5 Ways to Enjoy an Art Museum With Kids

Truth be told, we didn’t mean to visit the Kunthisories Art History Museum with our kids during a recent trip to Vienna.  It just sort of happened!  In an effort to include something child-friendly into our trip (since the city isn’t as toddler focused as Barcelona!), we meant to purchase tickets for the Museum of Natural History. 

An honest mistake, I swear!

Both identical buildings, grandiose and awe-inspiring from the exterior, sit right across from one another in an area of Vienna called Museum Quarter Wien.  In our haste to achieve smiling faces we quickly jumped online and purchased tickets – to the wrong museum!

Obviously the downfall to being in a German-speaking country and knowing zero German.

However, it actually turned out to be less than disastrous.  Which in parenting language is actually code for “success”!

Here’s how we made it fun and enjoyable for all five of us…

1. Go with Full Bellies

After realizing our museum tickets wouldn’t grant us access to dinosaur bones or mineral collections, we decided full bellies might improve our chances of a successful visit., So we grabbed lunch at a German pub and enjoyed famous Austrian Wienerschnitzel, baked pretzels, french fries and burgers. 

Bottom line – kids are at their very best first thing in the morning and right after a solid meal.  So avoid those dreaded “han-gry” (hungry + angry = han-gry) moments and plan a meal in advance.

One rather obvious note, most museums have designed cafes and do not allow eating throughout the halls.  Therefore, packing our usual barrage of snacks just wasn’t an option.

2. Plan Your Museum Route

During our visit, there happened to be a super interesting exhibit of currencies from all over the world and across many centuries. Our two oldest kids spend hours playing “store” with fake money and cash register. So we headed straight there first.

This was a good move!  They were fascinated by the impressive display of coins and paper money.  They stared with wonder at the faces of royalty on them.  Coins as big as their entire hands or as tiny as a ladybug kept them intrigued.

We easily spent 25 minutes here.  #winning

3. Create a Game

Once we moved on from the coin collection to the four enormous rooms of oil paintings, we had our work cut out for us!  Our kids are 7, 5 and 2 so we can still get a lot of mileage out of a creative (but extremely quiet – shhhhh) game.  “Who has the best whisper voice”, “Who can find a (name of animal or object) in a painting” or my personal favorite, “The Human Statue Game” haha!

As it turns out, what started as games to keep the kids quiet turned into questions about…art!  Who, what, when, where and how – tons of questions that almost suggested they were (gasp!) interested!? 

Quick footnote:  Any art museum will undoubtedly feature TONS of nude sculptures and paintings.  We call these the naked rooms.  That’s just the way things were centuries ago, right?!  Since our kids still think this stuff is hilarious, we quickly shuffled them through these rooms to avoid a sudden embarrassing outburst…

4. Offer an Incentive

When was the last time someone, adults included, weren’t motivated by sugar??  It never hurts to dangle a treat in front of the little ones to keep their behavior in check.  Is it bribery?  Suuuuuure.

But with any incentive program, it only works if simple and specific!  Voices low, no running, stay together were our parameters and while it wasn’t completely failproof, it got the job done haha! 

5. Know When to Go!

It’s no easy feat tackling a stuffy, pretentious place like an art museum with toddlers!  So do level-set your expectations and know when the little ones have had enough.  Set a time limit for yourselves (I recommend 30 minutes for kids under 5 and 45-60 minutes for older kids).

Pat yourself on the back once you finally exit the museum!  Nicely done – choosing to share incredible pieces of history and culture with your children.  Much like parenting, no one said it would be easy – but it is certainly worth it!

One additional word if you happen to be traveling abroad with special needs children.  Many museums will accommodate personalized experiences for your kids and offer hands-on learning experiences specific for them. 

For example, a fellow blogger Miro From Cairo recently wrote about the Best Museums in London for Autistic Children.  Be sure to check this one out!