Why Should Young Children Visit Museums?

During the school holidays, we take a step away from our usual routine as things close down for a couple of weeks and we have older children to care for alongside our usual little ones. Emma from Mindus (Didsbury) and myself work together as ‘The Out N About Club’ to plan a programme of trips and activities that are exciting and interesting for the children. Over the last year or so, we have become familiar with our local museums and galleries and found those which appeal to a wide age group and have interactive resources and exhibits for the children. We also have to look at practicalities, for example, whether we can get a double buggy in there, cost and whether they have baby changing facilities and somewhere that we can eat our own packed lunches brought from home. Most places are really accommodating and we have discovered that if we phone ahead to let them know we are coming, we are often able to use their educational rooms for lunch.

Here’s our ‘Out N About Club’ list of favourite trips. (These are all free entry!)
  •  MOSI- massive- we never make it round the whole thing and always lots of events on in the holidays
  • Portland Basin Museum- we love the street and get loads out of role play and making up stories and scenarios here.
  • Manchester Museum- lots to see and do and a fantastic, open picnic area on the top floor.
  • Salford Quays- start by parking in the shopping centre, walk through to the Lowry- brilliant galleries and room with huge tables where children can draw and a little toddler area. Then on to Media City for a peek at the Blue Peter Garden and a run around the rest of the garden areas, including making up some dances on the outdoor stage area! Carry on round, across the bridge to IWMN where there is loads to see, including the films on every hour played over all the walls in the main gallery. We ask to eat in the Green Room which is set aside for school groups and the staff are very accommodating.
  • The Hat Works in Stockport- lots to see, quizzes to do and they have  allowed us to eat lunch in one of the meeting rooms, just off the cafe. Apparently the cafe is closing soon and the area will be used as a picnic area.
  • Salford Art Gallery and Lark Hill Place- a Victorian Street and dressing up! The art gallery is lovely and for a small fee, there are always craft activities in the holidays. We have eaten in their educational room.
  • Ordsall Hall- this is a new one for us and we rang ahead. On arrival, the staff were so helpful, showing us around and again, we arranged to eat our lunch in their school room. If you haven’t been here, this building is beautiful and there are lots of hands on things for the children to do, for example, crushing up the herbs in the Tudor kitchen whilst wearing their Tudor costumes!

We have started to enhance our trips to our favourite local places, for example, we took a little torch and story books to The Hat Works to read together in the Yurt. The children really enjoyed this. We have also started taking out pencils, clipboards and plenty of paper to give little challenges to the older children, for example, a drawing competition- finding the most interesting exhibit to sketch or writing out the alphabet in a list as a treasure hunt, the children have to find something beginning with the letter A, B and so on.

Anyway, our visits got me thinking... why should children visit museums and Galleries

  • Galleries and museums are provocative, informal  learning environments or learning landscape
  • They get to learn about the world and explore new ideas
  • The learning process can begin in the museum from the child’s interaction with an object. This can then lead to learning which spans over a longer period of time. (There’s been lots of role play in our house lately from the older ones which has incorporated lots of concepts picked up from our recent museum visits!)
  • They engage in social interactions
  • They are prompted to ask questions
  • They make connections
  • They are learning through multisensory experiences
  • They build on what they know
  • The architecture of the building can be inviting and exciting- little nooks and crannies, exciting wide open spaces to explore
  •  Interest is sparked and motivation enhanced
  • They develop thinking skills
  • Museums inspire curiosity

“Recent research by MORI shows that parents view museums as the most important places for educating their children after schools and libraries and one of the most trustworthy sources of information, more highly valued overall than books, radio, newspapers and the internet.
• 80% of parents believe that museums are a very important resource for educating
their children.
• 85% of parents believe visits to museums should be part of the National Curriculum
• National museums are responsible for over a million educational sessions per year and
expect to host and inspire 1.72 million this year.
• A quarter of all museum visits are made by children.” (A Manifesto For Museums)

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