When we lived in Paris we spent a lot of time in museums; we took regular visits to the permanent and free collection of the Museum of Modern Art, went to a different national museum each month on the day they have free entry and took workshops all over the place as a family or with other homeschoolers. And of course there was our annual end of the summer holidays trip up the Eiffel Tower to view the city at our feet as the sun went down.
Living in the country has changed things a little. We do less workshops as they often require a lot of driving to get to. We don't visit art galleries and museums quite so often. Not having a city at your doorstop requires more planning, more time and more motivation. And of course we are spending a lot more time outdoors; gardening, at the beach and enjoying sports. We have visited castles, menhirs and other sites of interest but when we headed up to Paris last week we were keen to make the most of it and give our rusty museum skills a work out by taking on the Louvre's extensive Egyptian collection.
The Louvre is a very big museum and I would recommend to anyone planning a visit there with young children to consider focusing your visit on a particular part of the Louvre. You could also follow one of their children's trails available at the reception or on line. It really is immense. Even though we restricted ourselves to the Egyptian part and had a treasure hunt to follow, we were all, adults included, overwhelmed by the end of our visit. There was just so much to see, so much to take in, not to mention the building itself; its history and ornate decor.
Having done a lot of this kind of visit with my kids from the birth of my first up to now nearly ten years later, I thought I'd offer my top tips for fun for everyone.
- Follow their lead. This works with all ages but especially the youngest. Go where they want to go, look at what they find interesting. For us this meant searching out horses for Maya and weapons for Maya in the Louvre.
- Be realistic about how long you can spend there. Small kids may have had enough after an hour and even older children will be tiring and in need of fresh air after 2-3hrs maximum. Some museums will let you go out and then back in which can stretch this a bit but beware of overkill.
- Take snacks. I know you're not supposed to eat in museums and art galleries but if you want your little ones to last the times mentioned above you'll need sustenance. Try to pack things that don't make crumbs and our small enough to be discreet - dried fruit for example.
- Don't forget water. Many museums are too hot and even if it is for the good of the art it is dehydrating.
- Get a plan so you know where the bathrooms are.
- With small children take a carrier, it's more practical than a pushchair which is heavy up and down stairs.
- If you have children of differing ages like us, it can be great to time your visit during the youngest ones nap so they sleep during part of the tour or split up so one adult can be available to read and explain things with the older children.
- Take art materials. Most kids like to draw when they look at art and it can also keep a less interested child entertained while other siblings continue their visit.
In fact our first instinct was probably right - to split up and keep her outside at the park! Sometimes it is wise to admit defeat. Alas we didn't and it was very embarrassing and frustrating as it made it harder for us to be present for the other two who were really enjoying it. Ah well, this is also part of homes educating a family and we can only hope that with more practice the youngest member of the family will get more into museums or we'll get better at handling it. I'd love to hear other people's advice about how they get the most out of museum trips with their kids!