Italy is known for its arts and culture – and for a very good reason! Italy is one of the cradles of Western civilisation, and all the ‘big guns’ of history and the arts can be found here. From the Romans to the Renaissance, Italy is a cultural-historical smorgasbord.
Anyone with even the slightest interest in human history and the arts will be in heaven! Unfortunately, children often do not have even the slightest interest in human history and the arts. So how to visit museums with kids? Is it possible to manage it?
It’s not uncommon for parents and children to have to enter into protracted negotiations during an Italian vacation. The adults want to go out and see the ancient Roman sights, or marvel at the art in the Uffizi, or enjoy the breathtaking splendour of the Vatican.
The kids want to do something hyperactive, dangerous, and probably not covered by the vacation plan. It’s water parks, pools, and zip wires vs the wonders of humanity – and, often, the former wins, as the prospect of dragging miserable children round galleries and monuments is too awful to bear.
Of course, if the kids were actually interested in cultural stuff, this would all become a lot easier. The adults could do all of the history, art, and culture that they wanted to, without having to worry about or cater to grumpy children. Sounds like an impossible dream? Well, it may be possible. There are ways to get children interested in culture. Here are a few ideas which may help. Not all of them will work for all children – but they’ve got to be worth a try!
How to visit museums with kids
1 – Teach Them About What They’re Going To See
OK, this one is a bit of a fine balancing act. No kid wants to be lectured on their vacation, but they’re equally likely to be way less engaged by something that they don’t understand that by something that they do. A little education can go a long way. Some things are easier to teach than others – something ‘cool’ like the Romans is likely to engage a child’s interest for longer than a lesson on Giotto. But it’s still worth a try. These days, there are plenty of great sites and apps which can help parents teach their kids about arts and culture – give them a go!
2 – Make It A Game
This is a good one for maintaining interest in galleries and museums. Turn the trip into a hunt for certain things. With galleries, try visiting the gift shop first, letting your kids pick out postcards of specific pieces of art, and then trying to find the originals of those postcards in the gallery. In museums, peruse the collections online first, and draw up a list of things for your kids to look out for. If you want, you can issue prizes. It’s great for making cultural trips fun, and your kids might learn something at the same time!
3 – Keep It Short
Depending on the age of your child, it’s likely that a lot of cultural experiences will take a toll on their attention span. While huge galleries and museums are fantastic for those of us old enough to have a fully developed ability to concentrate, they’re likely to wear out a child’s attention comparatively quickly. This isn’t good, because a bored, tired child will remember these experiences as being boring and tiring, and be even more vehemently against the next cultural excursion. Build up a love of culture by keeping cultural trips short and sweet in early childhood. You can build on this as they get older but, when your kids are young, it’s best to quit while you’re ahead.
4 – Show Enthusiasm Yourself
Children pick up a lot from their parents and caregivers, and they reflect back what you give to them. If you yourself are displaying tangible enthusiasm about what you’re experiencing, it’s likely that your kids will absorb and reflect that. So, smile, talk to your kids about what you’re enjoying, and involve them in your happiness. If you’re anxious and moody – however much your kids are responsible for that mood – your children will become more fractious and miserable. If, however, you’re upbeat and/or content and enthusiastic, your kids will respond positively.
You always have to remember that kids do what parents do, they love what we love, so concentrate on this positive feeling and start planning how to visit museums with kids. Italy is waiting for your family to come!
Ciao Alessandra, I loved reading this! We seem to have the very same approach to travelling with kids and I can see you use the same trick as me: getting a postcard and get them to hunt for the real thing! At the very start of our travels, we would also promise a treat: I know it’s not good to bribe kids with food but it helped creating a positive association for the museum visit – my kids now consider a visit to a museum a full day out including family ice-cream and that’s really nice 🙂