moving away from the city we have missed going to the museum, but memberships are well worth their cost and we used to go regularly.

We did see the Pompeii exhibit when it was in Melbourne. Princess wasn’t interested in most of it, but enjoyed the 3D movie covering the day of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption (she loves volcanoes, particularly Vesuvius), and because she had seen the pictures of the body casts she was very excited about seeing them. I guess it was about a year ago now, so she would have been a bit under 3 when we saw it.

Pompeii was a better exhibit for us than the Mummies one we had seen previously, probably because she was a little older and had some idea of what we were going to see.
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Lauren @ Hobo Mama July 9, 2010 at 10:56 am

Excellent tips! I know what made the difference for us was buying memberships in a few local kid friendly museums so we can go at his pace without feeling we’ re wasting our money. And we know we’ll be back.
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Ro July 9, 2010 at 11:33 am

We’ve been visiting regional/rural museums of late to escape the school holiday crowds and they are so worth it.
Best thing I’ve found is to let kids go at their own pace and we’ve set the rules for awhile now that souvenirs consist of a postcard of their favoured item.
That way they have a reminder of their visit and the particular exhibit they enjoyed 🙂
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Christie - Childhood 101 July 10, 2010 at 6:51 pm

We haven’t been to the museum yet but it is on our to do list now Immy is 2 and a half. Thanks for the tips, I am sure they will be very, very handy.
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Sophie July 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I took DD to Corfe Castle recently (Dorset, UK – near our home) and she loved the visitor centre more than the castle *lol* Scrambling about the ruins in one thing, but a tent full of dressing up costumes? Wooden castle-building blocks? Chess pieces painted like little kings, queens etc? (apparently chess pieces also enjoy playing “shop”)

In the visitor centre there were all kinds of buttons to make noise or pictures, depending on the display we were at. I don’t think DD (aged 3) took much interest in the actual history of the castle, but it certainly kept her happy! And there was a geology display too 😉 The local area has chalk, sandstone, limestone and shale all very close by, and she had lots of fun rubbing the different rocks and pointing “Look Mummy! Baby shells!”

The walk to the castle was also great – the NT have created a wildlife trail, with funky swinging signposts asking kids to find different leaves as they walk along, listen for specific birds and so on. They’ve done really well to get kids looking and learning around them. We’ll go back, and try a few other NT properties nearby too!


Michelle July 11, 2010 at 1:20 am

That looks like a great museum for kids! My kids love this kind of stuff.

I’m visiting from the Tea Party. Great post!



Curious Cat Investing Blog July 11, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Very true, I like these picture of my nephew at the Staten Island Children’s Museum. Kids are great learners. Often just letting them learn what they want is best.
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Grace July 12, 2010 at 11:31 am

I was actually in Pompeii in April. That was an amazing thing to see, but I can imagine there wouldn’t be much to interest a two-year-old at a Pompeii exhibit.
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Marita July 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

Excellent tips 🙂

My girls have been enjoying themselves making museums at home with is lots of fun 😀
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Deb July 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm

What a fantastic idea. We’ll definitely have to do that, it might help us sort everything out!


Tina July 13, 2010 at 11:31 am

Museums are awesome! I love that the entry fee is usually minimal so that if things don’t work out (eg. child not cooperating or too tired) you can leave early and still feel it was worth the trip!
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SquiggleMum July 13, 2010 at 11:53 am

Some great tips there… especially about not trying to cover everything (sometimes less is more) and following the children’s interest.
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Hear Mum Roar July 13, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I love all the hands-on stuff that museums have these days. So much better than all the stuffy exhibits we had as kids, lol1
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Reply July 14, 2010 at 5:50 am

Thanks for the reminder to make sure your children are well fed before you go to the museum. This goes for every outting. Then pack extra snacks in the car to give them on the way home. We love the museum too! Thanks for the great post. 🙂


Kelly Be A Fun Mum July 15, 2010 at 7:28 am

Excellent, excellent tips here. I’ll stop by again before our next Museum visit.
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Colleen - Sunrise Learning Lab July 15, 2010 at 10:01 am

Looks like it was a blast at the museum! My boys love when we go to the museums nearby us here in the Sunshine State of Florida in the USA.
I stopped by to read your post from the We Play Link at Childhood 101. hope that you will come over and see my blog, too:)
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